Kava-kava (Piper methysticum) is a shrub from the pepper family which is commonly found in the islands of the South Pacific (New Guinea, Fiji, Polynesia …). This modest-looking plant has a voluminous rhizome that can reach 10-15kg.
Traditionally used in local medicine to improve mood, its roots are brewed as a tea for use during rituals and ceremonies to promote harmonious social relations.
What are its active principles?
• The root is comprised mainly of starch, though it is primarily the resin, an aromatic, non-nitrogenous substance rich in kavalactones or dihydrokavalactones, which is responsible for its effects, along with two, little-studied alkaloids.
• According to the many studies conducted on kava-kava, taking an extract standardised to 30% kavalactones will guarantee optimal efficacy. Tranquillising, sedative effects
• Kava-kava has tranquillising and sedative effects, clearly measurable by brain waves. They are of the kind produced by the anxiolytic drugs benzodiazepines: oxazepam (Seresta), diazepam (Valium) and bromazepam (Lexomyl)…
• However, contrary to what occurs with benzodiazepines, taking kava-kava does not produce cumulative effects – its effects disappear once treatment ceases.
• And unlike benzodiazepines, ingesting kava-kava does not affect mental alertness or cognitive faculties. Neither does it have any impact on physiological sleep rhythms
• Taking kava-kava may also prevent convulsive states and represent an excellent muscle relaxant.
• Its calming effects therefore make it ideal for:
- combatting anxiety;
- reducing compulsive acts and nervous agitation;
- easing insomnia (sedative);
- moderating certain stress-related psychosomatic symptoms, such as muscle tension and spasms. It may therefore be used as an anti-spasmodic and muscle relaxant.
• Kava-kava thus offers a good alternative to benzodiazepine-type anxiolytic drugs and even anti-depressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
It is best to start with the lowest dose and increase it gradually if necessary, not exceeding a period of three months’ continuous use.
Alcohol should be avoided during treatment. Avoid in the case of liver failure.