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New Studies Support Kava for Anxiety

New Studies Support Kava for Anxiety

Thursday, August 1st 2002

Two recent studies conducted at Duke University Medical Center show Kava extract is safe and as effective as prescription drugs for treating stress and anxiety. These studies add to a growing body of science on Kava.

It is considered that Kava's activity is caused by the plant's resinous compounds called kavalactones. Both Duke studies used a standardized Kava extract. In one study, the researchers found, "Kava has several advantages over conventional pharmacological treatments for anxiety - in clinical settings Kava has been associated with better tolerability and lack of physiological dependence and withdrawal.

In safety tests, the researchers found no problems with Kava extract.

Examining withdrawal symptoms, heart rate, blood pressure and sexual function, Kava extract tested as safe as placebo.

In the second study, researchers found that Kava extract improves baroreflex control of heart rate in patients with anxiety disorder. According to the researchers, "Anxiety disorders are associated with low vagal control of heart rate and increased risk of cardiac mortality and sudden cardiac death. They further noted,"Improving vagal control prevents the occurrence of lethal dysrhythmias in clinical studies." Kava extract proved to be an effective anti-anxiety agent and also increased baroreflex control. This finding suggests that Kava extract may reduce a cardiac risk factor. Further studies are needed to repeat this effect. The Duke University researchers concluded that Kava can be used to effectively treat anxiety at 280 mg of kavalactones per day.

Historical use

Kava is well known throughout the islands of Oceania and Kava root can even be bought in some New Zealand green grocers. In many parts of the Pacific, it is generally thought that Kava, taken judiciously, had a beneficial effect on health. The Hawaiians used it for many purposes - to soothe the nerves, to induce relaxation and sleep, to counteract fatigue, for congestion of the urinary tract, for asthma, rheumatism and to reduce weight.

General relaxant: Numerous trials have shown Kava to be an excellent general relaxant. Kava is a sleep aid only in as much as it relaxes the user; it does not cause involuntary sleep.

Muscle relaxant and anti-convulsive effects: Modern studies over the past 40 years indicate that Kava is an excellent muscle relaxant comparable to the best synthetic drugs. A German researcher (Kretzschmar 1970) stated that the kavalactones in Kava have "excellent psycho-pharmacological activity which produces emotional and muscular relaxation, stabilisation of the feelings and stimulation of the ability to think and act."

Safety considerations

When considering the use of any relaxant which works, safety issues are a primary concern. Because of its wide-spread use for thousands of years, Kava has a very extensive history of safe usage. Australia appears to be the only country with extensive controls on the importation of Kava. When the 'adverse reactions to Kava' were reported from Germany and analysed it was discovered that 18 of the 25 people involved were taking prescription and over the counter drugs with a known side effect of liver toxicity. Most were also consuming alcohol!

Find out more about Kava here.

Reproduced unabridged from the August/September 2002 issue of Health and Herbal News, with the kind permission of Health and Herbs International Ltd.

Footnote from Ideal Health:

The following products are all useful for Relaxation and Anxiety

5-HTP 60's
Avena Comp. Relaxing Drops
One-A-Day Kava 2400
Magnesium Complex
Mineral Power
Rescue Sleep Spray
Stress & Anxiety Relief
Superior Magnesium
Stress & Well-Being
St Johns Wort
Valerian Root Capsules

Related health information can be found here:

Calcium Deficiency
Essential oils for your emotions
Hypericum St John's Wort - depression, NS complaints
Mineral Power

Related articles can be found here:

First, Reduce Stress then.... Soothe & Stabilise Mood
Minerals: Critical for well-being
Mood, sleep, serotonin and 5-HTP
Not only to fight obesity and depression - Rhodiola - more powerful than Ginseng!
Rhodiola - helps fight obesity and depression
St John's Wort Extract
The mood food connection

If you need help or advice, you are welcome to email our naturopathic team with your health question.

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered. The information is not intended to be comprehensive or to provide medical advice to you. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.


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