Piper Methysticum is the scientific name for the plant Kava which is a traditional pant indigenous to the south pacific. The plant has numerous benefits some of which are proven while other lack evidence. Overuse of the plant have led to some cases of death so therefore the plant is banned in Canada, UK and Europe.
Following are some of the health benefits of Kava. They are split into three criteria; Likely Effective, Lacks Evidence and No Evidence.
Treating anxiety is one of the proven benefits of Kava extracts. Any form of the plant has proven in multiple studies that is has improved all forms of anxiety regardless of the type of symptoms. One such study involved 129 people with a general type of anxiety disorder, 400mg of kava extract was proven to be as effective as 10mg of opipramol and 100mg of buspirone which are two anti-anxiety drugs.
Kava acts as an anti-anxiety frug by activating the GABA-A receptors which mimic a calming effect on the brain. Kava also doesn’t allow the serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine levels to decrease by reducing monoamine oxidase. This reduces the activity of the beta adrenaline receptors and hence relaxes the tensed muscles.
However even though Kava has been proved as a potential drug for anxiety it has not been cleared by the FDA due to its abuse and potential liver damage.
Since Kava can relax the muscles and reduce stress, it can technically also work to reduce stress induced insomnia. This was the outcome of a test that involved 24 patients suffering from this long-term issue. Another test involving 61 patients with various sleeping disorders due to tension, anxiety, and restlessness showed signs of improvement when treated with Kava products.
The sedative effects of Kava come from the blocking of the calcium ion and sodium channels, increased GABA-A receptors binding to the neurotransmitter, reduction of monoamine oxidase and a boost of dopamine and noradrenaline.
However, this requires larger clinical trials to confirm Kava as a potent drug for insomnia.
In a trial with 60 people with various types of anxiety, an oral kava drug showed a reduction in both anxiety and depression. In a smaller trail with 28 people, Kava was combined with Saint John’s wort and this showed signs of improved depression but not the quality of life or anxiety problems.
Epilepsy and Seizures
Kava was used to treat epilepsy and seizures in rats and the results were positive. Both as a standalone and combined with diazepam, an antiepileptic drug, the motor activity was reduced, this increases the seizure threshold and improved the anticonvulsant effect of diazepam.
Again, Kava stimulates the binding of GABA-A receptors to the neurotransmitters in the frontal cortex and hippocampus which block the calcium and sodium ion channels.
These are some of the main potential benefits of the plant kava. Unfortunately, due to some exceptional cases this herbal plant has been banned for its potential abuse. Therefore, consult your doctor before you take any form of this plant.