Piper methysticum

kava-piper_methysticum1

Nature Pacific PTY LTD. (2004). Kava Kava. Retrieved from: http://www.naturepacific.com/contents/en-us/d59_kava.html

Botanical Name: Piper methysticum
Common name: Kava Kava
Family: Piperaceae
Parts used: Rhizome

 

Folklore and traditional use: Kava kava root prepared as a beverage has a long history of use in welcoming ceremonies in the Pacific Islands (Braun & Cohen, 2005, p. 246).

Kava kava has been used both medicinally and ceremoniallyy in the Pacific region (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456).

  • In Fiji it is used to treat bladder and kidney disease, as a diuretic, for coughs, colds and a sore throat.
  • In Samoa the root is used to treat gonorrhea.
  • In Hawaii it use to be used to treat skin disorders, to sooth nerves, induce sleep, to treat general debility, colds and chills.
  • In traditional Polynesian medicine it was used topically to treat skin disease, leprosy.
  • In Western herbal medicine, kava was indicated in a range of genitourinary tract ailments, such as gonorrhea, vaginitis and nocturnal incontinence.
  • The Eclectics recommended kava for neuralgia, toothache, earache, ocular pain, dizziness, despondency, anorexia, dyspepsia, intestinal catarrh, hemorrhoids and renal colic.

(Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456)

 

Constituents:

  • Resin containing 6-stytly-4-methoxy-alpha-pyrone derivatives also known as ‘kava lactones’ or ‘kava pyrones’ including:
    • kavain
    • Dehydrokavain (DHK)
    • Methysticin
    • Dihydromethysticin
    • Yangonin
    • Desmethoxyyangonin
  • Flavonoids (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 457)

 

Actions

  • Anxiolytic (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456; Bone, 2003, p. 291)
  • Hypnotic (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456; Hoffmann, 2003, p. 573)
  • Mild sedative (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456)
  • Skeletal muscle relaxant (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456)
  • Local anesthetic (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456; Hoffmann, 2003, p. 573)
  • Mild analgesic (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456)
  • Relaxing nervine (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 573)
  • Antispasmodic (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 573)
  • Antifungal (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 573)
  • Anticonvulsant (Bone, 2003, p. 291)

 

Indications

  • General Anxiety Disorder (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456; Braun & Cohen, 2005, p. 246)
  • Nervous tension (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456)
  • Restlessness (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456)
  • Mild depression (of non-psychotic origin) (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456)
  • Menopausal Symptoms (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 456)
  • Insomnia (Braun & Cohen, 2005, p. 247)
  • Hoffmann suggests that kava is good for anxiety without dampening alertness (administered at a normal therapeutic dose) (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 573)
  • Comparable to benzodiazepines in the treatment of anxiety, without the side effects (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 573) this also suggests kava kava’s benefit in the withdrawal of benzodiazepine drugs (Braun & Cohen, 2005, p. 247).
  • Does not impair reaction time, and appears to improve concentration (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 573)

 

Preparation & Dosage: Commission E recommends preparations equivalent to 20-120mg of kavalactones/tds (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 573)

 

Cautions

  • A side effect of over consumption referred to as “kava dermopathy”, manifests as a skin rash, non-inflammatory dryness and scaling of skin. This is most often seen with heavy, long-term consumers. However this was also observed in clinical trials with doses of 300-800mg of isolated constituent dihydromethystici (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 573).
  • Hepatotoxicity has been reported, leading to restrictions in availability in some countries (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 573)
  • Caution to be taken in elderly individuals with Parkinson’s disease due to potential dopamine antagonism (Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 452)
  • Liver conditions (Bone, 2003, p. 291)

 

Contradictions:

According to Commission E Kava kava is contraindicated in:

  • Pregnancy
  • Lactation
  • Endogenous depression

(Bone & Mills, 2010, p. 462)

 

Interactions: May increase effects of substances that act upon the central nervous system (alcohol, barbiturates, psycopharmaceutical agents) (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 573)

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