Kava is a plant that grows in the western Pacific. It was traditionally prepared as a drink and used for its psychoactive properties, including sedation, relaxation, and relief of anxiety. It is intoxicating but not addictive.
It has become a popular supplement in the US, used to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, and menopausal symptoms. It has also been suspected of killing quite a few people.
The AAFP Recommends Kava
In August 2007 American Family Physician, the journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians, published an article on “Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Treatment of Anxiety Disorders.”
They concluded that
St. John’s wort, valerian, and omega-3 fatty acids have little therapeutic value for anxiety disorders, and their use should be discouraged.
But they recommended kava. Not only that, they gave it the highest quality-of-evidence rating: A. They said,
Short-term use of kava is recommended for patients with mild to moderate anxiety disorders who are not using alcohol or taking other medicines metabolized by the liver, but who wish to use “natural” remedies.