In an eight-week Australian study, 75 patients with clinically diagnosed generalised anxiety disorders (GAD) were given kava or a placebo.
Results published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology showed a significant reduction in anxiety for the kava group compared with the placebo group, the Herald Sun reported.
Kava was most effective in patients diagnosed with moderate to severe GAD.
Lead researcher Jerome Sarris from the University of Melbourne Department of Psychiatry stated that they”ve been able to show that kava offers a potential natural alternative for the treatment of chronic clinical anxiety.
Compared with some other options, Sarris said, it has less risk of dependency and less potential for side effects.
There had been concerns kava would impair liver function. But Dr Sarris said that their trial showed that in this modest sample it was well tolerated and had no side effects or addiction issues.
He noted that the research is encouraging, but a further large multicentre clinical trial is needed to confirm kava as a first-line treatment for generalised anxiety disorders (GAD).
An unexpected outcome of Dr Sarris”s trial is that women given kava reported increased sex drive.
But this is believed to be from a reduction of anxiety rather than any aphrodisiac effect.
Dr Sarris noted that they’re not saying kava is a replacement for integrated care, and insisted that people with anxiety should seek appropriate advice from a health professional, which could include a GP, a psychologist or a degree-qualified naturopath.