New Research on Kava for Treating Anxiety

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • We have written previously about Kava, a medicinal plant found in the South Pacific, and the controversy surrounding using it to treat anxiety. In the past, this plant has been linked to liver damage and has been banned in some countries because of the potential health risks (Some countries have since lifted the ban). Kava has also been found to be helpful in treating anxiety.


    In a recent clinical trial, the first of its kind to test the plant, Kava was found to significantly reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The study was completed at the University of Melbourne and published in The Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. Lead researcher, Dr. Jerome Sarris stated, “In this study we’ve been able to show that Kava offers a potential natural alternative for the treatment of chronic clinical anxiety. Unlike some other options it has less risk of dependency and less potential for side effects.” [1]

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    The study followed 75 participants for 8 weeks. Participants were given either Kava or a placebo and anxiety levels were assessed at the end of the 8 week period. Those taking Kava showed significant improvement compared to those taking a placebo. A little more than one-fourth of the group taking Kava was considered in remission from anxiety symptoms at the end of the study. Only 6 percent of those taking a placebo were considered to be in remission. Researchers noted that those with moderate to severe GAD received the most benefit from Kava.


    Scientists also noted that Kava was well tolerated by the participants with no distinguishable difference in liver function between the Kava and placebo groups. Participants did not report any side effects and did not experience any withdrawal symptoms when stopping the program.


    Interestingly, the women taking Kava reported an increase in sexual drive, although the researchers believe this was caused by a reduction in anxiety, not because the plant has any aphrodisiac properties.


    Kava is a natural supplement and, as such, you should discuss taking it with your doctor. Supplements, just as all medications, can have side effects and may interfere with other medications you are taking. You should always let your doctor and pharmacist know of all medications you are taking to make sure there are no serious interactions. Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


    For more information:


    Can Kava Help Social Anxiety?


    Kava Named in Consumer Report’s List of Supplements to Avoid


    Natural Treatments for Anxiety


    Things You Should Know Before Taking Herbal Supplements




    [1] ‘World First Clinical Trial Supports Use of Kava to Treat Anxiety,” 2013, May 13, Staff Writer,


Published On: May 21, 2013