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Kava kava and Menopause

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One group of patients who appear to respond extremely well to kava kava extract are women going through menopause, a time often associated with increased nervousness and anxiety. In a double-blind study forty menopausal women with menopaus-related symptoms were given either 100 mg of the kava extract standardized to contain 70 percent kavalactones or a placebo three times daily for eight weeks.  The beneficial effects of the kava extract were almost immediate, as after one week there was a significant improvement in scores on the Hamilton Anxiety Scale in the group receiving the kava extract.  As the trial continued, the scores continued to improve in the kava group.  in addition to improvement in symptoms of stress and anxiety, the group receiving kava kava also noted improvements in feelings of well-being, mood, and menopausal symptoms including hot flashes.  Again, these positive effects were gained without side effects.

One of the major drawbacks of benzodiazepines, besides their addictiveness, is that they impair mental function.  That is the reason for the warning not to drive or operate heavy equipment while on these drugs.  In contrast, according to results of studies in humans and animals, kava kava does not impair mental function.  Instead it actually enhances it.

In one study, twelve healthy volunteers were tested in a double-blind crossover manner to assess the effects of oxazepam (a benzodiazepine), the extract of kava standardized at 70 percent kavalactones (200 mg three times daily for five days), and a placebo on behavior and brain activity in a recognition memory task.  The subjects task was to identify within a list of visually presented words those that were shown for the first time and those that were being repeated.  Consistent with other benzodiazepines, oxazepam inhibited the recognition of both new and old words.  In contrast kava kava showed a slightly increased recognition rate and a larger brain response between old and new words.

The results of  this study once again demonstrate the uncharacteristic effects of kava.  in this case, it improves anxiety, but unlike standard anxiety-relieving agents, kava actually improves mental function and, at recommended levels, does not promote sedation.

The contents of this page are  excerpted  from "Natural Alternatives to Prozac", chapter 7,  by Michael T.  Murray, N.D.   Copyright © 1996 by Michael Murray. William Morrow and Company, Inc.,  1350 Avenue of the Americas,  New York,  N.Y. 10019



kava monographsSCIENCE Monographs

Thorne Research kava kava Monograph
Thorne Research is a leader in the nutritional supplement industry, pioneering innovations in nutrition delivery, bioavailability, novel compounds, standardized botanicals, creative botanical preparations and formulations, probiotics, and truly hypoallergenic formulations.

Emerson Ecologics kava kava Monograph
Emerson Ecologics provides healthcare professionals with the highest quality nutritional supplements, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, herbs, standardized herbal extracts, green foods, and essential fatty acids - from the world's leading manufacturers of professional supplements.

kava pharmacologySCIENCE Pharmacology and Chemistry

There is an important body of work that investigates the effects of kava on the body, and the chemical properties of the plant.
It is our intent to include many references and information in this section in the future.

General Chemical Description of Kava