The Modern Benefits of an Ancient Medicinal Plant

Throughout history, indigenous societies have developed and honed medicines for a wide array of uses. Often, uses of these medicines have been intermingled with culture and ceremony, creating an inseparable link between humans and their environment. In the modern age, many of the medicines used by indigenous peoples, as well as the contexts in which they were formerly used, have been lost. While modern society has been slow to identify and preserve traditional medicines, it is finally waking to realize the benefits of some. Mushroom benefits, for example, are resulting in significant scientific attention, as well as tentative legalization. Kava, a South Pacific root has recently received considerable attention for its calming properties. Here is what we know so far:

What is Kava?

Kava is a crop of the South Pacific islands that is traditionally prepared by grinding the root and combining it with cold water. This preparation results in a bitter tasting drink that has both anxiolytic and sedative properties. Across the pacific, many cultures rely on kava for political, religious, and social purposes. When taken in its traditional form, kava is often described as a peaceable alternative to alcohol. Today, many people use kava as a dietary supplement as an aqueous or acetone extract.

Benefits of Kava

While kava has not received the intense research funding that certain other supplements have enjoyed, several studies have illuminated its potential for the following:

  • Neural Protection
  • Lowered anxiety (generalized anxiety disorder)
  • Reduced the risk of cancer (in studies on mice)
  • Reduced pain

By far, the strongest evidence for kava's effectiveness as a beneficial medicine is related to its potential for treating generalized anxiety disorder. Kava is not considered addictive, and its disuse doesn't prompt withdrawals. Although very high intake of kava can cause unpleasant side effects, such as skin rash, in normally recommended doses, it lacks the negative side effects of commonly prescribed anxiety medication. 

Kava Caveats

While the World Health Organization considers a liquid extraction of kava to be acceptably safe, low quality chemical extractions of kava have been linked to liver problems. For moderate, short term consumption, even these risks are relatively low, but they can be serious for those with preexisting conditions. When taking kava as a dietary supplement, always make sure you are buying from a reputable source.

If you are looking for brain support supplements for stress and anxiety, kava is an excellent calming herb with a rich tradition behind it. The benefits of kava are a great complement to the mushroom benefits of serene support at theherbanshaman. As always, talk to your primary care physician before beginning any supplement regimen.