24 Apr 2017

Academic says kava good for mental health

1:43 pm on 24 April 2017

A Tongan academic is urging more people to consider kava drinking as a valid means to fight mental illness and stress.

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Photo: RNZI / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Massey University lecturer in nursing, Sione Vaka, said his research found kava had a positive impact among some people with mental health issues. His studies were based on previous doctorate research focusing on Tongan men.

He said while kava drinking was common in many social and formal Pacific cultures and traditions, the crop contained relaxant properties and the setting provides a forum for people to reconnect with others around the kava circle and share their views on life.

Dr Vaka said the busy lifestyle of a country like New Zealand was in sharp contrast to the slow pace of life in the islands.

"I think kava should be taken by anyone because it has a very calming effect. In this day and age, people are rushing and there are lots of stressful events and things, and kava gives you that calming effect for you to have a bit of a stop, have a think and reflect on your day."

Dr Sione Vaka has received a grant to do more research in this area and presented some of his findings at a kava conference.

Research points to other other health benefits from kava

Last year, a range of clinical studies on kava use were conducted through a number of Australian universities around how effective the use of kava is for reducing anxiety.

These studies confirmed reduced levels for people with chronic anxiety conditions.

Other research conducted last year, found that traditionally prepared kava could help treat or prevent cancer.

Scientists used ground kava combined with other elements including sap from different sources in Micronesia.

Prepared this way, in a form used by people in the Pacific, rather than filtered, kava was more active in inhibiting breast and colon cancer cells.

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