Anxious feelings resulting from today’s stressful and high-pressure lifestyles are as common as an old shoe. That familiar combination of butterflies in your stomach, a sudden overwhelming sense of fear, trembling and other physical and emotional symptoms are the tell-tale signs that you are experiencing anxiety. Now, imagine feeling this sensation throughout much of your day, as is the case for millions of children and adults who experience generalized anxiety disorder.
Modern medications offer little help for generalized anxiety disorder and considering how overwhelming it can be to a person’s everyday life many seek alternative means to combat it. And according to materials released May 12, 2013 by the University of Melbourne hope for those who suffer with persistent anxiety may lie in a plant from the pepper family commonly used to make a favorite drink of the Pacific Islanders, kava.
Kava, or the drink kava-kava, has been used in ceremonies in the South Pacific for centuries. The roots are ground into a pulp and added to cold water to make a syrupy beverage that is said to balance mood, enhance overall well-being and produce a deep sense of relaxation. Because of these properties, kava has a long tradition of use as a relaxant for people with anxiety, insomnia and related nervous disorders.
The current study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology enrolled 75 participants diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Participants were given two kava tablets twice per day containing a total does of 120mg of kavalactones—the active compound found in kava—or a matching dummy placebo tablet for a period of three weeks. Their anxiety levels were regularly monitored and those who didn’t respond to the initial dose of kava were given a double-dose for an additional three weeks.
The study authors found that the kava group experienced a significant reduction in their anxiety levels when compared to the placebo group. Remarkably, participants with moderate to severe GAD experienced the greatest reductions in anxiety levels. All told, 26 percent of the kava group was classified as in remission of their anxiety symptoms, while only six percent of the placebo group experienced remission.
According to the National institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine database, concerns have been raised over the potential for kava to cause liver damage. However, this study found that kava was well tolerated, with no significant differences in liver function between the placebo and kava groups. No considerable adverse reactions, withdrawal symptoms or addiction was reported in the kava group.
Interestingly, the study also found that women in the kava group reported an increased sex drive. This finding was reported in the recently published edition of Phytotherapy Research and future studies may investigate this libido-enhancing effect.