Kava and Depression

Thousands of people worldwide have found relaxation and stress reduction* in the South Pacific elixir derived from the kava kava root, and scientific studies are now being brought to bear on kava's potential for helping people cope with chronic stress. However, there have not yet been clinical studies examing kava and depression, even though that condition often occurs in those who are under a lot of mental or emotional stress. Although the question of whether kavalactones may offer a benefit to people with depression is still up in the air, we would hazard that kava kava may help reduce some of the peripheral conditions associated with depression*, such as mental stress, muscle tension, and the inability to relax.

Kava kava is already supported by herbalists for stress reduction* and promoting relaxation* that often results in refreshing sleep*. We haven't seen kava marketed as a dietary supplement for depression, possibly because kava kava tends to have a calming effect, which may not be helpful for certain kinds of depression. More common complementary modalities in cases of mild to moderate depression are St. John's Wort, fish oil, and vitamin D. Vigorous exercise may also be beneficial in lifting mood, as it stimulates the brain to produce endorphins.

However, even in this complex area, the versatile kava may have something to offer: kava allows the mind and muscles to relax* and may also work as a topical analgesic* due to the presence of kavalactones, which numb the mouth and throat. People with depression are often more sensitive to pain, which can contribute to overall stress levels, so we feel this numbing action of kava may be of some help.

Chronic stress and depression can also destroy your attention span, making you feel overwhelmed and as though you can't focus on anything, and increasing feelings of anxiety. As it turns out, kava may actually improve mental focus and attention* while decreasing feelings of stress. So, while there are not yet any studies to suggest that kava kava reduces depression, its calming and focusing actions may be beneficial in reducing peripheral symptoms such as inability to concentrate, tension, nervousness, and even minor pains*.

If you believe you are suffering from depression in any form, seek the advice of a physician. Depression should never be ignored or treated without professional medical input. If you are considering kava as a complementary modality for stress, depression, or any other condition, always consult a holistic healthcare practitioner for advice.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to cure, treat, diagnose, or preveny any disease.