K for Kava

Kava, kava kava, Piper methysticum – all terms for a shrub root extract found in the South Pacific that is said to have anxiolytic properties. Although there aren’t a lot of thorough studies using this herb for anxiety, there are some good sources within this post.

Kava, image from Canva

I’ll admit, this one is a little different. As a disclaimer, I’m not a medical professional and have no intention of claiming this to be the solution for everyone. I just want to expose some unique options for anxiety relief, and I’ve come across kava many times. It’s definitely becoming more popular.

Kava is an herb commonly used in teas to relax and calm, similar to St. John’s wort or valerian. How does it work? The constituent kavalactones modulate GABA receptors and other neurotransmitters, or that’s at least the major proposal. Whatever the mechanism, kava is available in many forms these days — pills, beverages and everything in between. Sounds like the perfect natural option, right? The downside of kava is that it’s not safe for everyone, especially when consumed long-term.

Kava blocks a liver metabolism enzyme, so there are a number of conditions under which it’s inappropriate, including:

  • If you take certain medications that are metabolized by the liver
  • If you have liver disease or injury
  • If you’re consuming other sedatives (like alcohol or Xanax)

It’s meant to be a short-term option. Again, check with a physician on this one. You can find a lot of this info on the Harvard Med site. The US News article has a nice overall account of kava for anxiety, stress and sleeplessness.

I’m curious if anyone has used kava, specifically for anxiety relief. Leave a comment below!

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