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 anti-depressants 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.