5 Dec 2016

Study probes kava effectiveness on anxiety

10:12 am on 5 December 2016

More detailed findings could be expected within a year or so on the effectiveness of kava use for reducing anxiety.

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Photo: RNZ

A range of clinical studies on kava use have been conducted, firstly through the Universities of Queensland, and then Melbourne and Swinburne Universities in Victoria.

Early trials in 2013 showed a significant reduction in anxiety for people using kava compared to a placebo group during the study.

The lead researcher, Jerome Sarris, said a more recent study confirmed reduced levels for people with chronic anxiety conditions.

He said an ongoing study was also looking at the question of liver toxicity.

According to Dr Sarris, the World Health Organisation recommended using water soluble extracts of kava, only the root and high quality noble cultivars.

"And that's what we're researching at the moment," he explained.

"Hopefully the results will be available in the next year or so, and we can see whether kava is truly truly effective, as we believe it is, to reduce anxiety in people with chronic anxiety disorders, as well as being safe or not for people in regards to liver function."

Therapeutic kava use could be a useful alternative treatment for dealing with anxiety, with Dr Sarris saying there was always room for more therapeutic options for patients.

"We have some medications which are certainly effective for some people, but some of them do carry a range of side effects. They can unfortunately cause dependence."

"Kava certainly has a role as being a relatively safe, anxiety-reducing medicine," he said.

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