Mental Health Home > Does Kava Work?

Although kava is claimed to be beneficial for numerous conditions, many people still wonder, "Does kava work?" Some studies have shown that the supplement is effective for anxiety treatment, while other studies have shown no benefit. One study has suggested that kava may be useful for preventing benzodiazepine withdrawal. The effectiveness of kava for other uses has not been established at this time.

Does Kava Work? -- An Overview

Kava (Piper methysticum) is a pepper-like plant used in traditional beverages in the South Pacific. It is also used in a variety of different herbal supplements. As with most herbal supplements, people use kava for many different purposes. Kava supplements are often claimed to be helpful for the following uses:
 
These are just some of the uses for kava. Some of these uses are more credible than others.
 

Kava Studies

Some studies have shown that kava is effective for anxiety treatment, while other studies have shown no benefit. At this point, it is not clear if kava really does work for anxiety.
 
One study has suggested that kava may be useful for preventing benzodiazepine withdrawal. Benzodiazepines are a group of medications commonly used to treat anxiety or insomnia. This study showed that slowly decreasing the benzodiazepine dose while increasing the kava dosage may help prevent withdrawal symptoms.
 
For most other uses, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that kava really is effective for these various uses. More research is necessary before any conclusions can be made.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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