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By Zane Yoshida

Kava: A Legal Anxiety Treatment Across Australia

Great news for Australian kava enthusiasts and for the kava industry as a whole: it’s now legal for use as a medical anxiety treatment across the country.

Previously kava was legal as a medical treatment in all states except Western Australia and the Northern Territories. The restriction there was due to concerns of over-use in remote indigenous communities, where it is often used as an alcohol replacement.

This restriction has now been removed, so that kava is now available to treat anxiety across the whole of Australia.

Anxiety in Australia

According to this report from Ten News, at least one in seven Australians suffer from anxiety. Symptoms include a quicker heart rate, tightness in the chest area, and breathing difficulties.

The usual treatments for anxiety are a range of medications, including benzodiazepine-based drugs. These are tranquillisers that are commonly prescribed for panic and anxiety attacks. While they are generally quite effective in treating short-term anxiety, they also carry a long list of possible side effects and can even lead to dependency. Long-term use of such drugs is therefore not advised.

For these reasons, many people have turned to natural remedies for anxiety treatment.

Kava and anxiety

Naturopaths in Australia have used kava to treat anxiety, stress, and insomnia for the past 14 years; while this is a relatively recent practice in Australia, kava has been used for many centuries in the Pacific islands, where the concept of stress and anxiety is almost unheard of.

In Australia, kava has recently been the subject of several clinical studies led by Professor Jerome Sarris. Results from these studies have shown kava to be safe and effective for the treatment of generalized anxiety; though people with a pre-existing liver disorder should take medical advice first.

All this is further good news for the kava industry in general as word spreads about its many health benefits.

By Zane Yoshida

Kava and Global Wellness

Kava is increasingly getting a positive name in the global wellness community as a supplement that can bring a variety of health benefits.

More positive mentions of kava in the first few weeks of 2017 have backed up strong interest in kava last year; all the indications are that the kava industry is on the upturn.

Workshops on kava

The New Zealand press recently reported that a workshop will be set up at the University of Waikato to investigate how kava culture is growing in the country. Interestingly, it is growing not just among the many Pacific islanders who have migrated to New Zealand, but also among other ethnic groups and “non Pasifika groups”.

Over 20,000 people enjoy kava every weekend in New Zealand and so the workshop will look at how kava is being used “as an alcohol substitute, stress reliever or sleep aid.”

Let’s look at each of those a little closer.

Kava as an alcohol substitute

If the number of kava bars opening in the US is anything to go by, then more people are turning to kava as a substitute for alcohol.

In fact, the Business Mirror reported recently in its story 2017 Trends: Wellness in the New Year:

 “As people move away from alcohol in 2017, a new social lubricator is taking its place. Kava root originates in the South Pacific and is still an important social ritual in many traditional cultures. The root powder is made into a beverage, and promotes mild feelings of euphoria, relaxation and happiness. Kava bars, although common in other areas of the world are starting to become trendy in North America, popping up in New York, Los Angeles, Miami just to name a few cities.”

It goes on to say:

“Because Kava’s effects are mild, and the hangover non-existent, it fits with the other trends in 2017 of move more towards an overall healthier lifestyle. It also is a good social lubricator and stress reliever, another plus when we consider the new trends moving towards less alcohol and more sobriety.”

Kava as a stress reliever

Clinical studies have shown that kava is a safe and effective treatment for mild and ‘generalized’ anxiety and more tests are currently underway.

For instance, a study led by Jerome Sarris in Australia, in 2011, found:

“The current weight of evidence supports the use of kava in treatment of anxiety with a significant result occurring in four out of six studies reviewed.”

These results are especially interesting given the harsh possible side effects of some commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medication.

Elsewhere, there are plenty of observational reports about the calming effects of kava. This one was included in a recent article entitled Buzzy Beverages: 3 Ancient Libations To Take The Edge Off Modern Times:

“kava lactones give this de-stress beverage its anti-anxiety, muscle relaxing and analgesic qualities. After my second cup of kava, my mouth felt tingly, I had warm, relaxed sensations in my body and was extremely content in the present moment.”

