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How do I Use Kava Kava for Anxiety Relief?

D. Waldman
D. Waldman

Kava kava is a pepper-like plant native to the South Pacific that has proven effective as a natural treatment for a variety of ailments. If you are interested in using kava kava for anxiety, the most important thing you can do is familiarize yourself with the origins of the plant, choose the best form in which to take the supplement, and determine the correct dosage for maximum effectiveness. You should also familiarize yourself with the potential side effects of taking kava kava and ensure there are no potentially harmful interactions that may occur between this natural remedy and any other medications you may be currently taking.

The first recorded evidence of the use of kava kava dates back to 1777, though the documentation implies that it had been in use for quite some time before that by the people of the South Pacific islands. The roots of the plant were consumed raw for the maximum effect, while the leaves were chewed in a more casual manner. Long associated with its use as a central component in many religious ceremonies, the calming effects of consuming the roots and leaves of the plant were the main reason it was so widely used. This calming effect is also the reason why so many people today believe that taking kava kava for anxiety and stress relief is so effective.

One side effect of kava is exceptional drowsiness.
One side effect of kava is exceptional drowsiness.

Kava kava supplements come in many forms, each much easier to digest than the original methods. While somewhat more difficult to obtain, the raw form of kava kava is the most potent. The leaves can be used to brew a tea-like drink, sometimes mixed with small chunks of the root of the plant. Alternatively, the root and leaves of the plant can be dried and crushed into a fine powder, taken in pill form and easily found at your local drugstore. Kava kava-infused beverages are also growing in popularity, which is helpful if you want the benefits of kava kava for anxiety relief combined with the convenience of a pre-mixed drink.

Kava kava "tea" can be made by steeping the plant's leaves in boiling hot water.
Kava kava "tea" can be made by steeping the plant's leaves in boiling hot water.

Unlike many herbal supplements, kava kava is not intended for use on a daily basis. Instead, the best way to use kava kava for anxiety relief is on an as-needed basis for maximum effectiveness. Most products containing kava kava typically contain around 100mg (approximately four-thousandths of an ounce) of the supplement. The suggested dosage at this concentration is once or twice daily no more than three to four days per week. Smaller dosages can be taken daily for use as a sleep aid, but the lower dosages will typically not help with anxiety issues.

Kava kava pills are commonly used to relieve anxiety.
Kava kava pills are commonly used to relieve anxiety.

If you plan to start taking kava kava for anxiety relief, there are side effects you may experience. The most common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and headache. Less common side effects may include decreased libido and ultraviolet (UV) light sensitivity. Certain individuals with known allergies to various products in the pepper family may also experience an allergic reaction to kava kava. If an allergic reaction, often marked by rash, itchy skin, or hives, should occur, you should cease taking the supplement immediately and contact your physician.

The main interaction that can occur when taking kava kava for anxiety exists in individuals who are also taking certain classes of anti-depressants. If you are currently taking anti-depressants or have recently been on a course of treatment that involved anti-depressants, you should consult with your physician prior to taking any form of kava kava supplement. You should also avoid taking kava kava if you suffer from Parkinson's disease or any form of liver problem.

Discussion Comments


A friend of mine recommended kava kava for my anxiety, but I had a hard time finding it in stores. I think the US government put some restrictions on the importation of kava kava because of concerns over liver damage. I did manage to buy kava kava at an online vitamin and supplement store, however. I can't say it was as effective as my prescription medication, but I will say it would help most people unwind from a stressful day.


A few months ago, I found myself feeling very stressed out over an employment situation. I could feel a small knot in my stomach all the time, and I would wake up in the middle of the night with a panic attack. I wanted to find something over-the-counter that might help me relax. A local health food store owner recommend kava kava for my anxiety.

The store had a dozen or so anxiety supplements on the shelf, most of which contained kava kava. The owner asked me if I had any known liver problems, and I told her I didn't. She suggested a special blend of herbal remedies to treat anxiety, including a bottle of kava tincture.

I took the supplements and twenty minutes later, I felt that knot in my stomach disappear. I wasn't feeling intoxicated, but I felt very relaxed and a little drowsy. The feeling lasted a few hours, long enough for me to fall asleep naturally. I did not have a panic attack that night. Kava kava is a great natural alternative to anti-anxiety medications.

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    • One side effect of kava is exceptional drowsiness.
      By: Klaus Eppele
      One side effect of kava is exceptional drowsiness.
    • Kava kava "tea" can be made by steeping the plant's leaves in boiling hot water.
      By: Fisher Photostudio
      Kava kava "tea" can be made by steeping the plant's leaves in boiling hot water.
    • Kava kava pills are commonly used to relieve anxiety.
      By: Kablonk Micro
      Kava kava pills are commonly used to relieve anxiety.