Kava for Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are more prevalent than you might believe, and include a range of conditions such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The common thread among anxiety disorders is an overwhelming fear or persistent anxiety that interferes in a person's daily life. Physicians typically prescribe anti-anxiety drugs, psychotherapy or both to treat people who have panic attacks.

If you suffer extreme anxiety and want a natural remedy, there is good news. Research demonstrates that the root of the Kava plant has been shown to reduce anxiety. In fact, some researchers suggest Kava may be as effective as benzodiazepines, a class of drug that includes diazepam, which physicians frequently employ to treat anxiety. Unlike some anti-anxiety medications, Kava does not appear to compromise cognitive function.

Kava is a member of the pepper family. Natives in the Pacific Islands have used the Kava herb as a ceremonial drink for hundreds of years--promoting relaxation in it's drinkers. Studies have found that kavalactones, a chemical in Kava, is the cause of the soothing effect. It has been found to reduce convulsions, promote sleep, relax muscles, and demonstrate pain-relieving properties.

Be Weary

Kava is the most researched remedy for anxiety and the only herbal remedy proven effective in reducing anxiety. Unfortunately, it's controversial in the medical community because studies have linked Kava to cases of liver damage. Researchers are not sure if Kava directly causes liver damage; however, several European countries have banned it.

Although the government does not regulate herbs and supplements in the U.S., the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings about possible liver problems with Kava. Most medical experts believe that in light of the potential for harm, there's not enough evidence to recommend Kava for clinical purposes.

There may be some good news for Kava advocates. Researchers in Australia recently studied the effectiveness of Kava tablets made from a water-soluble extract of the herb. They found that Kava in this form reduced anxiety and depression in patients with both disorders. The researchers noted that Kava sold in European countries was produced using ethanol and acetone extracts, and attribute alleged liver damage to those substances.

If you use Kava to treat anxiety, do so under the supervision of a qualified health professional and stay within the recommended dose. In high doses, Kava can cause skin rashes. Tell your physician about this and any other alterative remedies you use as they can interfere in the effectiveness of prescribed medications.