I first learned about Kava Kava during my undergraduate education. My anthropology instructor had lived on a Pacific island and participated in the kava rituals of the community. She told us about how kava was used to calm tensions and unify the people of the island. They always held kava rituals when strangers came to the island to make sure things stayed peaceful. After this, I tried kava for my test-taking anxiety. I found that it calmed me without making me tired. I eventually got over my anxiety around tests, but now continue to recommend kava to patients with anxiety.
I don’t always start with herbal interventions like kava for anxiety. First, I want to explore possible contributing factors that can be corrected before I jump to mood-modifying herbs. I work on nutrient deficiencies, weak organs systems, or poor stress coping mechanisms. If I still need an herbal intervention like kava, it works better after I have addressed these underlying issues.
Kava is beneficial for more than just anxiety. It is toning to the nervous system and may help insomnia especially if it is related to anxiety. It also has mild antidepressant activities. It relaxes muscles and may help reduce skeletal muscle spasms. It can help ease pain particularly pelvic pain. There are warnings that come with kava about possible liver damage, but many of the reported cases of liver damage could not be clearly traced to kava. This doesn’t mean that kava will not cause liver damage, but it is probably no more likely to than other herbs and medications.