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How is Kava Kava Used to Treat Social Anxiety?

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Updated December 09, 2013

Description:

Kava kava (piper methysticum) is a plant native to the islands of the South Pacific. A member of the pepper family, the root and rhizome of the kava kava plant are used to prepare natural remedies for insomnia, anxiety, and menopausal symptoms. Although there is some clinical evidence to suggest that kava kava is effective in relieving anxiety, safety warnings about the potential for liver damage have been issued by several countries. As a result, kava kava is not recommended for those with liver disease, liver problems, and those taking drugs that affect the liver.

How to Take Kava Kava:

Kava kava is available in the form of beverages, extracts, capsules, tablets and topical solutions.

Dosage Guidelines:

Dosage guidelines recommend not exceeding 250 mg of the supplement within a 24-hour period.

Who Shouldn’t Take Kava Kava:

Kava kava is not recommended for:

  • pregnant or nursing women
  • children under age 18
  • people with liver disease, liver problems, or those taking drugs that affect the liver
  • people taking prescription monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Medication Interactions:

You should not mix alcohol with kava kava. Kava kava has the potential to interact with drugs used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. In addition, drowsiness may occur if combined with benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Side Effects:

Side effects are rare but may include drowsiness, headache, stomach upset, dizziness and sensitivity to ultraviolet light sources.

Associated Risks:

A consumer advisory was released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 25th, 2002 warning that kava-containing dietary supplements may be associated with severe liver injury. The advisory was based on reports from a number of countries including Germany, Switzerland, France, Canada and the UK where at least 25 cases of liver toxicity were reported. In addition, many countries have instituted bans on the sale of products containing kava kava.

As a result, kava kava should not be used by people with liver disease, liver problems, or those taking drugs that affect the liver. In addition, although the potential for liver problems is rare, if you experience signs of illness associated with liver disease while taking kava kava you should consult with a medical professional immediately. Symptoms of liver problems may include jaundice, brown urine, nausea, vomiting, light-colored stools, unusual tiredness, weakness, stomach or abdominal pain and loss of appetite.

Other supplements for social anxiety disorder:

Sources:

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Kava. Accessed September 4, 2007.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Kava Linked to Liver Damage. Accessed September 4, 2007.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Consumer Advisory. Accessed September 4, 2007.

Clarocet. Kava Kava. Accessed September 4, 2007.

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