What is Kava Kava?
Kava Kava is a plant in the pepper family that has green oblong leaves and a short thick stem. The botanical name of the plant is Piper Methysticum, but it also has a number of other simpler names such as Awa, Ava, Yaqona, and Sakau.
The Kava Kava plant is native to the Western Pacific region of the world, and the root of the plant contains active medicinal ingredients known as Kavalactones. Therefore, it is not surprising that Polynesian cultures have been using this plant for centuries due to its anesthetic, calming, and sedating properties. For example, Kava Kava root was often grounded by pounding it with a stone in order to extract the Kavalactones from it. The grounded root was then soaked in cold water for a few minutes and the water was then consumed as a stress reducing tonic. The root of Kava Kava was also often chewed directly to receive its medicinal benefits..
More recently, large herbal and pharmaceutical companies use many solvents such as acetone, ethanol and supercritical carbon dioxide to extract the Kavalactones from the Kava roots. These extracts are then used to create teas, drinks, or other supplements that have become popular amongst professional athletes, businessmen, and soldiers who want to improve concentration and performance by reducing stress and anxiety.
What are the Benefits of Kava Kava?
Kava Kava extract is known for its antidepressant, anesthetic, antispasmodic, analgesic, and calming properties. Some of the conditions which it is known to help treat include:
- Mental Health (Anxiety, Stress, Depression, Insomnia)
- Concentration Problems (Hyperactivity, Attention Deficit Disorder)
- Muscle and Joint Pain (Sore Muscles, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Gout, Rheumatism)
- Dental Problems (Toothache, Gingivitis)
- Headaches and Migraines
- Women's Health (Menstrual Cramps, Menopause)
- Infections (Urinary Tract Infections, Respiratory Tract Infections, Sore Throats, Common Colds, Canker Sores)
- Other Issues (Asthma, Epilepsy, Psychosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)
Uses of Kava Kava
Home Remedy for Stress, Anxiety and Sleep Disorders
A few studies have found that Kava Kava extract may help restless or stressed individuals to become more relaxed without disrupting mental clarity. This is largely due to the Kavalactone component which has been found to help deliver "feel good" endorphins and chemicals to the brain. This results in a feeling of well being, happiness, and calmness which encourages the mind to tune out irrelevant stimuli, thereby promoting increased concentration, composure and tranquility. Some people have found that after a long and stressful day, taking Kava Kava extract helps to provide a more relaxing sleep throughout the night. Therefore a simple natural remedy for short term anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, insomnia, or attention deficit disorder is to drink a Kava Kava tea after dinner or consume a Kava Kava supplement. Note that the daily intake of Kava Kava extract with 70% Kavalactones should not exceed 300 mg.
Rheumatism and Sore Muscles
Kava Kava is known for its anesthetic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity. Therefore, it is often used in the treatment of Inflamed and painful joints and muscles, backache, and carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, a number of athletes and soldiers use Kava Kava to treat sore and tired muscles after intensive training routines and workouts. An effective remedy is to massage Kava Kava oil directly onto the aching areas of the body. This will result in a warm, tingling sensation. For individuals with sensitive skin, the oil can first be diluted with Coconut Oil. Alternatively, taking one capsule of Kava Kava extract or drinking a cup of Kava tea can also help alleviate the symptoms of sore muscles and joints.
Toothache, Sore Gums and Sore Throat
It is believed that the antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anesthetic activity of Kava Kava may help relieve the pain caused by toothaches, gingivitis, and sore throat. For toothaches and gum discomfort, simply chew on a quarter-inch piece of dried Kava Kava root for 5-10 minutes or apply a small drop of Kava Kava oil directly onto the affected gum or tooth. The associated numbing effect will help relieve the pain. For sore throats, chewing on Kava Kava root or drinking a cup of Kava tea made twice daily can provide relief.
Menstrual Discomfort and Menopausal Syndrome
Kava Kava has been used for menstrual cramps and menopausal syndrome for years. A study shows that menopausal women who took Kava Kava along with their daily hormone therapy medication showed greater improvement compared to women taking hormone therapy medicine alone. Therefore a simple remedy is to add this herbal product to your daily routine, either in capsule form or as a tea.
Remedy for Headaches and Migraines
A few studies suggest that Kava Kava may be effective against headaches and migraines. Simply taking Kava Kava extract at the first sign of the onset of a migraine or headaches may help.
What are the Side Effects of Kava Kava?
Kava Kava should not be consumed in conjunction with other medicines or alcohol. It is not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Kava Kava can be toxic if consumed in higher than recommended dosage for long periods of time. It is recommended to consult your healthcare professional before taking Kava Kava in any form. It is reported that heavy and long term use of Kava Kava may cause a scaly rash, puffy face, numbness of the mouth or stomach, nausea, renal dysfunction, liver damage, hypertension, and decreased platelet volume. Therefore, if you notice any sudden changes in your health when taking this herbal product, consult your physician as soon as possible. It is recommended that individuals should not consume more than 300mg of Kava Kava containing 70% of Kavalactones per day for any health condition.
Where and How to Buy Kava Kava
Kava Kava can be found in the form of oil, extract pills/capsules, powder, dried roots and teas. It can be purchased from most herbal food stores as well as some online shops (see below). When buying Kava Kava, look for products that contain higher amounts (50-90%) of Kavalactones. Also check that the Kavalactone component has been extracted from the roots of the Kava plant instead of the stems since research suggests that the Kavalactones extracted from the stems of Kava Kava may increase the chance of liver toxicity.