Kava as a sleep aid

Because of its relaxing effects on the body and the mind, kava is often equated with helping people sleep. There was good example of this recently in an article called 3 Natural Sleep Aids that Work:

“The plant’s roots have traditionally been known for their sedative and anaesthetic properties. The plant’s active ingredients are called kavalactones. Studies have shown kava to be effective in the treatment of tension and anxiety. If you take to bed with you the stresses of the day, kava can act as a welcome addition to your pre-bed rituals.”

Kava has an important part to play in global wellness. More positive articles appearing in the press about kava are an indication that the message is finally getting through…

By Zane Yoshida

Kava: ‘An Alternative Therapy That Works’

It’s not often that kava (or any other alternative therapy, for that matter) gets a truly ‘fair’ write up in the mainstream press.

The focus is usually on the safety concerns of sub-standard kava raised in recent years, rather than the centuries of trouble-free usage, and the proven positive effects of kava on the body and mind.

While medications with some serious side effects often get off without even a reference to their dangers, kava and other ‘alternative therapies’ often get hammered as ‘unproven’, ‘proven not to work’, or possibly dangerous to the health.

This is par for the course – and another example was found in a recent article in the UK’s Spectator magazine.

Kava: an alternative therapy for relaxation

It’s worth summarising the article and including a few quotes here.

It takes what it considers to be a balanced view about ‘alternative medicine’ and begins by highlighting how certain quips about alternative medicine not working may be unfair. The author selects three in particular that can claim to work: tai chi, garlic, and our beloved kava.

The article puts forward positive points about each of these therapies. For instance, it points out that tai chi reduces the risk of falling, and hence could be an important therapy for old people. However, it also points out that more conventional treatments might be “more suitable, cheaper or more available.”

In the case of kava, the author introduces it as “a herbal medicine that, about 10 years ago, used to be very popular for managing anxiety.”

Then the evidence for it working is presented:

“Does kava work for anxiety? The answer is yes. In 2003, we published a Cochrane review of all rigorous studies testing the efficacy of kava as a treatment of anxiety. We were able to include 11 randomised, placebo-controlled trials and concluded that ‘compared with placebo, kava extract appears to be an effective symptomatic treatment option for anxiety. The data available from the reviewed studies suggest that kava is relatively safe for short-term treatment (one to 24 weeks), although more information is required.”

Waiting for the mention of the ‘dangers’…

While reading, you just know the ‘catch’ is coming. And sure enough…

“For a while, many of us thought that kava was safe and effective. When the first reports of side effects emerged, we were not particularly worried — which medication is totally free of them? But then a flurry of reports was published suggestive of severe liver damage after kava intake. At this stage, many national regulators became seriously concerned and started to investigate. The results seemed to indicate that the commercial kava preparations on the market were indeed liver-toxic. Consequently, kava was banned in many countries.”

That’s it. No mention of the overturn of the kava bans; no mention of the likelihood of inferior quality kava being the likely cause. All kava is tarred with the same brush again!

And, what’s more, there is no mention of the serious side effects of some other anti-anxiety drugs like the benzodiazepines (tranquilisers). These can cause addiction when taken long-term and come with a wide range of other side effect warnings, including dizziness, trembling, and confusion.

The author’s conclusion is that he agrees with the quip that ‘alternative treatments are therapies that either have not been proven to work or have been proven not to work’. This, despite specifically stating that kava was an ‘alternative therapy that works’…

What started as a promising article strangely turned on its head and effectively became another ‘hit piece’ on kava in the end!

As stated, this really is par for the course for kava in mainstream media.

By Zane Yoshida

Kava: Stress and Anxiety Relief the Natural Way

Stress is seen as a contributor to many of the major causes of death in the US – notably heart disease, stroke, some cancers and chronic lower respiratory diseases.

This post looks at how kava may be able to help in stress and anxiety relief – and therefore in the fight against such illnesses.

  Read more

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Kava: A Legal Anxiety Treatment Across Australia
Kava and Global Wellness
Kava: ‘An Alternative Therapy That Works’
Anxiety Relief in the Skies with Kava
Kava: Stress and Anxiety Relief the Natural Way