Kava Kava Benefits

by Amber Kelsey

About Amber Kelsey

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Overview

Kava kava, or Piper methysticum, a tall shrub in the pepper plant family, has long been valued in Pacific Island cultures for both its intoxicating effects and its medicinal value. Kava kava supplements come from the hairy roots of the shrub and is available in capsule, tablet and standardized extract forms. Kava kava supplements offer many health benefits.

Anxiety

The University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, reports that consuming kava kava might help to relieve some of your symptoms of anxiety, such as nervousness, muscle tension and irritability. The UMMC relates a study that found kava kava improved anxiety symptoms after only one week. The study adds that kava kava seemed to be as effective as several prescription anti-anxiety medicines, such as Valium and Xanax. One advantage of kava kava is that is does not impair cognitive functions such as memory. However, researchers believe kava kava supplements might lead to other potentially serious health problems, including liver failure, cirrhosis and hepatitis. Several European countries and Canada no longer allow the sale of kava kava supplements.

Insomnia

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, early research indicates that consuming kava kava might help to improve the quality of your sleep. In addition, it could reduce the amount of time you need to fall asleep. Kava kava plants contain the active chemicals of methysticum, kawain and dihydrokawain, all of which seem to have sleep-promoting properties as well as muscle-relaxing properties. The Medline Plus website warns that kava kava might not be the best choice for treating insomnia, because it sometimes causes lethargy.

Other Uses

Kava kava first stimulates and then depresses the nerve centers. According to the Botanical.com website, this means kava kava might be a good choice to treat genitourinary health issues, including chronic and acute gonorrhea, vaginitis and nocturnal incontinence. Kava kava supplements also appear to have some aphrodisiac properties. Because kava kava has the same local action as the other pepper family members, the standardized extract might make a good choice for numbing minor topical pains or using as a local anesthetic. In addition, kava kava supplements contain diuretic properties that make it useful for treating rheumatism and gout. The Medline Plus website adds that consuming the kava kava herb might increase the "off" periods of patients with Parkinson's disease.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.