Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Catching up- St. John's Wort & Kava Kava

Yesterday, I struggled to come up with a "J" word. After two drafts and nothing that felt postworthy, I decided to go on with the rest of my day hoping that something would come to me. As you can probably tell, inspiration never struck. I am still thinking about RodneySouthern's post about anxiety disorders and I have decided that I need to do something to help relieve my comparatively mild, but still bothersome, symptoms and improve my overall mood.

Natural health is something that I've dabbled in for over ten years.  Aromatherapy and herbs are the areas that I think are the most promising. Ironically, the two herbs that are reported to be the most useful for depression, stress, and anxiety fall neatly into the J & K category. Before I use any natural remedy, I read relevant scientific research to help me make the best choices. Here's a brief summary of what I found for these two possible natural treatments.

 St. John's Wort
St. John's Wort is a fairly common garden plant. I have tried to grow it with some success. However, I've learned over the years that the herbs I grow should be used for cooking and making tea, not for attempting to cure a minor physical or emotional ailment. It's best to buy herbs in standardized forms so that the proper dosage is taken consistently. St. John's Wort has gotten mixed reviews from the medical community. Most of the studies conducted show that it's helpful for mild to moderate depression. The study you've probably heard the most about is the one that found it to be no more effective than a placebo. It's important to note that some prescription medications have also been found to not be effective at treating depression. The recommended dose for capsules is 300 mg three times daily. For extracts, 40 to 60 drops two times daily. St. John's Wort can also be consumed as a tea up to three times per day. The downside to taking St. John's Wort is that it is contraindicated for so many other medications. So, if you're on prescription medications, it's best to check with your doctor before using this herb.

Kava Kava
Kava Kava has a long history of use in the Pacific. It's often used as a ceremonial drink and consumed after grinding the root into a pulp and mixing it with water. Kava kava can help with relaxation and improving feelings of contentment, well-being, and elevating mood. Several clinical studies have shown that kava kava is significantly more effective at treating anxiety, mood disorders, and insomnia than a placebo. One study even demonstrated that kava kava has a similar effect on brain activity as valium. The German kava kava extract was used in most of the clinical trials. Although some study participants  noticed improvement in as little as one week, it can take up to four weeks to notice any changes. The standardized dose used on subjects were 150 to 300 mg of kava kava that contained 30 to 70 percent kavalactones 1 to 3 times per day. Subjects were also given two to four grams of the crushed root made into a decoction by boiling in water up to 3 times daily.

There are concerns that taking kava kava could result in liver damage if taken improperly. This finding always leads me to wonder why this side effect has not been observed in the Pacific where kava kava is routinely taken. Kava kava should also not be taken by children or pregnant women. More information about kava kava can be found by clicking the subheading link to go to the University of Michigan Medical Center research page.


Angela Felsted said...

I've heard excellent things about St. Johns Wart.

Broadband said...

There is a great Ayurvedic herb for anxiety: Shankhpushpi. I take it daily. I get it from here:
This company has been around for 17 years and the products are made in USA

Poddys said...

Excellent information. I did try St. John's Wort a few years ago, but I haven't tried Kava Kava.

SJerZGirl said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier. I won't eat white sausage, either! LOL

I have been taking Prozac for years and was told by my former therapist that St. John's Wort is as effective as Prozac in as many as 60% of cases. But, as you pointed out, it can wreak havoc with some meds, so you need to be sure yours isn't one of them.

I've never tried Kava Kava and need to look into it for myself and for a friend. Great article!

Another A-Z Challenger stopping by to visit. You can find me at:
The Frustrated Foodie