Kava kava Health Benefits

Kava kava Effects Health benefits, Side Effects

What is Kava kavais an herb tonic that is used ceremonially and medicinally by Pacific Islanders
Kava kava Health Benefits Kava kava has been traditionally used as a sedative and a relaxation inducer.

Kava kava

Kava kava Side effects and warnings. Kava kava has adverse effects to the liver and cause skin irritation and ulcers. NOt suitable for pregnant, breast feeding and young children.

What is Kava kava

Scientific Name of Kava: Piper methysticum.

Other Common Names:
Kava, Kava-kava, Kawa, ‘awa (Hawaii), ‘ava (Samoa), yaqona (Fiji), sakau (Pohnpei).

Kava kava plant is used for medicinal, religious, political, cultural and social purposes throughout the Pacific Island region. Kava kava has long been part of tradition in Hawaii, Micronesia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, and has been known to possess analgesic and sedative effect.

Kava kava roots are masticated, pounded or grounded, mixed with water or coconut water and are traditionally drunk during social gatherings and ceremonial activities to lower inhibitions and promote relaxation and amiability.

Kava kava Plant Description:

Kava kava (Piper methysticum) is a perennial plant native to the Pacific Island region, that has been used as ceremonial and medicinal herb for centuries. Kava kava is a shrub of the pepper family that can grow to a height of 3 meters. Kava kava has bright green heart shaped leaves that is about 15 to 20 centimeters in width and length.. Kava kava flowers are small and sterile while the roots when fully matured can reach up to 60 centimeters in length.

Kava kava grows in shaded areas that receives ample rainfall. Kava kava are grown for its roots and are raised as cash crops in Vanuata and Fiji. Kava kava roots are considered matured for harvest after 4 years.


Kava kava Herb Constituents

kava kava rootKava kava roots contains a group of lactones, organized around an arylethylene-alpha-pyrone skeleton called kavalactones. There are 15 lactones that were isolated but only 9 were identified. The dried kava kava root contains starch, fibers, kavalactones, water, sugar, protein and minerals.  

Traditional Health Benefits of Kava kava Herb

Kava kava traditional drink

Kava kava herb has been traditionally used by the Pacific Islanders for its relaxing and calming effects. Kava kava herb also has a euphoric effect that it is likewise used during important social rituals and ceremonies.

Kava kava herb is also used for some health benefits it possess. Pacific islanders used kava kava herb to treat menstrual discomfort, venereal disease, urinary problems, as anti-inflammatory agent against gout, rheumatism and bronchial congestion.

Kava kava herb has analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects that it is used as pain killer to treat headache, fever, chronic fatigue syndrome and migraines. Kava kava is also used as mouth wash for canker sores and toothache.

Kava kava herb is also applied to the skin to treat leprosy and to promote wound healing. It is also used to treat tuberculosis,

Kava is a popular herb to treat anxiety, stress and depression. The relaxing, euphoric state brought on by this herb make it useful in treating these conditions.

Other claims for kava kava benefits include treatment for anxiety, stress, and restlessness. Kava kava herb is also used to treat ADHD, epilepsy, psychosis and sleep related health problems.

Kava kava is also being tested for its effects to cancer treatment and prevention. 

Scientific Studies for Kava kava Herb

Psychoactive Effects of Kava kava Extracts

A systematic review and meta-analysis on the efficacy of kava extract for treating anxiety was done in the Department of Complementary Medicine, University of Exeter, United Kingdom which was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology February 2000.

In this review, the superiority of kava extract over placebo was suggested by all seven reviewed trials. The meta-analysis of three trials suggests a significant difference in the reduction of the total score on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety in favor of kava extract. The data gathered suggested that kava extract is superior to placebo as a symptomatic treatment for anxiety.

Analgesic/Anesthetic Effects of Kava Extract

According to an animal study of the analgesic effects of kava extract, four lactones from kava were identified to possess a significant analgesic effects in rats. These lactones are kavain, dihydrokavain, methysticin, and dihydromethysticin. It has been found that the anesthetic effect of 120 mg/kg of kava extract is equivalent to 2.5 mg/kg of morphine.

The anesthetic effect of kava is most effective in the skin. It has been reported that the anesthetic effect can last for several hours to several days. Kava can induce temporary paralysis at higher dosage.

Kava kava Availability and Preparation

Where to buy Kava kava medicine

Selling of Kava kava herb extracts in some countries are banned. But to others, Kava kava is available in non-standardized and standardized liquid extracts either with water or alcohol, Kava kava is also available in tinctures and solid extracts such as capsules and tablets.

Kava kava is available in most drug stores and health stores and online stores such ebay and amazon such as Pharma Kava Extract 4 Ounces

How Kava kava is prepared

In the Pacific Islands, kava kava is traditionally prepared by mastication or chewing of the root by a young female virgin or a child then is spit onto a bowl then added with small water or coconut water. But this process has recently been replaced by pounding or grounding then made into a paste that is then added with water to make a drink or mixed with other herbs to make medicinal drinks.

Kava kava Side Effects and Warnings

Kava kava is considered safe to use for older persons when taken at recommended dosage over short periods and under supervision of competent health practitioner.

Long term use and over dosage of kava kava herb may cause serious side effects such as liver damage and even death.. In some countries such as Canada, Germany and Switzerland, kava kava herb has been banned from the market.

Kava kava should not be taken by people prone to liver disease.

Other kava kava side effects are dry skin and skin lesions or ulcers, dizziness and impairment of visual acuity. It is therefore not recommended to be taken when expected to work that requires due attention and alertness such as driving or operating machineries.

Kava kava has unfavorable side effects when taken with prescription anti-depressants, sedatives or mixed with alcohol. Kava kava can worsen depression conditions.

Kava kava is not for use by pregnant women, breast feeding mothers and very young children.

Kava kava Herb Banning Controversy

The widespread use and popularity of kava kava products in the late 1990’s resulted in the controversy where it has been associated in adverse liver damage that in some cases have resulted to death. These cases resulted to banning of kava kava use in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, France, United Kingdom and Netherlands. Canada followed suit when Health Canada issued a no sale policy of kava kava products in 2002.

But proponents of kava kava suggested that the Pacific kava paradox was based on the theory that kava hepatotoxicity was not observed from the use of traditional aqueous extracts in the Pacific region. That the European kava extracts were acetonic and ethalonic base and may have been corrupted with the use of other plant parts aside from the traditionally accepted roots only.

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