Treatments - Kava Kava
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What is Kava Kava?

Kava Kava is a nonalcoholic drink made from the root of kava played an important role in a variety of ceremonies in the Pacific islands. Consumed as a brewed drink, it has long been used ceremonially and medicinally by islanders from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti and the rest of Oceania. In social rituals, islanders dip cups into a communal kava bowl. Kava was valued both for its mellowing effects and to encourage socializing. It was also noted for initiating a state of contentment, a greater sense of well-being, and enhanced mental acuity, memory, and sensory perception. Kava has also been used traditionally to treat pain. In addition to its sedative qualities, it is used in native medicine as a topical anesthetic and for urinary tract infections and asthma.

Active constituents: The kava-lactones, sometimes referred to as kava-pyrones, are important active constituents in kava herbal extracts. Kava-lactones may have antianxiety, mild analgesic (pain-relieving), muscle-relaxing, and anticonvulsant effects.

What are the uses of Kava Kava?
Reviewers have found that in the seven trials, kava extract was more efficacious against anxiety than placebo. The meta-analysis of three trials that used the Hamilton Anxiety Scale as an outcome showed improvement on the scale, compared with baseline. The Hamilton scale is an observer-rated instrument for quantifying anxiety symptoms. Double blind studies have validated the effectiveness of kava for people with anxiety, including menopausal women.

What are the recommended Preparations/Dosages?
Some doctors of natural medicine suggest the use of kava extracts supplying 200-250 mg of kava-lactones per day in two or three divided doses. Alternatively (although it has not been researched), 1-3 ml of fresh liquid kava tincture can be taken three times per day. Finally, 60 to 120 milligrams of kava pyrones daily is recommended for no longer than 3 months. Kava should not be taken for more than three months without the advice of a physician.

What about Side Effects?
In recommended amounts, the only reported side effect from kava use is mild gastrointestinal disturbances in some people. Long-term consumption of very high doses of kava may turn the skin, nails, and hair yellow temporarily. If this occurs, people should simply discontinue kava use. In rare cases, an allergic skin reaction, such as a rash, may occur. At the doses listed above, kava is not addictive.

Are there any Contraindications?
Kava kava is contraindicated in pregnancy and breast feeding. It should not be taken together with other substances that also act on the central nervous system, such as alcohol, barbiturates, antidepressants, and antipsychotic drugs. The German Commission E monograph states that kava, when taken at the recommended levels, may adversely affect a person’s ability to safely drive or operate heavy machinery

"Products containing herbal extracts of kava have been implicated in cases of severe liver toxicity in Germany and Switzerland," according to the FDA letter. "Approximately 25 reports of [liver] toxicity associated with the use of products containing kava extracts have been reported in these countries. Serious adverse effects include hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure. At least one patient required a liver transplant." In both Switzerland and Germany, regulatory agencies have prohibited the sale of kava extract-containing products. The FDA is investigating whether the use of kava-containing dietary supplements poses a similar health hazard in the U.S., according to the letter. The agency has received several reports of serious injury allegedly associated with the use of kava-containing dietary supplements.