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Is Kava Right for You?

If you are experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, the best course of action is to learn how to manage them without the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, breath work, meditation, regular aerobic exercise, journal writing and eliminating caffeine and other stimulants that can trigger or worsen anxiety can all help; for some people, so can the herb kava.

Kava (Piper methysticum, also called kava kava) can be effective for alleviating the symptoms of anxiety without the overly sedating or habit-forming side effects of potentially addictive benzodiazepine drugs. However, not everyone is a candidate for kava - reports from Europe of cases of liver damage related to kava use have raised concerns about safety. Because of the reported liver dangers, I've recommended following these precautions on kava use from the American Botanical Council:

  • Don't use kava if you have liver problems (such as hepatitis), drink alcohol regularly or take any drug with known adverse effects on the liver, including acetaminophen (Tylenol), statin drugs and niacin.
  • Don't use kava on a daily basis for more than four weeks.
  • Discontinue kava if you develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes) or symptoms of hepatitis (nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, dark urine and clay-colored stools).
  • Check with your doctor if you have a prior history of liver problems or suspected liver problems before using or continuing to use kava.

If you want to try kava, take one or two 460 mg capsules of a high-quality brand as needed, two to three times per day for up to four weeks.

Check out yesterday's post on another potentially dangerous supplement, lobelia.

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Reader Comments (2)

A nice informative article. But I have never heard about kava before reading this article. I agree that for anxiety disorders, it is best to try non pharmacological therapies.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHealth Blog

I used Kava for a few years (for anxiety) then someone told me about Gaba. For my system it actually work better and very quickly.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShirley
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