Kava is a root that is native to the South Pacific, more specifically from Vanuatu, and it has a historical role in rituals and ceremonies practiced by the people that live there.
Now that Kava has been discovered by the wider population, it is used to calm anxiety, stress, and restlessness and it is used to treat insomnia. It has also been used to treat ADHD, epilepsy, psychosis, depression, and other cognitive and psychological ailments. In scientific studies, Kava has been shown to work better or as well as anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications and, naturally, it can reduce sleep problems that are caused by anxiety. Kava can improve cognitive performance, while common prescription drugs for anxiety and depression can decrease cognitive ability. (Funny how drugs for mood disorders have so many side effects that can actually inhibit brain function instead of helping it.)
Kava can also help relax muscles. It works specifically on striated muscle (muscles that are under voluntary control), but not smooth muscle (such as the heart or lungs). Because of this, greater amount of oxygen, carried by the blood, can enter the tissues, such as the brain. This can really help with relaxation, while also aiding in brain function and providing relief for those that suffer with chronic pain.
The traditional preparation for Kava involves chewing (best results), pounding, or grinding the root and then adding the powder to cold water. The resulting Kava drink looks like muddy water, tastes a little like dirt, and depending on the concentration, it can have a numbing effect on the tongue and mouth. Kava is also available as a tincture and in pill form. It is also gaining such popularity that there are Kava bars cropping up around the world!
There have been about 25 known cases of liver damage after the use of Kava, however this hasn’t been directly linked to the root itself. The liver damage could have been caused by other medications that are metabolized by the liver, the improper preparation of Kava (for example, pills that use Kava leaves, which are toxic), and also the use of alcohol during Kava consumption. Despite the “fear mongers”, as my boyfriend calls them, the World Heath Organization has declared that Kava is safe for use.
With all medicine, herbal or otherwise, be cautious before taking Kava. If you are taking other medications or you have underlying health conditions, consult your doctor, naturopath, or herbalist. I’m not a doctor or licensed health practitioner and I am only passing along the information that I have gleaned from research. With all new health protocols, be wise!
I have tried Kava and I quite like it. My boyfriend makes Kava on a regular basis and he has kindly made me a cup or two. He is still experimenting with it, so every cup has contained a low concentration of Kava. I have to be careful with drinking Kava because I do take prescription medications that are metabolized by the liver. While Kava is very low risk, I’ve done the research and I know that some of my medications can interact with it. Better safe than sorry! I struggle with anxiety on a daily basis, so I’m still on the prowl for herbs that will help me relax without interacting with my meds.
If you feel stressed, have anxiety, or depression, give Kava a try! It’s really fun (and easy) to make at home, but you can also buy it in pill form or as a tincture. Keep in mind that pills and tinctures will have a higher concentration of Kava. Read all instructions before taking it. Also, make sure you do your own research before you dive in!
If you have tried or know of any herbs that are good for relaxation, post ’em here! Also, let me know if you’ve tried Kava & how you like it.
Here’s to a less stressful world!