Kava, a medicinal South Pacific plant long used in traditional healing practices, has been found to significantly reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne, Australia, found Kava could offer a natural alternative treatment to pharmaceuticals for the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorders (GAD).
“Based on previous work we have recognized that plant based medicines may be a viable treatment for patients with chronic anxiety,” said lead researcher, Jerome Sarris, M.D., with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne. “In this study we've been 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.”
GAD is a complex condition that can significantly affect people's day-today lives. Drugs can offer a modest benefit, but may not help all individuals.
For his study of Kava, Dr. Sarris treated 75 patients with GAD for eight weeks with Kava or an inactive placebo, then assessed their anxiety levels. Patients in the Kava group were given tablets twice per day consisting of water-soluble extracted Kava (peeled rootstock) for a total dose of 120 mg of kavalactones for the first three-week controlled phase. Those in the placebo group took matching dummy tablets.
The results, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, showed a significant reduction in anxiety for the Kava group compared to the placebo group, with the most pronounced benefits noted in those with moderate to severe symptoms. In fact, about 26 percent of the Kava group were classified as in remission from their symptoms, compared to 6 percent of the placebo group, at the end of the study.
No considerable adverse reactions were attributed to Kava, Dr. Sarris said. The study also found that people's genetic differences may affect their response to Kava.
“If this finding is replicated, it may pave the way for simple genetic tests to determine which people may be likely to have a beneficial anxiety-reducing effect from taking Kava,” Dr. Sarris said.
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