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What is kava kava?
Kava is the name given to a tall shrub that grows in the
islands of the Pacific (including Hawaii). The shrub produces
thick stalks that contain large, green, heart-shaped leaves.
Kava roots, which are used for all kava preparations, are
small, brown and have hair-like projections.
Kava root contains chemicals called kavalactones, which reduce
convulsions and cause muscles to relax. They also cause reactions
in the brain similar to those caused by pharmaceuticals that
treat depression and anxiety.
Why do we need kava kava? What is
it used for?
Studies have shown kava root to be an effective reducer
of stress and anxiety caused by menopause. A 1997 study found
kava to be superior to placebo in treating non-psychotic patients
in reducing anxiety and improving one's mood. Other studies
have found it to help reduce skeletal muscles, ease pain and
stiffness, and relieve the symptoms of jet lag.
In small doses, kava appears to produce a state of calm and
increase a user's disposition for sociability. In larger doses,
kava has been found to promote sleep and help patients with
How much kava kava should I take?
To relieve anxiety and insomnia, the recommended dose is
2-4 grams of kava as part of a decoction taken three times
daily, or a standardized formula for a daily intake of 60-600
milligrams of kavalactone. Treatment length varies; it may
take up to four weeks for the product to reach its full potential.
However, it is recommended that you not continue taking kava
for more than three months consecutively.
If your health practitioner recommends kava, makes sure to
purchase products that are standardized to contain a 70% or
greater kavalactone content.
What forms of kava kava are available?
In some cultures, kava is prepared by chewing the root, then
spitting the mixture into a bowl. A person's saliva mixes
with the root, activating its medicinal properties. Fortunately,
kava is available in other forms, such as liquid tinctures
or extracts. It can also be found in capsule or tablet form,
and is available in powdered and crushed varieties.
What can happen if I take too much
kava kava? Are there any interactions I should be aware of?
What precautions should I take?
The typical side-effects of kava are mild, and may include
a numbing of the mouth or tongue, skin rashes, headaches,
gastrointestinal discomfort and dizziness. Extreme doses of
kava (300-400 grams of dried kava root per week) can result
in yellowing of the skin, ataxia, hair loss, and changes in
vision and respiration. However, these symptoms will subside
if you stop taking kava.
The American Herbal Products Association recommends that
pregnant and nursing women should not take kava. The APHA
also advises that people should not drive while using kava,
and that patients should not take kava for more than three
months at a time.
Do not use kava if you are taking barbiturates or while using
alcohol. It may increase the effect of these substances.
Other Resources :
More You Know About Nutrition
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