Kava Kava is a member of the pepper family and is Native to several pacific islands. The herb has been used widely for over 3,000 years by pacific native populations, and has become popular in Europe and North America. Kava Kava is a ceremonial relaxant used traditionaly by men indigenous to the Pacific islands. Today it is used by those in the West, to alleviate stress, and to promote a sense of well being. Kava Kava, or Kava for short, exerts its influence over its subjects by means of its active constituents, kavalactones. Kavalactones, bond to the same part of the brain as valium. This is known as the GABAminergic receptor site. However, unlike valium, Kava does not seem to "dumb down" the user. In fact, in one study, verbal recall (the intellect you use when you're trying to remember someone's name) is shown to improve under the influence of Kava. It seems, that Kava is more like another GABA acting substance, this substance being Piracetam, which has been shown to boost some aspects of intelligence.
Research shows that the active ingredients in Kava Kava (kava pyrones) do in fact have a calming, sedative effect. They also appear to relax the muscles, relieve spasms, and prevent convulsions. At least two scientific studies have confirmed the herb's ability to significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety. In a third study, researchers rated it as effective as prescription tranquilizers. The ingredients that give kava kava its kick are kawain, dihydrokawain, methysticin, dihydromethysticin, yangonin, and dihydroyangonin. Kava is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract very rapidly so its effects are felt almost immediately. According to scientific studies, Kavalactones act less by inhibition of neuromuscular transmission than by a direct effect on muscular contractility. Kava's muscle-relaxant properties are similar to those of potent tranquilizers as they both act on the central nervous system. Kava contains compounds called kava lactones which have been shown to help alleviate anxiety, relieve pain, relax muscles, and prevent convulsions. 3 Unlike many popular prescription drugs, Kava reduces anxiety but does not impair mental function or cause sedation. In a double-blind crossover study conducted in Switzerland, the effects of Kava on short-term memory were compared with those of the anti-anxiety and muscle relaxant drug Oxazepam. While the drug was found to impair short term memory, Kava actually improved it slightly.
Kava is mildly narcotic and produces mild euphoric changes characterized by elevated mood, fluent and lively speech and increased sense of sound. Higher doses can lead to muscle weakness, visual impairment, dizziness and drying of the skin. Long term use of the herb can contribute to hypertension, reduced protein levels, blood cell abnormalities, or liver damage. Alcohol consumption increases the toxicity of the pharmacological constituents. It is not recommended for those who intend on driving or where quick reaction time is required. Kava is the most relaxing botanical herb with exception of the opium poppy. Pharmacological studies show kava kava's active ingredients, kavalactones, produce physical and mental relaxation and a feeling of well being. It has also been used in the treatment of ailments of the genitourinary tract including vaginitis, gonorrhea and menstrual cramps. Kava is a diuretic and an anti-inflammatory, thus useful for gout, rheumatism, bronchial congestion, cystitis and prostatis. It is an effective local anesthetic and pain reliever when applied externally as a liniment. The relaxed state and sharpening of senses also contribute to aphrodisiac effect.
Kava is promoted primarily for anxiety, nervous tension, stress, restlessness, and at higher doses, insomnia. Many users say the herb enhances mood and brings on a sense of well being, relaxation and even euphoria. In South Pacific folk medicine, kava has been used to treat uterine inflammations, headaches, colds, rheumatism, and menopausal symptoms. They also drink it to relieve headaches, restore vigor, promote urination, soothe upset stomachs, ease symptoms of asthma and tuberculosis, and to cure fungal infections. Some users believe that kava inhibits gonorrhea. Used as a cream, kava is used to soothe stings and skin inflammations. Recent clinical studies have shown that the herb Kava is a safe, non-addictive anti-anxiety medicine, and as effective as prescription anxiety agents containing benzodiazepines. While benzodiazepines tend to promote lethargy and mental impairment, Kava has been shown to improve concentration, memory, and reaction time for people suffering from anxiety. Kava has been clinically demonstrated as a means of achieving a state of relaxation without the adverse side effects.