The medicinal qualities of Kava have been known for a long time but Kava (piper methysticum) has had something of a bumpy ride in terms of its acceptance in the West. Recent clinical trials however support the use of Kava in the treatment of anxiety.
Several countries have either banned or restricted the sale of Kava because of concerns over its potentially toxic effects on the liver. Curiously, clinical trials tend not to report liver toxicity and if they do it is in the context of possible interactions with other herbal remedies, drugs, alcohol or the fact that liver conditions pre-existed. The FDA have not approved Kava as a treatment but neither, it appears, have they evaluated it for safety.The fact that there are no regulated manufacturing standards for Kava or an established clinical dose also means that some people may have consumed excessive amounts.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia have reported results from an eight-week study, with 75 people diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The volunteers were given either water-soluble Kava extract pills or a placebo. The team reported significant reductions in anxiety for volunteers in the Kava group during the trial and 26 percent were classified as in remission from symptoms following the trial.
According to the research team Kava was well tolerated in both groups, with no significant differences for liver function. Neither were any adverse reactions recorded or withdrawal effects after the trial ended. Lead researcher, Dr. Jerome Sarris, suggested that Kava appears to have less risk of dependency and less potential for side effects while offering a viable treatment for patients with chronic anxiety. Another notable effect was the reported increase in women’s sex drives in those taking Kava. This was believed to be due to the reduction in anxiety rather than any aphrodisiac effect.
While the results are interesting other academics were quick to raise a cautionary finger. Single studies with relatively few numbers of volunteers conducted over a short period of time have limitations. Moreover, the study did not set out to compare Kava with other treatments, so it is difficult to make a like-for-like comparison.
While the potential for further scientific study is encouraging, people suffering from anxiety should still regard these findings as interesting rather than a green light to consume Kava. Nothing is really known about the long-term effects of Kava consumption, but a number of effects of Kava consumption are already known. These include lowered blood pressure, headaches, sleepiness, rashes, mouth numbness and others.
University of Melbourne (2013, May 13). World first clinical trial supports use of Kava to treat anxiety. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 10, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2013/05/130513095750.htm
Published On: June 10, 2013