One of THE best herbs for reducing anxiety has been banned in Canada for over a decade (for reasons stemming from a thorough lack of understanding). Now Health Canada has FINALLY started to issue licenses for Kava Kava (or just Kava), a remedy made from the roots of a plant called Piper Methysticum. Kava has been consumed by indigenous people in Australia, and the Philippines for hundreds of years for its highly relaxing psychoactive effects. In its heyday, back in the 90s, kava was a potent anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) herb of remarkable potency. Even though I was a nutritional amateur way back then I clearly remember the name, and even some of my family members who raved about its effectiveness. Now that it is starting to become available again, and after nearly 15 years have passed, with most people’s experiences with kava long forgotten, I can guarantee you that this herb is again worthy of your attention.

"Kava" by Malcolm Manners licensed under CC BY 2.0

Kavain, which is one of the main active components of kava along with other kavalactones are thought to have effects on limbic structures of the brain which can reduce anxiety with minimal sedating effects. Other studies using animals have shown various chemicals in kava to modulate excitatory signals in the hippocampus (yet another portion of the brain). In fact a number of very well conducted trials have found kava to effectively treat anxiety with as few as 1 or 2 doses with best results seen between weeks 1 and 4 for more people with effects similar to benzodiazepines without the side-effects. Furthermore, most experts agree that kava is neither sedating nor tolerance forming in the recommended doses.

Now here is where things get interesting (rather MORE interesting)! The legal status of kava in places like Canada and Europe have always been slightly tumultuous, and up until 2012, kava was prohibited from sale until regulations enacted by Health Canada in 2006 finally created cause for a re-evaluation of the safety and efficacy of kava. One of THE primary issues has been the misuse of both leaves and roots in kava preparations. Much to the humour and head-scratching of countries in the South Pacific, EVERYBODY knows that you don’t make kava from leaves which are toxic to the liver.  The actions of a few misinformed kava manufacturers and federal regulators are the primary reasons why kava has had a sticky relationship with health agencies in the West for over a decade. Some of you (like me) may be rather unsurprised as this isn’t the first nor surely the last time such a debacle will occur in the business and political sectors of our health industry. Fortunately, Health Canada has just recently started to squeeze some kava products back on to the market with their approval.

Other details of kava can be uncovered by speaking to the experts here at Full Circle, because even the extraction method of kava can make a difference in safety and effectiveness. Dosage (as always) is important to consider alongside medications and possible allergy.  We look forward to seeing you!