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Kava May Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety, But Caution is Advised

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In the first part of this article we looked at how the herbal remedy kava has been shown to work as a mild and natural tranquilizer for people who are contending with stress or anxiety. Its active ingredients, called kavalactones, are found in the roots of the plant, and these substances appear to have a direct effect on the limbic system in our brain, which is the portion that controls emotions.

Additional research has found that kava may also be useful for people who are trying to quit drinking or smoking, and in people who have epileptic fits brought on by stress and anxiety, kava may help them as well. And very preliminary studies have shown that kava may even help stroke patients may benefit from taking the supplement because it may help reduce the level of permanent brain damage.

If you do decide to give kava a try, it would be best to run it past your physician first, especially if you have any type of liver disorder. Kava was prescribed for years in Europe for stress and anxiety but then starting around 2003 reports started to surface about people who had liver damage after taking the herb. This continued through 2005 and involved about 40 cases. As a result, some European governments banned the herbal remedy. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued warnings about kava back in 2002, but it has not been banned here. The website said that for people who do not have underlying liver problems, kava may be safe to take for up to six months, when taken at the recommended doses on the bottle. However, the article stated that more studies are needed to determine how long kava can be taken. The WholeHealthMD article on kava said that some herbalists in the United States feel that kava should be taken for no longer than a month at a time, or on an as-needed basis.

If your physician kava extracts that have been standardized to contain 30 percent or more of kavalactones, and try to find one that has been extracted from the kava plant’s root. Be sure the kava you are buying does not contain any other parts of the plant, like leaves and stems. Some manufacturers of kava contend that any liver issues that occurred with kava were because the whole plant was used (above-ground parts of the plant are toxic) instead of just the root.

Have you ever tried taking kava for stress and anxiety? If so, did it help you feel better? What are your thoughts on kava possibly causing liver damage—would this stop you from trying the herb or do you feel safe taking it short term?




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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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