Piper methysticum is a plant used to make medicines.
- The roots of the plant are used to produce a drink with sedative, anesthetic, euphoriant, and entheogenic properties. Kava is consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia for its sedating effects. Its active ingredients are called kavalactones. A Cochrane systematic review concluded it was likely to be more effective than placebo at treating short-term anxiety.
- Anxiety. Most research shows that taking kava extracts that contain 70% kavalactones can lower anxiety and might work as well as some prescription anti-anxiety medications. Most studies have used a specific kava extract (WS 1490, Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals). But some inconsistent evidence exists. One reason for the conflicting results may be the duration of treatment. It’s possible that treatment for at least 5 weeks is necessary for symptoms to improve. Also, kava might be more effective in people with severe anxiety, in female patients, or in younger patients.
- Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. Early research suggests that slowly increasing the dose of a specific kava extract ((WS1490, Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals) over the course of one week while decreasing the dose of benzodiazepines over the course of two weeks can prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce anxiety in people who have been taking benzodiazepines for a long period of time.
- Cancer prevention. There is some early evidence that taking kava might help to prevent cancer.
- Insomnia. Research on the effectiveness of kava in people with sleeping problems is inconsistent. Some research shows that taking a specific kava extract (WS1490, Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals) daily for 4 weeks reduces sleeping problems in people with anxiety disorders. But other research suggests that taking kava three times daily for 4 weeks does not reduce insomnia in people with anxiety.
- Menopausal symptoms. Early research shows that taking a specific kava extract (WS1490, Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals) daily for 8 weeks reduces anxiety and hot flashes in menopausal women. Other research shows that taking kava daily for 3 months might reduce depression, anxiety, and hot flashes.
- Stress. Early research suggests that taking a single dose of kava by mouth might reduce symptoms associated with mentally stressful tasks.
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Kava is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. Don’t use it. Serious illness, including liver damage, has occurred even with short-term use of normal doses. The use of kava for as little as one to three months has resulted in the need for liver transplants, and even death. Early symptoms of liver damage include yellowed eyes and skin (jaundice), fatigue, and dark urine. If you decide to take kava, despite warnings to the contrary, be sure to get frequent liver function tests.
- Using kava can make you unable to drive or operate machinery safely. Do not take kava before you plan on driving. “Driving-under-the-influence” citations have been issued to people driving erratically after drinking large amounts of kava tea.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Don’t use kava if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Kava is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. There is a concern that it might affect the uterus. Also, some of the dangerous chemicals in kava can pass into breast milk and might hurt a breast-fed infant.
- Depression: Kava use might make depression worse.
- Liver problems: Kava can cause liver problems even in healthy people. Taking kava if you already have liver disease is taking a risk. People with a history of liver problems should avoid kava.
- Parkinson’s disease: Kava might make Parkinson’s disease worse. Do not take kava if you have this condition.
- Surgery: Kava affects the central nervous system. It might increase the effects of anesthesia and other medications used during and after surgery. Stop using kava at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
- Alprazolam (Xanax) interacts with KAVA
Kava can cause drowsiness. Alprazolam (Xanax) can also cause drowsiness. Taking kava along with alprazolam (Xanax) may cause too much drowsiness. Avoid taking kava and alprazolam (Xanax) together.
- Sedative medications (CNS depressants) interacts with KAVA
Kava might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking kava along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepinessSome sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.
- Levodopa interacts with KAVA
Levodopa affects the brain by increasing a brain chemical called dopamine. Kava might decrease dopamine in the brain. Taking kava along with levodopa might decrease the effectiveness of levodopa.
- Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) substrates) interacts with KAVA
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver.Kava might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking kava along with some medications that are changed by the liver might increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking kava talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.Some of these medications that are changed by the liver include clozapine (Clozaril), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), fluvoxamine (Luvox), haloperidol (Haldol), imipramine (Tofranil), mexiletine (Mexitil), olanzapine (Zyprexa), pentazocine (Talwin), propranolol (Inderal), tacrine (Cognex), theophylline, zileuton (Zyflo), zolmitriptan (Zomig), and others.
- Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C19 (CYP2C19) substrates) interacts with KAVA
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liverKava might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking kava along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking kava talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver
- Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C9 (CYP2C9) substrates) interacts with KAVA
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liverKava might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking kava along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking kava talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.Some medications that are changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), diazepam (Valium), zileuton (Zyflo), celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren), fluvastatin (Lescol), glipizide (Glucotrol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), irbesartan (Avapro), losartan (Cozaar), phenytoin (Dilantin), piroxicam (Feldene), tamoxifen (Nolvadex), tolbutamide (Tolinase), torsemide (Demadex), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
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Source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kava
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kava