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Is Kava The Obama of Sleep Aids For Anxious Insomniacs?

I like to worry about things. Things that haven’t happened, may never come to fruition, or even things that have already occurred. I worry about if I’ve locked all the doors in the house, the story involving illicit drugs I told my former boss after one too many wines, that weird mole on my foot, and whether we are alone in the cosmos. My absolute favourite time to worry about these things is in bed, at night, whilst trying to fall asleep. I have struggled with insomnia since I was a small child and while I am unsure exactly what I had found to worry about as five year old, I digress. 

Many years ago I relied on prescription drugs to help me sleep, side effects of which include low mood and grogginess the next day, a bitter taste in the mouth and sending text messages you don’t remember. My next foray into a more natural alternative was taking melatonin, which although effective, when taken regularly had such a depressive effect on my mood that I was forced to cease using it all together. Eventually, after years of searching I stumbled across my own personal Holy Grail of sleep aides, kava.

Kava is the ground roots of the plant Piper methysticum, which literally translates to ‘intoxicating pepper’. It has been used in the Pacific Islands for thousands of years as a ceremonial drink and a natural medicine. I often come across people who are under the impression that kava is similar to alcohol, which is not the case. Taking kava will create an incredible feeling of calm and a relaxation, but is not mind altering, with no hangover or lingering effects. It is not an addictive substance, and after using it for over a year, I have never once found myself craving a big old cup of the stuff.

You can purchase kava in pharmacies and health food stores in a variety of forms, the traditional ground root which is mixed with water and consumed, as well as tablets, capsules and tinctures. The taste of traditional kava is not unlike taking a mouthful of extremely bitter, mouth numbing dirt, which unsurprisingly, is not my night time beverage of choice. I opt for a tincture at home and tablets while travelling.

There have been concerns about the effects of kava on the liver, but after many years of research scientists are yet to find a definitive answer, however it appears it could come down to the preparation. Extraction methods, mould and using stems of the plant rather than the root have been blamed for adverse effects on the liver. It is not recommended to use kava whilst drinking alcohol for these reasons, and also because that combination could probably tranquillise a baby elephant. Using high quality kava in small doses appears to be the safest option.

Multiple studies have shown kava to be highly effective in treating anxiety, with some studies citing it as equally effective as prescription anti anxiety medication. If you too find yourself a member of the Nocturnally Nervous Club, kava could be the solution to your worrying woes. I cannot recommend enough consulting a health care professional, especially a medicinal herbalist to ensure the kava you are purchasing is suitable for you and is of the highest grade, using a low dose and refraining from taking kava prior to any non sleep related bedroom activities, unless anorgasmic sexual starfish is the vibe you want to be throwing down (it isn’t). Drink up!

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