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UQ research finds kava is safe and effective

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  1. enquirewithin
    UQ research has found a traditional extract of Kava, a medicinal plant from the South Pacific, to be safe and effective in reducing anxiety.

    To be published online this week in the journal Psychopharmacology are the results of a world-first clinical trial which found that a water-soluble extract of Kava was effective in treating anxiety and improving mood.


    The Kava was prescribed in the form of tablets supplied by Queensland company MediHerb Pty Ltd.

    Lead researcher Jerome Sarris, a PhD candidate from UQ's School of Medicine, said the placebo-controlled study found Kava to be an effective and safe treatment option for people with chronic anxiety and varying levels of depression.

    “We've been able to show that Kava offers a natural alternative for the treatment of anxiety, and unlike some pharmaceutical options, has less risk of dependency and less potential of side effects,” Mr Sarris said.

    Each week participants were given a clinical assessment as well as a self-rating questionnaire to measure their anxiety and depression levels.

    The researchers found anxiety levels decreased dramatically for participants taking five tablets of Kava per day as opposed to the placebo group which took dummy pills.

    “We also found that Kava had a positive impact on reducing depression levels, something which had not been tested before,” Mr Sarris said.

    In 2002 Kava was banned in Europe, the UK and Canada due to concerns over liver toxicity.

    While the thee-week trial raised no major health concerns regarding the Kava extract used, the researchers said larger studies were required to confirm the drug's safety.

    “When extracted in the appropriate way, Kava may pose less or no potential liver problems. I hope the results will encourage governments to reconsider the ban,” Mr Sarris said.

    “Ethanol and acetone extracts, which sometimes use the incorrect parts of the Kava, were being sold in Europe.

    “That is not the traditional way of prescribing Kava in the Pacific Islands.

    “Our study used a water-soluble extract from the peeled rootstock of a medicinal cultivar of the plant, which is approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia and is currently legal in Australia for medicinal use.

    “In addition to benefiting sufferers of anxiety, allowing the sale of Kava in Europe, the UK and Canada would significantly enhance Pacific Island economies, which have lost hundreds of millions of dollars by not being able to export the plant over the past several years.”

    Published: 11 May 2009

    http://www.uq.edu.au/news/?article=18193

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  1. Bajeda
    The online version of the published article has been uploaded to the archive here.


    Abstract

    Rationale: Piper methysticum (Kava) has been withdrawn in European, British, and Canadian markets due to concerns over hepatotoxic reactions. The WHO recently recommended research into “aqueous” extracts of Kava.

    Objective: The objective of this study was to conduct the first documented human clinical trial assessing the anxiolytic and antidepressant efficacy of an aqueous extract of Kava.

    Design and participants: The Kava Anxiety Depression Spectrum Study was a 3-week placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover trial that recruited 60 adult participants with 1 month or more of elevated generalized anxiety. Five Kava tablets per day were prescribed containing 250 mg of kavalactones/day.

    Results: The aqueous extract of Kava reduced participants' Hamilton Anxiety Scale score in the first controlled phase by −9.9 (CI = 7.1, 12.7) vs. −0.8 (CI = −2.7, 4.3) for placebo and in the second controlled phase by −10.3 (CI = 5.8, 14.7) vs. +3.3 (CI = −6.8, 0.2). The pooled effect of Kava vs. placebo across phases was highly significant (p < 0.0001), with a substantial effect size (d = 2.24, ). Pooled analyses also revealed highly significant relative reductions in Beck Anxiety Inventory and Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale scores. The aqueous extract was found to be safe, with no serious adverse effects and no clinical hepatotoxicity.

    Conclusions: The aqueous Kava preparation produced significant anxiolytic and antidepressant activity and raised no safety concerns at the dose and duration studied. Kava appears equally effective in cases where anxiety is accompanied by depression. This should encourage further study and consideration of globally reintroducing aqueous rootstock extracts of Kava for the management of anxiety.
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