The Benefits Of Kava Kava
Good physical health has been a topic of research and conversation for decades, even centuries, but good mental health has only recently become a point of focus. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and is all about how we think, feel, and act. It includes many factors such as how we handle stress, having a sense of meaning, and feeling confident in who we are.
Good mental health does not necessarily mean we never feel sad, overwhelmed, or anxious, but rather that we are able to cope with these feelings in a healthy manner and bounce back from life’s adversities. Like good physical health, good mental health means taking care of ourselves and investing in wellness on a regular basis. Our mental wellness can be improved by moving our bodies, connecting with our loved ones, eating nourishing food, engaging in meaningful activities, being out in nature, enjoying a good laugh, and more. We can also improve our mental health with supplements that impact our brain function. In this series we are looking at different supplements that can support mental wellness.
Kava is a tropical evergreen shrub with heart-shaped leaves and woody stems. It belongs to the pepper family found in the South Pacific. As a popular social drink, it’s roots have traditionally been prepared as a tea in the Pacific Islands. It has similar sedative and muscle-relaxant effects to alcohol, but without the addictive properties.
It is the group of active ingredients in Kava, known as kavalactones, that give the root it's calming effect. There are 18 different kavalactones found in various combinations in different kava plants, and while they all have a slightly different impact on the body, they generally all work to promote feelings of calm. Kava relaxes muscle tension, boosts dopamine levels, relieves anxiety and restlessness, and promotes sleep. So when it comes to mental health, Kava is a great natural anti-anxiety plant, slowing down racing thoughts and nervous energy.
What are some other benefits of Kava?
1. Supports The Immune System
Flavokawains which are one of the active compounds in Kava, have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. This can further support homeostatic balance and encourage a healthy immune system.
2. Encourages A More Restful Sleep
A large number of people have difficulties falling asleep due to anxiety and a racing mind. Because of its sedative properties it can help reduce anxiety induced sleeplessness and insomnia.
3. Reduces Anxiety
With the high psychological stress associated with anxiety, Kava provides nonaddictive and non-hypnotic anxiolytic properties that can support the stress response in the body; further reducing the level and severity of anxiety.
The first long-term study investigating the effects of kava extract in people with anxiety was published in 1997. Compared to a placebo, it significantly decreased the severity of participants’ perceived anxiety. The researchers also noted no side effects related to withdrawal or dependency, whereas these effects are common with other drugs often used to treat anxiety
Since Kava changes the way the liver processes certain medications, it is wise to check with your doctor before taking Kava if you are currently on any medications. And if you can’t handle the bitter tea or haven’t yet acquired the taste, Kava can also be found in powder and tincture forms in health food stores.
Volz, H P, and M Kieser. “Kava-kava extract WS 1490 versus placebo in anxiety disorders--a randomized placebo-controlled 25-week outpatient trial.” Pharmacopsychiatry vol. 30,1 (1997): 1-5. doi:10.1055/s-2007-979474
Weaver, Michael F. “Prescription Sedative Misuse and Abuse.” The Yale journal of biology and medicine vol. 88,3 247-56. 3 Sep. 2015