Known to be a part of South Pacific island tradition for thousands of years, Kava Kava or simply Kava (Piper methysticum), has been taken as a special drink (can be compared to wine of Eastern Europe) during weddings and special occasions because the natives treat it very essential for their social and religious lives. For instance, a cup of Kava should be served to a special guest who is expected to down it without stopping during a special ceremony. Then, the rest should follow.
Today, people take kava (not only in a special ceremony but also in any ordinary day) for its calming and relaxing effect. The herb can elevate the mood, improve well-being and promote contentment.
Traditionally crushed or chewed, Kava is now available in capsule, liquids or teas. Extracts have been processed by supplement makers to provide consumer with other benefits, including help against menstrual symptoms, urinary tract infection and depression.
Kavalactones, the main active compounds in kava, are said to influence the brain’s emotional command center that influences both the physical and psychological well-being of a person. But kava’s effectiveness doesn’t stem only from this substance, but from 15 other lactones. (*Different types of kava lactones produce varying effects).
Based on scientific research, five of 15 lactones possess unique characteristics than others. Dihydrokawain and kawain are muscle relaxants, sedatives and analgesics; yangonins work against memory loss and neurological disregulation; and dehydromethysticin and dehydrokawain are spasmolytics. And for its sedative and tranquilizing effects, Kava’s kawain, methysticin, dihydrokawain and dihydromethysicin are of great help.
In a 1996 study, two groups composed of 29 people with normal anxiety had undergone treatment for one month, one groups was given three doses of 100g kava rhizome extract or placebo. After only a week, kava given group lowered anxiety levels as compared to the placebo group.
Backing this claim up, another study published at Journals LWW showed that a daily dose of kava kava extract (120-140 mg) could reduce anxiety (without causing liver damage but headache).
Aside from anxiety and depression treatment, kava is also known to increase libido or sex drive in women . And to support this claim, a study conducted by researchers in Australia and Germany discovered that kava isn’t just effective in dealing with anxiety but also in boosting sex drive, one of the effects felt by female volunteers, aside from decreased anxiety (as published in Phytotherapy Research).
A bowl of cold brew may contain 150 to 500 mg of kavalactones (and that a native Pacific Islander could consume up to 2,500 mg daily or every night if he were to take it in the traditional manner) and Kava can take effect in a matter of 20 to 30 minutes.
Now, standardized extracts for treating insomnia, stress and anxiety may contain 100 mg to be divided into three portions daily. (*For safety, follow product label instructions or take Kava extract in pill, capsule or other forms of it only under medical supervision).