Innovative Lifestyles

What Does Kava Do? The Effects on the Body Explained

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what does kava do

If you suffer from anxiety, stress or difficulty sleeping, you are not alone. Anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million adults in the United States. In addition, an estimated 60 million suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders or occasional sleep problems. The need for effective natural remedies for symptoms related to these common conditions has never been higher. This is where kava comes in.

What is Kava? A crop native to islands in the South Pacific, Kava has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Also called “kava kava” or Piper methysticum, kava produces a calming, sedative effect on the body without impacting mental clarity, making it an ideal over the counter anxiety medication.

Kava is consumed orally, usually as a drink made from the root, or in pill form or an extract as a natural supplement for anxiety.

How Does Kava Work?

Kava is made up of active compounds called kavalactonesKavalactones have anesthetic and euphoriant properties, meaning they promote pain relief and a state of happiness. Kavalactones work by binding onto various receptors in the brain—specifically the amygdala, which regulates feelings of fear and anxiety—and the central nervous system.

There are a total of 18 different types of kavalactones, with each kavalactone type producing a different physiologic effect in the body. For example, kavain physically relaxes the muscles without affecting the brain, while desmethoxyyangonin increases the amount of dopamine in the brain to produce a mild euphoric sensation.

Researches have even discovered that several kavalactones seem to affect the same pathways in the brain as certain diazepine drugs prescribed for anxiety.

In general, however, kavalactones slow down messages traveling between the brain and body to help reduce anxiety and promote a feeling of relaxation throughout the body.

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How Will Kava Make Me Feel?

The sensations associated with kava consumption are: a slight tongue and lip numbing (caused by the kavalactones kavain and dihydrokavain), mildly talkative and sociable behavior, clear thinking, calmness, relaxed muscles and an overall sense of well-being. It can also promote deep, restful sleep when taken before bedtime. 

Some users attest that kava has a euphoric buzz, but without the dizzying and nauseating side effects or alcohol or benzodiazipines.

Kava is non-addictive and users do not build up a tolerance. In fact, kava is only associated with mild side effects, all of which are reversible. Higher doses are also associated with mild motor impairment, so users should not drive or operate heavy machinery after taking kava.

Kava products have helped many people in the U.S. and beyond who suffer from anxiety, stress and difficulty sleeping to live more balanced lives. Some kava products are specially formulated to reduce the topical sting of certain kavalactones and flavored for an overall more enjoyable experience.

 

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About the Author

Allison Lardizabal, RN

Allison Lardizabal, RN

As an ER nurse, I helped people through some of their most difficult and vulnerable times in their lives, providing me invaluable insight on what really matters most. This led me on another path where I stepped away from my clinical practice to pursue other dreams; to live life on my own terms; and be more intentional with my time.

More posts by Allison Lardizabal, RN >
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