Kava kava is found within the western Pacific region. It’s a plant that’s believed to have sedative effects, as well as medicinal properties. Due to its benefits, it’s been used for thousands of years by native and traditional cultures.
The roots of this plant are typically chewed or ground up and added to water. In these cultures, creating a kava kava drink is the equivalent of drinking alcohol or wine in Western cultures. It’s commonly drank at ceremonies, as well social gatherings.
Researchers have extracted kavalactones from this plant, creating a supplement. When taking this supplement, users experience calming effects; allowing the user to relax. It’s used to treat various ailments including insomnia, anxiety disorders, and other nervous system conditions.
What Is Kava Kava?
This calming plant is actually a member of the pepper family. In fact, its Latin name (Piper methysticum), means ‘intoxicating pepper.’ Its roots help users promote a greater sense of well-being, while steadying one’s nerves.
This shrub thrives in warm, humid climates, growing up to nine feet. As mentioned, it has long been a part of South Pacific culture, counteracting stress, while enhancing social events. Kava kava has been used within ceremonial events for over 3000 years.
How Does Kava Kava Work?
How kava kava works isn’t fully certain. There are some researchers who support the theory that kava kava may work like prescription tranquilizers do. More specifically, it’s believed that they work like benzodiazepines. These drugs enhance GABA levels in the brain, creating a calming effect.
When GABA levels are increased, they stop your neurons from become overly excited, reducing how often they fire. Due to these effects, kava kava is often used to treat symptoms of anxiety. Although is helps users relax, it doesn’t hinder the ability to concentrate.
The Benefits Associated with Kava Kava
When taking a supplement, you’ll do so to access its benefits. One of the key benefits associated with kava kava, is its ability to target various health conditions. General anxiety disorder is fairly common, creating crippling effects to those who are affected.
Some even believe it’s effects are equal to some anti-anxiety medications. This may be due to the fact that kava kava affects brain waves in a similar fashion as diazepam. Just like anti-anxiety medications, it enhances GABA levels, which is one of the main inhibitory neurotransmitters. Once kava kava binds to GABA receptor sites, over-firing is prevented. The result, is a a more relaxed state-of-mind.
Since this supplement helps reduce stress and anxiety, it is believed to improve overall mood. Not only is GABA believed to be impacted, but dopamine as well. Since this neurotransmitter directly affects one’s mood, positive effects are experienced.
Positive effects on were experienced in women who were suffering from symptoms of menopause. Two groups of twenty women were examined, as they began treatment using kava kava (a 70% kavalactone extract). After eight weeks, it was found that hot flashes were reduced, while mood and overall well-being improved across all women.
More research needs to be conducted regarding kava kava’s benefits on sleep. Due to its calming effects, it’s believed to help cases of insomnia. There has been research that suggests this supplement improves overall sleep quality, while decreasing the time required to fall asleep.
It’s also used to treat pain, acting as an analgesic. Since it helps relax muscles, it can offset the pain that’s experienced during muscle spasms. This makes it an ideal choice for individuals that suffer from fibro myalgia. Since this disease is associated with chronic muscle and joint pain, kava kava can benefit its users.
In terms of cognitive functioning, little negative effects have been found. In fact, some studies have recorded that kava kava actually boosts cognitive functioning. It improved visual attention, alertness, and working memory. There have been a number of studies on this topic, which increases the overall benefits associated with this supplement.
What Side-Effect Does Kava Kava Create?
There’s mixed research, but it’s been reported that kava kava has dangerous effects on one’s liver. These effects are believed to be similar to alcohol and other related drug use. When looking at past incidences, twenty-five reports have documented liver damage as a result of kava kava supplementation.
Although this effect was found, it’s unclear how kava kava influenced these negative effects. It may be a direct result of kava kava, or it could be associated with other medications, which caused an interaction to occur.
Since there are some serious risks involved, it’s important that you speak with your doctor before trying kava kava. You should also start with the lowest possible dose, to see how you personally react. When taking kava kava, do not consume alcohol or any other drugs.
Since it may create negative effects on your liver, do not take this supplement with other nootropics that could potentially cause issues with your liver. If you are unsure of kava kava, there are plenty of other GABAergic supplements on the market.
It’s recommended that you scatter use, as long-term consumption may also result in shortness of breath, rashes, and facial swelling. Use kava kava one month, then discontinue use for a month. You can also use as needed, especially if you experience waves of anxiety.
What Is the Recommended Dose?
When taking kava kava, it’s recommended that you take between 250 and 500 mg daily. With that being said, some researchers advise that you take even less. Since each individual is unique, dosing may require some experimentation.
When choosing a kava kava supplement, make sure it meets quality standards. A kava kava supplement should have at least a 30% kavalactones content. Many researchers suggest kava kava that has been freeze-dried. This helps capture the benefits, without having to add any harmful additives.