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Can Kava Treat Anxiety?

Kava for the Treatment of Anxiety

A clinical study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Melbourne is the first worldwide to find that Kava, a South Pacific root plant with medicinal properties, significantly decreases anxiety symptoms in those patients who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorders (GAD). Published in the May 2013 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, this study reveals that Kava could be a valuable natural alternative to pharmaceutical products in the treatment of anxiety.

Researchers Say that Kava is a Potential Treatment

The lead University of Melbourne researcher points out that Generalized Anxiety Disorders are complex and can seriously affect many patients' daily lives in a negative manner. Since existing anti-anxiety drugs only exhibit a modest clinical effect, more effective options are definitely needed. The lead author also states that previous research studies recognized that plant-based medications could be viable treatment alternatives for chronic anxiety sufferers. However, this study shows that Kava is a potential natural treatment option for chronic clinical anxiety. Compared to other medications, it has less potential side effects as well as less chances of developing dependency.

Study results indicate that an individual's polymorphisms (genetic differences) of neurobiological mechanisms, known as GABA transporters, may change their response(s) to Kava. If this particular finding is duplicated, it could result in the development of simple genetic tests to discover who is more likely to experience anxiety reducing effects from the administration of Kava.

Over the course of the eight week clinical trial, 75 participants diagnosed with some degree of GAD were given either Kava or a placebo. Their levels of anxiety were monitored on a regular basis. A marked reduction in anxiety levels was noticed in the Kava group as compared to the placebo group at the study's conclusion. Those patients, diagnosed with moderate to severe levels of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, experienced the greatest positive effect(s) in the reduction of their anxiety. At the finish of the controlled phase of the trial, 26% of the group given Kava was deemed in symptom remission as compared to only 6% of the group who were administered a placebo.

Kava Well Tolerated by Participants and Increases Sex Drive

Kava group participants were given water soluble Kava extract tablets two times daily for a total kavalactone dosage of 120 mg. for the first three weeks of the study. Instances in which there was no response to this dosage, a double dose of Kava was administered twice daily for the second three week phase. Placebo group participants were given the same dosages of "dummy" tablets at the same time intervals.

Kava appeared to be well tolerated by participants as no marked differences were noted across the two study groups in terms of liver function. Previously, liver function had been somewhat of a concern in the medicinal usage of Kava. There were low rates of adverse reactions that could be definitively attributed to Kava. In addition, there were no noticeable differences in either addiction or withdrawal between the study groups.

Another interesting study finding, recently published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, revealed that the administration of Kava increased some females' sex drive when compared to those within the placebo group. This fact is believed to be the result of reduced anxiety levels rather than any actual aphrodisiac effect. Additional research is required to confirm the relationship between the therapeutic and genetic responses as well as any improvement in libido resulting from the use of Kava.


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