Mental Health Home > Kava

Kava is a pepper-like plant native to the South Pacific. It is often used in dietary supplements to help treat stress, anxiety disorders, insomnia, and many other conditions. While some evidence suggests that kava may be effective for such uses, the safety and effectiveness of the supplement has not been fully established. Potential side effects of the supplement include dizziness, stomach upset, and severe liver damage.

What Is Kava?

Kava (Piper methysticum) is an herbal supplement often used to treat anxiety, stress, insomnia, and menopausal symptoms. It is a pepper-like plant native to the South Pacific islands, where it is used to prepare a traditional beverage.
 
(Click Benefits of Kava for more information on what it is used for, including additional uses.)
 

How Does Kava Work?

It is not exactly clear how it works. There are several different theories involving numerous different brain chemicals which attempt to explain how it works. It seems to have the following properties:
 
  • Anti-anxiety properties
  • Sedative properties
  • Anti-seizure properties
  • Local anesthetic properties
  • Anti-spasm properties
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Analgesic (pain-relieving) properties.
     

Is It Effective?

There is some evidence that kava may be effective for treating anxiety, including anxiety associated with menopause. It may also be helpful in preventing or reducing withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines (certain medications used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures).
 
(Click Does Kava Work? for more information.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
List of references (click here):
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