In the world of natural remedies, kava has been used for many years. In the South Pacific islands, where kava originates from, the use of kava for medicinal purposes goes back centuries.
While kava’s beneficial effects and ability to reduce anxiety and induce a sense of euphoria, promote relaxation and sleep, and relax muscles to relieve pain was well known, why this was so, was not well understood. Fortunately, there is now a growing body of scientific research into the effects of kava on the mind and body and into the chemistry and factors that create these effects.
The following links provide a great starting point for information on the scientific research into kava kava:
University of Maryland Medical Center – Kava Kava Overview:
Examine.com - this online summary includes 68 references to scientific papers about kava:
Below is a further list of links to kava research papers, grouped by associated beneficial effect, in reverse chronological order:
Kava for treatment of anxiety
Extensive research has confirmed the anxiolytic properties of kava. Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials has shown kava to be effective at treating non-psychotic anxiety in individuals of all ages and genders. And range of clinical studies by Australian Universities have confirmed that kava consumption results in reduced levels of anxiety in people who had relatively high levels of anxiety and varying levels of depressed mood as well as those who had generalized anxiety disorder and really chronic long standing anxiety levels.
The class of drugs most commonly prescribed for patients suffering with anxiety is benzodiazepines. Brand names include Xanax, Activan, Valium and Librium. These drugs work on the central nervous system to relieve anxiety. The parts of our brain connected to regulating anxiety, fear, and stress are also highly receptive to kava and this is what makes kava a viable, natural alternative to these expensive anti-anxiety prescription medications. These drugs are known to have many negative side effects and to be frequently subject to abuse. This is not the case with kava. For example, withdrawal symptoms will not occur if after regularly drinking kava you decide to stop. Kava is non addictive, and also comes with a much lower price tag.
Kava in the Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study – found kava to be effective and showed all resulting liver tests as normal. (Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2013)
The results of the above study were also summarized in this short, 2015 PyschCentral article:
The Kava Anxiety Depression Spectrum Study (KADSS): A Randomized, Placebo-controlled Crossover Trial Using An Aqueous Extract Of Piper Methysticum (2009)
In 2007, the Association of American Family Physicians gave kava an “A” ranking for safety and effectiveness:
North American Menopause Society - Botanical and dietary supplements for mood and anxiety in menopausal women (2007)
Kava extract for treating anxiety (2003) - Reviewers conclusion: compared with placebo, kava extract appears to be an effective symptomatic treatment option for anxiety.
Therapeutic potential of kava in the treatment of anxiety disorders (2002)
Kava for Insomnia
Many people suffer from insomnia. Stress and worry also often keep people awake at night. Kava’s ability to reduce mental activity, calm the mind and physically relax the bodies’ muscles means that it is acknowledged as an effective, natural sleep aid. Ideally, kava should be consumed 2-4 hours before bedtime, on those nights when you believe you may trouble getting to or staying asleep. So-called “heavy” kavas are best for nighttime use as they are the kavas that in addition to their ability reduce mental activity and worry, they have the added benefit of making your limbs feel heavy and your body more lethargic, so promoting sleepiness. Studies on kava and insomnia are listed below:
An internet-based randomized, placebo-controlled trial of kava and valerian for anxiety and insomnia. (2005)
Clinical Efficacy Of Kava Extract WS 1490 In Sleep Disturbances Associated With Anxiety Disorders. Results Of A Multicenter, Randomized, Placebo-controlled, Double-blind Clinical Trial (2004)
Stress-induced insomnia treated with kava and valerian: singly and in combination. (2001)
Kava as a mood enhancer
This study found kava consumption enhanced cognitive performance and cheerfulness:
Kava and Cancer
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, Dr has been studying the chemopreventive impact on prostate and bladder cancer in smokers:
Researchers from the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and Masonic Cancer Center have found that consumption of the root of Piper methysticum, or kava, may also prevent the development of tobacco smoke-induced lung cancer:
More on this topic, in this academic article about the research published by the American Association of Cancer Research:
While the growing body of scientific research into kava is encouraging, the general consensus is that more research needs to be done. The study below revealed a high level of variation in chemical content and cytotoxicity of available kava products on the market.
While the researchers conclude that further research is needed, their results also reinforce the need for high quality testing of kava products being imported for sale online that we at True Kava and T.K Labs advocate for and support and why we encourage consumers purchase from True Kava certified vendors.
Hoping you find the above research reference archive of interest and use.
A Summary of the Scientific Research on Kava.
The man who drinks kava is still a man, but the man who drinks liquors becomes a beast.
Traditional Hawaiian proverb
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