Kava Herbs For Depression


Kava Herbs For Depression

Kava, or Piper methysticum, is another one of the popular herbs for depression treatment. A member of the pepper family, this herb was cultivated by Pacific Islanders for use as a social and ceremonial drink [1].

What the herb does

The effects of kava are mainly sedative in nature. In addition, kava also has painkilling, anticonvulsant, muscle relaxing and anesthetic properties [1].

As such, this herbal remedy has been found to be effective against depression occurring with anxiety, insomnia and restlessness [1, 2, 3, 4].

In fact, this herbal treatment for depression has proven to be comparable to benzodiazepines (medication for anxiety and insomnia), but without the major side effects (e.g. impaired mental functioning, addictiveness, etc) of the drugs [1, 3].

Other studies have also found that kava herbs for depression were as effective as anti-anxiety drugs like buspirone, opipramol, oxazepam and bromazepam. [1]

In addition, kava has also shown (in several double-blind, placebo controlled studies) to be more effective in the treatment of menopausal anxiety when given with hormone therapy, as compared to hormone therapy alone [1].

According to Syd Baumel, kava mimics the calming neurotransmitter, GABA, in the same way tranquilizing drugs do. However, kava does not dull people’s faculties like the drugs, but instead heightens them. This might possibly be because kava inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine, leading to a stimulating effect. [2]

Some people believe that Kava herbs for depression could be useful for insomnia, however, many of the supporting evidence for this effect remains preliminary and needs further investigation. [1]


Kava herbs for depression are usually given as extracts standardized for 30 to 70% kavalactone [3].

The recommended dosage for kava as a herbal remedy for depression differs from physician to physician.

Phyllis A. Balch, a nutritional consultant and researcher on natural therapies for over 2 decades, recommended a dosage of 60 to 120mg (i.e. not more than 120mg) of kavapyrone tablets daily [4].

However, Syd Baumel pointed out that the usual dosage for kava is about 50 to 200mg daily, and that some people respond better to alcohol extracts (30 to 90 drops daily) of the herb, as compared to capsular form [2].

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