In effect, kava (also called kava kava) is the traditional cocktail of native South Pacific islanders.
It has an intoxicating effect that has made it popular in modern herbal nutrition as a remedy for symptoms of anxiety. Kava is often used as a sedative or muscle relaxant as well as a sleep aid.
The bitter kava plant is said to produce greater effects when mixed with saliva.
For that reason, use of the kava plant by island natives often involved chewing on the leaves.
The root or rhizome of the plant is used in herbal preparations that are somewhat easier on the palate.
The active ingredients in kava, known as alpha-pyrones, have been shown in clinical studies to be as effective as some prescription medications used to treat anxiety. However, the herb does not have the side effects of lethargy and fatigue that are associated with prescription drugs.
In fact, people who use kava report an increased alertness and ability to concentrate, making the herb ideal for promoting a state of calm and relaxation. Kava is also used as an analgesic and is said to be as effective as aspirin or ibuprofen in relieving pain, including the pain of arthritis. The herb is also popular as an aid to weight loss because it has a diuretic effect. This property also makes kava useful as a remedy for urinary problems.
Kava Side Effects; Who Should Not Take Kava
Because of its narcotic properties, kava is used in some parts of the world not only medicinally but for recreational purposes as well. The herb tends to elevate mood and produce a euphoric effect, but is important to realize that kava is an especially powerful herb that should used with caution. In high doses, it can produce significant side effects that include weakness, visual disturbances and dizziness.
Also, if kava is used for an extended period of time, it can cause liver damage, blood cell abnormalities and high blood pressure. This herb should not be used with alcohol, and its effects should be allowed to subside before a person drives or operates heavy machinery or engages in any other activity that requires alertness.
Kava is available as a liquid extract and in capsule or tablet form. Dosages that provide a range of 60-120 mg of kava pyrones (the active ingredient) are often recommended by herbalists for optimal effect. The amount used therapeutically in clinical trials is generally about 100 mg of dry extract that has been standardized to contain 70% pyrones.
It is best to take this herb under the instruction of a qualified herbalist since it has a high potential for misuse. Kava should not be taken by pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding. It should also be avoided by people who are clinically depressed.
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