Although more and more people are turning to newer natural methods for treating anxiety, herbal remedies are still widely used by panic and anxiety sufferers. Here are some of the benefits and risks of using Kava Kava as a natural anxiety remedy.
What is Kava Kava?
Kava Kava is a member of the pepper family and grows as a tall shrub in the islands of the South Pacific. It is considered a sacred plant by many of the traditional Polynesian cultures and has been used in prayer and ritual as well as for a wide variety of ailments ranging from asthma and rheumatism to weary muscles and sleeplessness. The main active components (kavalactones) are found in the root of the plant. Kavalactones are thought to affect levels of neurotransmitters in the blood which can affect the body's fight-or-flight response. While Kava root was traditionally chewed or made into a beverage, it is now primarily taken as a natural anxiety remedy in capsule, tablet, beverage, tea and liquid extract forms.
Kava Kava has become a popular natural anxiety remedy due to its ability to induce a state of relaxation without impairing mental functioning, memory or alertness. It also does not produce tolerance or dependence unlike many anxiety medicines such as Xanax and Valium. Clinical trials have shown Kava root to be as effective as many popular anxiety remedies. In addition, Kava root has been shown to improve mood, well-being, and drive and even improve mental functions.
Side effects reported include indigestion, mouth numbness, skin rash, headache, drowsiness and visual disturbances. Some reports have even linked Kava Kava use to liver toxicity including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure. However, no clinical trials have found any evidence of liver toxicity suggesting that these instances were a result of preexisting liver disease, alcohol consumption, taking excess doses, or combining with other herbs and medicines to create a toxic effect. Kava root may lower blood pressure and injury blood clotting, so it should not be taken within two weeks of surgery or used by people with bleeding disorders. Because of its effect on neurotransmitters, Kava Kava should not have been taken with anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications without under the supervision of a physician.