One night I had insane cramps and my girlfriend Linda brought me a cold tea and told me to drink it for the anti anxiety and pain reducing effects. I was surprised at how well it helped calm my nervous system. Kava kava - a plant found throughout the Pacific islands that has been used as a medicinal and ceremonial herb for centuries now. It's incredible for my period pains (and for battling any anxiety I might experience) and kava kava is going to be the next big thing, trust me.
Just like with the launch of matcha bars and adaptogenic coffees and lattes, I know we will see a lot more of kava kava and kava bars in the coming few months, years, and decades. There are now over 100 kava kava bars in the States, and I personally head to Purple Lotus Kava Bar in Miami with Linda (which I love because it has been in South Florida for over 11 years - way before kava kava became a 'thing').
Despite these new bars popping up around the globe, I don't think people are fully clear on what kava kava is or why it's so amazing. So today, I will tell you what I know about it and the science-backed studies around anxiety and pain relief.
First up, if you couldn't already tell, I love kava kava. It's a legal, non-addictive plant that belongs to the South Pacific plant species that's actually the pepper family. It has heart-shaped leaves (cute!), and they are huge. For a long time, the plant has been used for its sedative, calming, anesthetic, pain-relieving, euphoriant and psychotropic properties. I love anything that originates from ancient wisdom or ancient teachings - particularly when it has pain-relieving benefits, too, because I believe this is a solution that has been trusted for decades for a reason!
Today, traditional science is getting behind kava kava more than ever before. I've loved looking into some of the research and scientific studies - particularly on the influence it can have on anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder and pain reduction.
First up, let's talk about pain because that is a crucial reason why I take kava kava. First up, it is thought to reduce 'chronic nociceptive pain'. Nociceptive pain is a big challenge for those who suffer from chronic pain because the neural pathways and pain pathways responsible for pain transmission become oversensitive. This usually is because they have been firing with pain signals for a long time or because the body thinks it is in danger and wants to make you consciously aware of something going on internally. The repeated firing over time, which can happen even when there is no infection or damage and is often driven by emotional stress or trauma, means that the nerves can start to fire when they don't need to. This can then cause pain for one person when another person wouldn't feel pain because the receptors become overly sensitive.
Kava kava helps the body calm the pathways.
This, plus the anesthetic, and sedative effects, are part of why I genuinely believe that my consistent intake of kava kava has played a big part in helping me manage my period pains which used to take me out for days at a time. They really have revolutionized the way I can survive with my period and I first hand have experienced the pain relief benefits of this amazing plant.
Kava kava is great for anxiety too.
A 2003 study linked here looked into how kava kava can help with anxiety and relieve muscle and nervous system tension. The data available from the peer-reviewed studies suggest that the plant is relatively safe for short-term treatment (1 to 24 weeks). However, more information is required in terms of investigating long-term use. So, from this 2003 study, we can be wary that this might not be a 'forever' drink, but that incorporating it into your wellness routine in the short-term is definitely going to have its benefits.
A decade later, a 2013 world-first clinical study on kava kava also found that it significantly reduced anxiety symptoms for people diagnosed with 'general anxiety disorder'. The study concluded that "compared with placebo, kava extract appears to be an effective symptomatic treatment option for anxiety".
In 2018, a new study reviewed the current evidence, which again suggested that it was 'promising' for assistance with anxiety but needed more testing to confirm the use of kava extract in treating generalized anxiety disorder.
Another thing that the 2003 study focused on was how it helps with insomnia and the improvement of sleep problems. This is another of the major benefits that I have seen with it (alongside pain management and anxiety reduction).
My anxiety has been lower than ever before and my sleep has been tons better. Alongside magnesium, I think this is the best sleep supplement out there on the market *AND* it's natural.
How does it work?
Kava kava has active ingredients called kavalactones. They pass through the bloodstream and help the plant act as a muscle relaxant. There are six major kavalactones found in the plant, and one called kavain (found mostly in the roots of the plant) is most commonly thought to be the kavalactone that has the power of inducing the feeling of relaxation.
One of the things that I love about kava kava, though, is that these kavalactones don't interact with or impact the brain directly, so although you can feel relaxed and almost sedative-like properties, it's not an *actual* sedative. I was stunned to learn that it doesn't actually impact your nervous system at all. Also, unlike many other plant medicines, you feel it more in your body than in your mind so there is really nothing to be scared or apprehensive about by taking it.
How do you consume it?
I drink it at Purple Lotus Bar in Miami with my friend Linda but you can also take it in a supplement widely found at supplement stores. Always take a high quality source and speak with your doctor or practitioner before starting any self-supplementation.
So, for me, kava kava is a really powerful player in my period and chronic pain management and wellness routine. It helps me feel more calm, confident, and at ease, as well as helping me to sleep well and generally stop being super stressed out.
We need more traditional, holistic, and powerful supplements and/or medicines today that can help with relieving and reducing stress and insomnia. I personally think that kava Kava is a hidden gem.
Let me know how you get on with it or if you have any kava kava-related recipes that I NEED to try!
Love Jena x
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST****