Kava kava (Piper methysticum, also called kava) is a root found in the South Pacific islands and has been used for centuries as a ceremonial drink for its hypnotic (sleep-inducing), psychotropic (affecting mental activity) and anxiolytic (anxiety relieving) properties.[1]

The roots of kava kava are ground into a pulp and added to cold water to make a thick brew. It is offered to dignitaries and guests visiting the Pacific islands and is often compared to wine in France .

Kava Kava For Anxiety
Anxiety is an unpleasant state of inner turmoil that can manifest as a panic attack, phobia or depression. Kava kava is a safe and effective anxiety-reducing herbal alternative to benzodiazepine drugs (known as tranquilizers) and does not cause an addiction.[2]

A clinical study found that when the dose of kava kava was increased in individuals taking benzodiazepines, it was so effective that the doctors replaced it with the herb.[3] Another clinical trial found that kava kava is as effective as standard drugs used to treat anxiety.[4] Animal studies suggest that the anti-anxiety effects of kava kava can bring about behavioral changes.[5]

The anti-anxiety effects of kava kava help relieve symptoms of depression, improve sleep quality and decrease aggression.[6,7,8,9,10] It also gives an individual an increased sense of well-being.[11]

How To Take It

  • Add three tablespoons of kava root powder to a glass of water. Pour this mixture into a blender and blend on high for four minutes. Pour the mixture through a muslin cloth and squeeze the liquid into a glass. Drink this twice daily to obtain relief from anxiety.
  • To buy kava root powder, click here.

Note: Since prolonged use of kava kava can cause liver problems, do not take it for more than four weeks. People, especially those with liver disease or liver problems, should take kava kava under the supervision of a doctor or a herbalist.

For more interesting stories, visit our Health page and read about other Natural Remedies here.

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1. Ulbricht C, Basch E, Boon H, Ernst E, Hammerness P, Sollars D, Tsourounis C, Woods J, Bent S. Safety review of kava (Piper methysticum) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2005 Jul;4(4):779-94. Review. PubMed PMID: 16011454.

2. Scherer J. Kava-kava extract in anxiety disorders: an outpatient observational study. Adv Ther. 1998 Jul-Aug;15(4):261-9. PubMed PMID: 10186945.

3. Malsch U, Kieser M. Efficacy of kava-kava in the treatment of non-psychotic anxiety, following pretreatment with benzodiazepines. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001 Sep;157(3):277-83. PubMed PMID: 11605083.

4. Boerner RJ, Sommer H, Berger W, Kuhn U, Schmidt U, Mannel M. Kava-Kava extract LI 150 is as effective as Opipramol and Buspirone in Generalised Anxiety Disorder–an 8-week randomized, double-blind multi-centre clinical trial in 129 out-patients. Phytomedicine. 2003;10 Suppl 4:38-49. PubMed PMID: 12807341.
5. Garrett KM, Basmadjian G, Khan IA, Schaneberg BT, Seale TW. Extracts of kava (Piper methysticum) induce acute anxiolytic-like behavioral changes in mice. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2003 Oct;170(1):33-41. Epub 2003 Jul 4. PubMed PMID: 12845414.

6. Sarris J, Kavanagh DJ, Byrne G, Bone KM, Adams J, Deed G. The Kava Anxiety Depression Spectrum Study (KADSS): a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial using an aqueous extract of Piper methysticum. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2009 Aug;205(3):399-407. doi: 10.1007/s00213-009-1549-9. Epub 2009 May 9. PubMed PMID: 19430766.

7. Lehrl S. Clinical efficacy of kava extract WS 1490 in sleep disturbances associated with anxiety disorders. Results of a multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. J Affect Disord. 2004 Feb;78(2):101-10. Erratum in: J Affect Disord. 2004 Dec;83(2-3):287. PubMed PMID:14706720.

8. Wheatley D. Kava and valerian in the treatment of stress-induced insomnia. Phytother Res. 2001 Sep;15(6):549-51. PubMed PMID: 11536390.

9. Gastpar M, Klimm HD. Treatment of anxiety, tension and restlessness states with Kava special extract WS 1490 in general practice: a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind multicenter trial. Phytomedicine. 2003 Nov;10(8):631-9. PubMed PMID: 14692723.

10. Volz HP, Kieser M. Kava-kava extract WS 1490 versus placebo in anxiety disorders–a randomized placebo-controlled 25-week outpatient trial. Pharmacopsychiatry. 1997 Jan;30(1):1-5. PubMed PMID: 9065962.

11. Thompson R, Ruch W, Hasenöhrl RU. Enhanced cognitive performance and cheerful mood by standardized extracts of Piper methysticum (Kava-kava). Hum Psychopharmacol. 2004 Jun;19(4):243-50. PubMed PMID: 15181652.