Kava Kava: Wonderfully Therapeutic, Infinitely Controversial

It’s perfectly natural to find yourself ‘wound up’ and feeling tense, especially with the particularly hectic nature of modern life. Some of us relieve ourselves of stress and anxiety more effectively than others.

Others however find that it’s difficult to overcome these conditions, and humans beings have been turning to substances for relief for centuries.

The most well-known of them also tend to be the most nefarious and are often potentially addictive. With that understood, it’s quite interesting to note that a naturally-sourced supplement that’s made from a plant is a source of contention between proponents and critics in something of the same way it is for alcohol and certain recreational drugs.

Relaxinginwoods.jpgWe’re talking about Kava Kava. It’s made from the root and stems of the Piper Methysticum plant, a shrub native to Islands in the South Pacific. The locals call it ‘awa’ and it’s also known as the asava pepper or the intoxicating pepper. The last name there will give you an idea as to why it’s as contentious as it is, but there’s no debating that Kava Kava is particularly effective as a natural, non-pharmaceutical means of lessening anxiety, irritability, attention-deficit issues, and promoting general well being along with a host of other condition-specific benefits.

The reason Kava Kava isn’t embraced as being a perfectly acceptable and wholly beneficial natural supplement is it has psychoactive and hepatotoxic properties. They result from compounds contained in the plant called kavalctones that travel along non-opiate pathways of the brain when consumed.

Advocates of Kava Kava report that it provides them with a heightened sense of attention and contentment, along with an overall feeling of deep relaxation and significant diminishing of tension, both mental and physical. In this regard it is a bonafide natural alternative to pharmaceuticals like benzodiazepines, which are very effective for anxiety in particular but can negatively affect heart rate, blood pressure, and sexual function.

Conversely, the kavalactones in Kava Kava promote the same positive effects by influencing GABA (gamma-amunobuteryic acid) receptors and stimulating dopamine receptors in the brain, but without the aforementioned negative side effects. Kava Kava has also been proven to boost the immune system, as well as be a legitimate natural option for effectively treating insomnia, ADHD, menopausal issues, libido concerns, chronic fatigue syndrome, and more. It can be incorporated in natural cancer treatment regimens as well, as secondary metabolites in Kava Kava called flavokawains are proven chemopreventive.

There’s more too – Kava Kava has been shown to be beneficial for therapeutic support for addiction. Another type of compounds contained within it called kavapyrones bind to brain locations associated with addictions and cravings.

So, with all these positive applications, why is the use – and legality – of Kava Kava as contentious as it is? Why is it banned or restricted in many countries around the world?

There’s a variety of reasons, but we’ll keep to the most standard ones. As mentioned, Kava Kava has hepatotoxic properties and in heavier and concentrated doses it has effects similar to alcohol. Critics claim that there is the potential for substance abuse, and that it can be addictive if consumed regularly and in heavier quantities. It’s purported that certain individuals have a greater genetic disposition to the psychoactive properties of the plant too, and this problematic aspect of it is associated to the fact that Kava Kava is promoted by some as a legal alternative to illicit drugs for folks looking to get ‘high.’

A secondary concern is that there is a perceived risk of liver damage with heavy use. This belief continues to be strongly disputed, with those in the opposite camp stating that it’s actually protective of the liver when prepared properly. They state that when Kava Kava’s compounds are extracted improperly by being over watered, it also extracts glutathione, which is one of the body’s primary detoxifiers and an integral antioxidant for liver health. Another concern is that it can lead to viral resistance, but this is also up for debate with a lack of scientific evidence pointing either way.

Health Canada banned the import and sale of Kava Kava products in 2002, primarily citing the risk of ‘severe liver dysfunction’ but also alluding to risks associated to the plant’s psychoactive properties. It has never been illegal for personal possession or consumption in Canada, and the US FDA has issued a number of warnings over the years but never banned the import or sale of Kava Kava.

In more recent years, we’re fortunate that Health Canada has reconsidered their stance. The import and sale of Kava Kava is now allowed in Canada, provided the product has received regulatory approval and an NPN (natural product number) printed prominently on the label, plus the packaging quantity should amount to less than a 3-month supply based on defined moderate consumption.

kavakavatea.jpgOn the whole, many people believe in Kava Kava’s beneficial therapeutic effects, and increasing numbers of people have used it for years and found it to have great efficacy with absolutely no negative side effects. We’re happy to offer Botanica Kava Root Liquid Phytocaps and Organika Kava Kava Liquid, and we highly recommended them for anyone who struggles with anxiety, insomnia, or mood disorders of any sort. Give it a try, you may find it’s a viable alternative to pharmaceutical options. A few drops of the liquid in a cup of tea is a nice and easy way to consume your Kava Kava, and it won’t affect the taste of your beverage.

*images used in blog sourced from 7song.com/blog