Researchers find Kava Kava to be an Anxiolytic Agent

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Kava kava (kava for short) contains kavapyrones, substances that act much like alcohol on your brain, making you feel calm, relaxed, and happy. The plant is also thought to relieve pain, prevent seizures, and relax muscles. A drink made from kava root has been consumed in many cultures for centuries because it is known to relieve anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia.1 Several studies have demonstrated that kava is an anxiolytic agent. 2

The first randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study of kava for the treatment of patients who were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder was conducted in 1997. The subjects were given either an extract of kava or a placebo for 25 weeks. Those who were given the kava extract showed improvement in their primary and secondary anxiety symptoms. The primary symptoms observed were nervousness, restlessness, and fatigue. Secondary symptoms included sweating, rapid heart beating, and having a sense of impending danger. Besides verifying its general effectiveness in relieving anxiety, the researchers also concluded that when kava was used as an alternative to pharmaceutical medications like benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants, individuals typically suffered from fewer unintended side effects.3

You can buy kava as an herbal supplement online here and in health food stores. Sometimes it is blended with other ingredients in products labeled as stress response supplements.

Caution: Don’t take kava kava and operate heavy machinery.


1.     J. Cawte, “Psychoactive Substances of the South Seas: Betel, Kava, and Pituri,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 19, no. 1 (March 1995), pp. 83–7, doi: 10.3109/00048678509158818.

2.     N.R. Bruner and K.G. Anderson, “Discriminative-Stimulus and Time-Course Effects of Kava-Kava (Piper methysticum) in Rats,” Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, vol. 92, no. 2 (April 2009), pp. 297–303, doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2008.12.017.

3.     H.P. Volz and M. Kieser, “Kava-Kava Extract WS 1490 versus Placebo in Anxiety Disorders—