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Botanical Agents

Kava (Piper methysticum)

12 years, 9 months ago

880  0
Posted on Dec 30, 2005, 8 p.m. By Bill Freeman

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Kava is a member of the pepper family. The rhizome (underground stem) is used medicinally. Kava root is used to calm body and mind and promote restful sleep; it is also helpful as a solution to low mood, muscle spasms or tightness and anxiety. Kava

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:

Kava is a member of the pepper family. The rhizome (underground stem) is used medicinally. Kava root is used to calm body and mind and promote restful sleep; it is also helpful as a solution to low mood, muscle spasms or tightness and anxiety. Kava’s relaxant properties are created by certain oxygen containing, lipid-like compounds known as lactones or pyrones. Researchers have identified six major kavalactones (a class of lactones) and another dozen minor ones. Exactly how the kavalactones act on the brain is still being determined. Like Valium and related synthetic drugs, they may influence GABA, the neurotransmitter that acts as a brake on the central nervous system. A recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study on subjects with anxiety found that kava significantly reduced symptoms after one, two and four weeks of treatment, without any adverse side effects.

ROLE FOR ANTI-AGING:

As noted above Kava is useful in combating anxiety and stress, which are both risk factors for heart disease. An epidemiological study carried out in 2000 uncovered a close inverse relationship between cancer incidence and kava consumption, thus, implying that the herb may also have anti-cancer properties.

THERAPEUTIC DAILY AMOUNT:

Look for kava in capsules, liquids, and standardized extracts; a few sources offer dried kava in root pieces, cut and sifted and as a powder. For a mildly relaxing, anxiety-relieving effect an average dose is 200 to 250mg of an extract standardized for 25 to 25% kavalactones.

MAXIMUM SAFE LEVEL: Not established

SIDE EFFECTS/CONTRAINDICATIONS:

IMPORTANT: Following reports linking Kavakava to six cases of liver failure and one death in mainland Europe products containing Kava-kava were withdrawn from sale in Spring 2002 by a number of countries, including the UK, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Ireland. Health Canada has advised consumers not to use kava-kava or kava-containing products until it has completed a safety review of the herb. While the US’s FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) recommends that persons who have liver disease or liver problems, or persons who are taking drug products that can affect the liver, should consult a physician before using kava-containing supplements. Aside from recently reported cases  of liver toxicity, Kava-kava is associated with few side effects. However, occasional or moderate use of the herb may cause mild nausea and other gastrointestinal disturbances. High doses of potent kava products, however, can reduce one’s motor control and lead to accidents, including fatal ones if one unwisely attempts to drive or operate heavy equipment after taking it. Persistent heavy consumption of kava may cause diarrhea, an overall lethargy and apathy or a scaly skin condition. Eliminating or cutting back on kava consumption reverses these conditions. People suffering from depression and those using drugs that act upon the central nervous system such as alcohol, barbiturates, anti-depressants, and anti-psychotics should avoid Kava. The herb is not recommended during pregnancy and lactation.

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