If you’ve ever tasted kava tea, you know that it makes your mouth numb. That’s because it contains natural pain relievers. Additionally, it contains a compound called yangonin that binds the same receptors as THC, as previously noted. Here Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD, HealthLine.com, reflects on benefits of kava kava:
“Kava, also often called kava kava, is a member of the nightshade family of plants and native to the South Pacific islands (1).
Pacific Islanders have used it for hundreds of years as a ceremonial drink to promote a state of relaxation.
More recently, kava has received widespread attention for its relaxing and stress-reducing properties.
However, it has been linked with several health concerns, raising questions about its safety (1).
This article explains everything you need to know about the benefits and dangers of kava.
What Is Kava?
Kava is a tropical evergreen shrub with heart-shaped leaves and woody stems. Its scientific name is Piper methysticum.
Pacific cultures traditionally use the kava drink during rituals and social gatherings. To make it, people first grind its roots into a paste.
This grinding was traditionally performed by chewing the roots and spitting them out, but now it’s typically done by hand (2Trusted Source).
The paste is then mixed with water, strained and consumed.
Its active ingredients are called kavalactones, which account for 3–20% of the dry weight of the root of the plant (3).
Studies suggest kavalactones may have the following effects on the body:
- Reduce anxiety (4Trusted Source)
- Protect neurons from damage (5Trusted Source)
- Reduce pain sensations (5Trusted Source)
- Reduce the risk of cancer, though the evidence is limited to mice (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source)
Most of the research to date has focused on kava’s potential to reduce anxiety.
It is largely unknown how kavalactones produce these effects, but they appear to work by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that nerves release to communicate with each other.
Kava Can Help Decrease Anxiety
Many types of medications are available, but they may come with unwanted side effects and can be habit-forming (14Trusted Source).
This has increased the demand for presumably safe, natural remedies like kava.
The first long-term study investigating the effects of kava extract in people with anxiety was published in 1997 (15Trusted Source).
Compared to a placebo, it significantly decreased the severity of participants’ perceived anxiety.
The researchers also noted no side effects related to withdrawal or dependency, whereas these effects are common with other drugs often used to treat anxiety (14Trusted Source).
Since this study, several other studies have demonstrated the benefits of kava on anxiety. A review of 11 of these studies concluded that kava extract is an effective treatment for anxiety (16Trusted Source).
What’s more, another review of a specific kava extract came to a similar conclusion, reporting that it could be used as an alternative to certain anxiety drugs and other antidepressants (17).
Kava May Aid Sleep
Realizing this, many people turn to sleep medications to help them sleep better. Like drugs used to treat anxiety, sleep medications may become habit-forming, resulting in physical dependence (25Trusted Source).
Kava is commonly used as an alternative to these sleep medications due to its calming effects.”
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Read More … Article Source: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/kava-kava#section3
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