Cutting Edge Psychology

Kava as a treatment for anxiety

Posted on May 14, 2013 at 8:05 AM

I have often thought that if psychiatric drugs didn't have such potential to harm some people, i really wouldn't have a problem with them. As a civil libertarian, i don't consider it my business what people choose to put into their systems, as long as it harms no one else. But in regards to psych drugs, my approach has been based on the notion of informed consent- and people really do need to be informed properly before they are able to provide actual consent. The problem is that most people are not well informed. All that aside, if someone is suffering from chronic anxiety, research out this week demonstrates that the traditional Polynesian drink, Kava, is an effective treatment. Kava is a plant root extract which was traditionally drunk for recreational and ceremonial purposes in places like Fiji. It has a calming effect on the central nervous system, and as such can aid with anxiety and sleep problems.


The reason for excitement about this is that Kava has far fewer adverse side effects than its pharmaceutical equivalents, such as benzodiazepines (eg. valium). In therapeutic doses, able to be taken in tablet form, it is far less toxic than the big pharma products. As such, when people are seeking a biological agent to help with anxiety, Kava is a viable natural alternative. But as with pharmaceuticals used to treat psychological issues, i would suggest it makes sense to treat emotional issues primarily with psychological approaches- otherwise, kava could just be used like any other substance, to simply numb a person to the causes of their anxiety.


No one is anxious for no reason.The causes may reach far back into childhood or teenage experiences; or the causes may relate to unsatisfactory elements of life now- relationship problems, poverty, unemployment, poor housing, long work hours, etc. The key is to seek the causes- this the gives you a direction to pursue in terms of doing something about them. If anxiety stems from unresolved trauma, then some trauma focused psychotherapy makes sense (eg. see the EMDR page). If it stems from current issues, then some problem solving strategies make sense to address the problems. Kava may be a useful adjunct to psychological strategies if a person is feeling overwhelmed with anxiety symptoms.


http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130513095750.htm#.UZIb0sFYXJ4.email

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