Snacking On Kava Leaves May Reduce Anxiety
May 13, 2013

Snacking On Kava Leaves May Reduce Anxiety

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A new study suggests that the South Pacific plant Kava may have beneficial properties for alleviating anxiousness. Researchers writing in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology say Kava could be used to help treat people who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorders (GAD).

There are medicines currently available for people suffering from anxiety, but scientists are still looking for safer alternatives.

The team, led by Dr Jerome Sarris from Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne, Australia, says they were able to show that Kava offers a potential natural alternative for the treatment of chronic clinical anxiety.

"Unlike some other options it has less risk of dependency and less potential for side effects,” Sarris said in a statement.

The researchers found that people's genetic differences of certain neurobiological mechanisms called GABA transporters may modify their response to Kava. Sarris said if this finding is able to be replicated, it could help pave the way for simple genetic tests to determine which people would benefit from taking Kava.

For the study, patients were given Kava tablets twice per day, or 120 milligrams of kavalactones, for three-weeks. Participants in the placebo group took matching dummy tablets during the same period.

Patients in the study with moderate to severe GAD found Kava to be even more beneficial to them compared to those who had below-moderate anxiety. According to the findings, 26 percent of the Kava group in the study were classified as having a remission from their symptoms compared to six percent of the placebo group.

Kava did not show any considerable adverse reactions or any addiction between the groups. However, the team did find that Kava actually increased women's sex drive compared to those in the placebo group, but this could have been attributed to the reduction of anxiety.

The researchers want to complete additional studies to confirm the genetic relationship to therapeutic response.

This isn't the first time the researchers have found Kava to be a safe and effective tool for reducing anxiety. Sarris said back in 2009 that the South Pacific plant was effective in lowering anxiety.

“We´ve been able to show that Kava offers a natural alternative for the treatment of anxiety, and unlike some pharmaceutical options, has less risk of dependency and less potential of side effects,” Mr. Sarris said in findings published in the Springer journal Psychopharmacology four years ago.

During this study, the team also saw that Kava could be used to reduce depression levels in patients as well.

“We also found that Kava had a positive impact on reducing depression levels, something which had not been tested before,” Mr. Sarris said.