Kava root, also often known as kava kava, belongs to the black pepper family. It is a Polynesian herb native to the islands of South Pacific.
The Latin name for kava root is piper methysticum–which means “intoxicating pepper”. The roots of the plant are ground into pulp and mixed with water to produce a beverage. This drink has been known for its tranquilizing properties for ages.
The people of Pacific Islands used kava in their ceremonies and rituals, but today it’s commonly taken as a social beverage, like alcohol.
Key kava health benefits include:
- Its anti-cancer properties
- Its ability to decrease anxiety
- Its ability to aid sleep
- Its ability to reduce menopause symptoms
- Its ability prevent premature aging
But before we delve into the benefits of kava, it’s important to know a little bit about this medicinal plant.
What’s Kava Root?
The kava herb is well-known as a medicinal plant, one of those rare plants that actually don’t have non-medicinal purposes, like a source of food.
This useful plant is known scientifically as Piper methysticum, and it’s commonly known as kava kava.
The plant is indigenous to the Western Pacific area and those major chains of islands, and has many different names there, like in Tonga and Hawaii. Kava itself looks like a shrub, but the root is the most important part of the plant.
Kava root is filled with a variety of organic substances and nutrients that make it so useful. These include water, starch, minerals, protein, dietary fiber, and kavalactones. It’s this last ingredient that’s extracted when preparing the root for consumption.
Kava kava is dried, pounded and ground, or even chewed to extract the chemical ingredients from the plant. These chemicals are then quickly put in water to trap the kavalactones in the starchy shell.
Once the kavalactones are added to water, the drink is taken as fast as possible to get the best possible result. The taste is neither pleasant nor foul.
Most importantly, drinking this concoction can provide you with a wide variety of health benefits. Now, it’s time to explore the kava kava benefits a little deeper.
Helps People Quit Smoking
Kava root has helped many people quit drugs, such as cigarettes, alcohol, etc.
It helps control cravings and helps remove the anxiety usually caused when all one wants more than anything is a cigarette.
The kava root drink can calm your nerves when you’re especially tempted to break the vow not to smoke. Clearly, the herb poses a massive challenge to anti-depressants and cigarettes.
Lack of sleep is a major problem for many of us.
It can lead to many medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, cancer, and depression.
In light of this, many individuals turn to sleep medicines to help improve their sleep. Like anxiety medications, sleep medicines may become addictive, leading to physical dependence.
Kava is usually a good alternative to sleep medicines because of its calming effects.
In one study involving 24 people, kava root was found to decrease stress and insomnia, in comparison to a placebo.
However, both the participants and researchers knew they were getting either kava kava or a placebo. Surely this may have had an effect on the outcome.
Regardless of these issues, another better study was done. It proved that kava was more effective at reducing anxiety and improving sleep quality than a placebo.
Intriguingly, the effects of kava on insomnia may be due to its effect on anxiety.
Stress-related insomnia is quite common in individuals with anxiety. In insomnia cases, therefore, kava may help treat anxiety, which can then help individuals sleep better.
It’s not known how kava root affects sleep in people without stress-induced insomnia or anxiety.
In a nutshell, kava is a good natural alternative to sleep medicines. Although it helps treat stress-induced insomnia, its effect on healthy individuals is not known.
Anxiety disorders are some of the leading psychiatric conditions today. They’re usually treated with medications, talk therapy, or both.
There are many kinds of medications available, but they can be habit-forming and may come with undesirable side effects.
This has fueled the demand for seemingly safe, natural cures like kava root.
The first long-term research on the effect of kava root in individuals with anxiety was done in 1997.
It was found that kava considerably reduced the severity of the subjects’ perceived anxiety, compared to a placebo.
Also, researchers found that there were no dependency or withdrawal side effects, which are quite common with other anxiety medications.
Since this study, many other studies have proven the kava benefits on anxiety. Eleven of these studies were reviewed and it was concluded that kava is an effective anxiety treatment.
Moreover, another review came to the same conclusion: that kava could be a good alternative to anxiety and antidepressants.
Recent studies have continued to show that kava helps treat anxiety effectively.
Prevent Premature Aging
Antioxidants are organic compounds that help neutralize or get rid of harmful free radicals from your system.
Free radicals are the toxic byproducts of cell respiration and may cause the apoptosis or mutation of healthy cells. This could potentially cause chronic disease, premature aging, and even cancer.
Known for its medicinal properties, research has proven that kava reduces the activity of free radicals. This is because it’s extremely loaded with antioxidants.
As women grow older, they enter a life stage known as menopause in which they stop menstruating.
But menopause can be long and uncomfortable. It is characterized by symptoms like hot flashes, hormonal swings, anxiety, and cramping.
In studies of people undergoing menopause, kava has shown to be better for menopause issues than a placebo and non-prescription treatments.
Kava has been consumed for centuries in the islands of South Pacific and everyone considers it a safe and nice drink.
But consult your healthcare provider if you intend to take kava root as it can interact with certain medications and cause problems.
For more information about the benefits of kava, be sure to take a look at our blog.