Before Kava Kava became known for treating anxiety, the people of the Pacific Islands used it as a ceremonial beverage (and still do), offering it to guests of the islands. The roots are chewed or ground into a pulp and added to cold water, which results in a viscous-type drink.
Kava Kava and anxiety have been associated together because of the effects this herb has on the body -- most notably the acute state of relaxation it produces, as well as a comforting effect and an almost euphoric high.
It has been clinically proven that Kava Kava reduces anxiety and that this herb could be as effective as certain antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Besides chewing the Kava Kava root, it is also available in liquid form, as tinctures or standardized extracts, and in capsule or tablet form.
In 2004 a study found that kava may improve mood and cognitive performance. The University of Maryland Medical Center reported that a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial involving healthy individuals found that Kava Kava at a standardized dose of 300 mg seemed to improve tests related to cognitive performance and cheerfulness. Pharmaceutical anti-anxiety drugs, such as Valium (Diazepam) and Xanax (Alprazolam) tend to decrease cognitive function and impair the individual to a certain degree.
It is recommended that Kava Kava be taken under the guidance of a qualified health care provider. Because Kava Kava has been linked to liver damage and failure, you should not take it if you have pre-existing liver problems such as cirrhosis or hepatitis. It is certainly not recommended for children even if they are suffering from general anxiety.