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Natural Relaxant & Anxiety Aid

Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on August 26, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH

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Long-enjoyed as a traditional beverage in the South Pacific, Kava is a wonderful natural anti-anxiety aid that elevates mood, diminishes pain, and decreases adrenaline to provide a calming, relaxing effect. As an anxiolytic, Kava has been shown to be as effective as Xanax, a prescription anti-anxiety medication.

Kava is excellent for helping one to remain calm and balanced when under emotional stress and personal turmoil. While being relaxing, it does not dull the senses but rather tends to focus the mind and enhance sensory capacity. Kava is also used to help induce a deep, restful sleep (use 30 minutes before bedtime for this action). For those who sleep lightly, Kava helps one go beyond the light sleep and active REM dreaming stages, into the deeper, more restorative phases of sleep. Kava does not usually make one sleepy if used during the daytime.

Kava also supports cognitive function and appears to enhance socialization. Kava is a gentle sedative, muscle relaxant, and analgesic (reduces pain); promotes sleep beyond REM stage; acts as a cerebral circulatory stimulant; and strengthens the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenals) stress axis. It can be helpful for those who are feeling flat and depressed as it enhances sensory perception and associated enjoyment.

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Studies have shown its mechanisms-of-action to include: decreasing levels of the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate; activation of dopaminergic neurons which promote relaxation and sense of pleasure or euphoria; activating GABA receptors in some regions in the brain; skeletal muscle relaxation through direct action on muscle contractibility; and inhibition of noradrenalin (norepinephrine) uptake. Kava is a great muscle relaxant and helpful for both acute and chronic body pain, such as fibromyalgia.

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Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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