Calmer-Calmer with Kava-Kava?

Calmer-Calmer with Kava-Kava?
Posted by FoM on January 05, 2000 at 20:25:20 PT
From: Ask the Experts
Source: MSN Health Channel
Scientists have only recently begun to research kava-kava, so it's not yet clear how it measures up against pharmaceuticals used for anxiety. But the research so far is promising. For centuries, Polynesians have used kava-kava -- an extract of the pepper plant Piper methysticum -- in religious ceremonies and for general relaxation. Europeans first learned of it when Captain Cook encountered it in his travels through the Pacific in the late 1700s. 
Animal studies have found kava-kava to have sedative, anticonvulsive, antispasmodic, and relaxing qualities. The best study of the extract on humans -- published in the January 1997 issue of Pharmacopsychiatry -- took place in the department of psychiatry at Jena University in Germany. In this six-month double-blind clinical trial, 101 people were randomly assigned to be given either an extract of the herb or a placebo. The subjects had all been diagnosed with anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia (fear of leaving the home), other phobias such as fear of flying or elevators, and stress-related adjustment disorders in which anxiety was a predominant symptom. Subjects' scores on the Hamilton Anxiety Scale and other scales that measure mood states were compared before, during, and after the trial. Those who were given kava-kava showed significantly reduced anxiety, but those who were given the placebo did not. The authors concluded that the herb is a viable alternative to the use of tricyclic antidepressants and benzodiazepine drugs in the treatment of anxiety disorders. It also lacks their common side effects of drowsiness and lightheadedness. Kava-kava should not, however, be mixed with any drugs or with other alternative therapies without the consent of a physician. In December 1996, the Annals of Internal Medicine reported the case of a patient who went into a coma after taking the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam (a central nervous system depressant sold under the brand name Xanax) in combination with kava-kava. Kava-kava also shouldn't be used during pregnancy, while nursing, or in cases of major depression, according to the 1998 German Commission E Monographs. And using the herb for long periods has been associated with a temporary yellow discoloration of the skin, hair, and nails. In the South Pacific kava-kava is traditionally consumed as a tea. But it can also be taken as an alcohol tincture, a preparation with glycerol, or in capsule form. Because of the herb's odd taste, the capsule form may be more palatable. Most people feel a pleasant relaxing effect within a half hour of taking an effective dose.Newshawk: Rainbow2000 WebMDWeb Posted: January 5, 2000   1999 Microsoft Corporation. Related Web Sites:Ask Dr. Andrew Weil-Q&A: Ready for a Kava Cocktail?,2283,249,00.htmlHerbal Hall-Home For Herbs
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