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Kava-kava is a medicinal plant, also known as Cava-cava, Kawa-kava or just Kava, which is widely used in traditional medicine to treat cases of anxiety, agitation or tension. Its scientific name is Piper methysticum and it can be found in he alth food stores, online stores and even in some supermarkets.
This is because this plant has some very important active substances, known as kavalactones, which, according to some studies, seem to act in a very similar way to that of some anxiolytic drugs, regulating the action of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain.
Thus, Kava-kava can be an excellent natural treatment option for cases of anxiety and agitation, before opting for the use of drugs.However, for it to be used correctly and in safe doses, its use must be guided by a naturopath, herbalist, nutritionist or other he alth professional specialized in the use of medicinal plants.
How Kava-kava works
The exact mechanism of action of this plant is not yet known, however, several studies seem to indicate that the kavalactones of Kava-kava have a function very similar to benzodiazepines, which are the main group of drugs used in the treatment from anxiety.
This means that the plant can bind to the brain receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA, enhancing its action. As GABA is the main responsible for inhibiting the central nervous system, allowing the person to relax, feel less afraid and be less anxious, this plant ends up having a potent calming effect.
In addition, some studies also indicate that Kava-kava can be used in cases of seizures, since one of its kavalactones, kavain, has an antagonist action on sodium channels, which ends up stabilizing the electrical action of the neuron.
How to use Kava-kava
The part used in Kava-kava is its rhizomes, where the highest concentration of its active substances is found. There are several ways to use this plant:
- Supplement (capsules): this is the most effective form, as it uses a more concentrated extract of the plant's active substances. To use in the form of a supplement, the ideal is to consult a herbalist, however, the generic dose indicated is usually 60 to 120 mg per day, in the case of extracts with 50 to 70% concentration of kavalactones;
- Tea: Kava-kava rhizomes can also be used to make tea, however, in this form of use it is not possible to know for sure the concentration of active substances. However, it is recommended that 1 tablespoon of Kava-kava rhizomes be boiled with 500 ml of water for 10 minutes. Then strain, let it cool down and drink it 2 to 3 times a day, or at times when you feel more anxious, for example.
The ideal is to always consult a phytotherapist or he alth professional specialized in medicinal plants, since their use, doses and treatment time may vary according to each person and their history.
Check out other natural options to control anxiety.
Possible side effects
The main side effect of using Kava-kava is severe liver damage. However, the only studies done on this effect were done with people who also had other habits that could affect liver function. Therefore, and although the true effect of Kava on the liver is not yet known, it is recommended not to exceed a dose of 120 mg per day.
Kava-kava is contraindicated for pregnant and lactating women as there are no studies on its safety during these stages of life.In addition, it should be avoided by those with liver disease or by those undergoing treatment with antidepressants, at least without a referral from a he althcare professional.