Kava kava has been in the news for the past 2 decades. The herb has been providing relief to millions of people from ailments like insomnia and anxiety.
Scientific research has proven the ability of the drug to act as an Anxiolytic by its action on the GABA A receptors in the central nervous system in a similar fashion to benzodiazepines but without causing tolerance or dependence.
Kava kava has been used treating anxiety and panic attacks. This article will put some light on how to use kava kava for anxiety and pain attacks.
Kava kava is a herbal supplement that is derived from various countries in the South Pacific region.
It is scientifically called Piper Methysticum which means intoxicating pepper.
This herb is known to cause quick relaxation and it is an amazing remedy for anxiety, stress as well as insomnia.
It is as effective as tranquillizers and benzodiazepines in treating anxiety and insomnia. The active components of kava kava are kavalactones.
They come in various types and their properties differ. Therefore, various strains of kava kava have various effects.
Kava kava has come into highlights after it has been associated with hepatic toxicity. Though these health risks are not verified with the use of kava kava yet countries like Europe, North America, and Australia have put a ban on it.
How does kava kava act?
The active ingredients of kava are known as kavalactones and they are phytonutrients. Kava is called the ‘Nature’s Valium’ due to its efficacy against anxiety.
Kava is a known anxiolytic and it doesn’t have the side effects of the prescription drugs. It increases the activity of GABA on the GABA A receptors. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
It decreases the nerve impulse firing activity of the neurons. At the same time, kava kava decreases the activity of noradrenaline by inhibiting the reuptake mechanism of noradrenaline into the neuron. Noradrenaline increases the activity of brain thus causing anxiety.
What are the traditional uses of Kava?
In many regions of the world, kava kava is used as non-alcoholic, mood-altering drink and it forms an important of the culture of these countries.
This drink is made by pounding the kava root with water.
This drink is known to cause a numbing sensation that helps you have a relaxing sensation in your entire body.
You feel pleasantly relaxed and at the same time, you remain clear-headed. The worries and stresses that bother you, melt away with each sip that you take. Your fatigue and lethargy disappear and you feel vigour.
What are anxiety and panic attacks?
Anxiety or anxiety disorders is a term that is used for a number of disorders including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and a number of specific phobias.
If you are feeling nervous because of a problem that you are facing at work, that is normal. If you feel your heartbeat racing before an exam or an interview that is totally normal and you can’t label it as anxiety.
Anxiety disorders form a group of mental illness that keeps you distressed and you can’t do the normal chores in life. This constant fear and worry can cripple one’s life.
Panic attacks occur as a result of intense anxiety. It is the intense discomfort or fear that reaches its peak within minutes and you feel your heart pounding, palpitations, shortness of breath, shaking or trembling and sweating.
The symptoms of anxiety include; panic, uneasiness, fear, sleep disorders, cold and sweaty hands or feet, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, inability to stay calm and still, shaking, dry mouth, tense muscles, nausea, and dizziness.
Kava can be used for anxiety and panic attacks as mentioned above. Kava powder is taken and placed in a cloth bag.
It is added to water and squeezed till the tea reaches the consistency that is desired. For many people, this method is not really convenient so they prefer to use kava supplements.
These supplements are available in the form of tablets, capsules, liquid extracts and herbal sprays.
What do research studies say about the use of kava for anxiety and panic attacks?
A research was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology about the use of kava in patients with generalized anxiety disorder.
It was an eight weeks study and involved 75 patients who were diagnosed patients of generalized anxiety disorder.
They were either given kava or placebo and their anxiety levels were assessed regularly. The kava group was given a dose of 120 mg of kava twice a day for 3 weeks and the control group was given placebo drug.
The result of the study showed that the group that was given kava had a significant reduction in the symptoms of anxiety as compared to the placebo group.
Also, the research showed that kava is well tolerated and it didn’t affect the liver function. No withdrawal, tolerance or dependence was observed in the kava group.
What is the appropriate dosage of kava kava for anxiety and panic attacks?
A minimum dosage of 210 to 240 milligrams is required to treat anxiety. According to the University of Maryland’s complementary and alternative medicine guide, a dose of 300 milligrams of kava is needed for the treatment of anxiety.
The dose can be variable for different persons so it is necessary that you start with a small dosage and gradually increase your dose to the desired level where you achieve anxiolytic effects.
Kava kava can make you drowsy so it is important that you take the recommended dosage and do not overdose if you do not feel the effects immediately.
What are the risks and side effects associated with the use of kava kava?
Excess intake of kava kava should be avoided as it may cause damage to the hepatobiliary system.
It should be avoided by pregnant and lactating women.
Other drugs especially tranquillizers and benzodiazepines shouldn’t be taken with kava as these might interact negatively with kava.
Excess use of kava kava may cause dermopathy which is a scaly rash similar to psoriasis. Kava may cause allergic reactions, loss of appetite and upset stomach.
Kava for anxiety and panic attacks: The bottom line
Kava is a traditional herb and a modern-day supplement that can be effectively used to treat anxiety and panic attacks without causing intense side effects like those caused by benzodiazepines and some tranquillizers.
Concerns about the health risks associated with the use of kava are valid but then it depends on users.
If a user takes kava carefully in recommended doses, he/she won’t suffer from liver damage or other side effects.
Using kava with other drugs can cause harm but as mentioned above this totally depends on the user.
If you face any side effects from the use of kava, immediately discontinue it and consult a professional doctor.
- “Kava Recipes for Kava Drinks.” Kona Kava Farm. Accessed March 4th, 2014. www.konakavafarm.com/recipes.html.
- “Kavalactones Dosage”. Kava.com. Accessed March 4th, 2014. http://www.kava.com/?p=587.
- “Kava Brew Recipe”. The Vaults of Erowid. Last modified February 5th, 2011. https://www.erowid.org/plants/kava/kava_recipe1.shtml.