Kava medicinal uses are well known on the islands of the South Pacific. The kava plant is widely found on several islands in the Pacific Ocean including Hawaii, Micronesia, Melenesia, and Vanuatu and is considered to be a part of the pepper family. The roots of the plant are used to produce a medicinal drink that has mild sedative properties. Kava comes in several different forms for common usage with this being tablets, capsules, and in liquid form.
Kava Medicinal Uses and Benefits
Extracts and by products from the kava plant are commonly used across North America and Europe to:
- Soothe Stress
- Relieve Anxiety
- Treat Insomnia
Extracts from the rhizome of the kava plant can be used to create a mild psychoactive drink.
Other Kava uses include:
- An anesthetic quality when kava is chewed.
- Muscle Relaxer
- A sedative in animals.
- Anti-convulsant Properties
The use of extract from the kava plant is not without side effects. Two to three percent of people who have used kava extract have experienced some mild and infrequent side effects.
These more common side effects include:
- Gastrointestinal Discomfort
- Allergic Reaction On Skin
Less common, but other side effects attributed to use of large quantities of kava include:
- Involuntary Body Movements
- An Increase in Parkinson Symptoms
- Intoxicating or Depressant Effect
- Sedative Effect
- Necrotizing hepatitis, requiring a liver transplant.
There is no clear evidence that there is an interaction issue with kava use and patients with necrotizing hepatitis and while these cases have been rare, patients should be cautious with kava use if they have issues with hepatitis.
A recent recommendation has come from the German Commission E stating that kava preparations should not extend past 3 months of usage unless medically prescribed. This restriction was set in place due to concerns about dependency issues. In some situations kava products should not be used:
- When operating a motor vehicle.
- During Pregnancy
- While Nursing
Preparations and Dosages
Dosage recommendations vary, but the most common dosage suggestion is between 140 and 250 mg of a kava pyrone preparation be ingested each day. The recommendation is that this dosage be spread out over 2-3 separate doses a day. A recent European study used 70 mg per doses up three time per day. A United States clinical trial used 120 mg of kava pyrones per dose.