If there was a natural substance that could fight deadly cancer cells yet comes with some potentially harmful side effects, would you want to learn more about it? Chances are you would, and that’s why you should know about kava root.
Kava, often called kava kava, is an herbal plant native to the South Pacific area of Polynesia, Micronesia and Macronesia that has quite the reputation being both good and bad. Kava root has been used for centuries as medicine as well as a recreational and ceremonial drink in Oceania — however, it’s important to note that there are many concerns regarding kava root.
On the plus side, it’s been touted as a natural cancer treatment that blocks tumor growth and shows many signs of chemopreventive potential. Conversely, there have been reports of liver disease and damage along with some deaths that may be related to the use of kava root.
Naturally, you must be asking yourself whether the risks outweigh the benefits of kava root. So let’s explore both sides of the coin with this controversial, medicinal plant.
Top 6 Kava Root Benefits
Kava root is most commonly used to calm anxiety, stress, restlessness and treat insomnia. It’s also used for ADHD symptoms, epilepsy, psychosis, depression, migraines and other headaches, chronic fatigue syndrome, common cold and other respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis, muscle pain, and cancer prevention. Urinary tract infections (UTIs), pain and swelling of the uterus, venereal disease, menstrual discomfort, and sexual arousal are other uses of kava root. The list continues, with kava root being applied to the skin for skin diseases like leprosy, to promote wound healing, used as a painkiller and to help with eye-related health issues.
It’s also used as a mouthwash for canker sores and toothaches. With so many uses, it’s confusing as to why this herbal remedy has become known as a less than desirable treatment, yet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning that using kava supplements has been linked to a risk of severe liver damage. It’s for this reason that it’s important you the learn the facts.
1. Helps Fight Cancer
Flavokawains are secondary metabolites found in kava root that may have anticancer properties. Studies compared the toxicity of kava and monitored the results of cellular adaptation in the human hepatocyte cell line. To test for subsequent resistance to oxidative stress, cells were pretreated, and some results showed significant cell death, giving reason to believe that kava root has potential as a chemopreventive or chemotherapeutic agent.
2. May Reduce Size of Tumors Found in the Prostate
A study published in Oncotarget was conducted demonstrating that elements within the kava plant may inhibit the growth of certain deficient cell lines. Further studies have demonstrated that dietary feeding of the autochthonous transgenic adenocarcinoma of the mouse prostate (TRAMP) with kava inhibited the formation of lesions and prostate adenocarcinomas, reduced the tumor, and completely abolished distant organ metastasis. The findings suggests that agents found in kava may be a promising inhibitor for targeting degradation in prostate cancer prevention and treatment.
This makes kava root an excellent addition to improve prostate health overall and reduce the chances of prostate cancer in particular.
3. Boosts Immune System
Flavokawains extracts have been found to possess potential anti-inflammation properties. One study hoped to find agents that can enhance the functionality of the immune system without disturbing the homeostatic balance while determining the toxicity and immunomodulatory effects of flavokawain A and flavokawain B, agents found in kava root, on Balb/c mice. Based on the results, all mice were observed normal after the treatment period, and it seemed as though it did not cause any toxicity.
Thus, kava root may be an immune system booster for humans in a similar way it is for mice.
4. Helps Combat Breast Cancer
Kava kava has been reported to possess anticancer and anti-inflammatory activities. We are well aware that the state of the immune system and the inflammatory process that can develop both play vital roles in the progression of cancer.
A study was conducted in Malaysia with the intention of understanding how kava root can help regulate and enhance the immune system as well as impede the inflammatory process in breast cancer-challenged mice. Notably, there was a decrease in the weight and volume of the tumor following kava treatment. Inflammation in the kava-treated mice had reduced levels as well. Overall, these results show that kava root has the potential to not only enhance antitumor immunity, but also prevents the inflammatory process in a cancer-prone microenvironment.
5. Reduces Anxiety
Generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic and pervasive condition that generates high levels of psychological stress and is typically difficult to treat long term. Some studies claim that kava root is a nonaddictive and a non-hypnotic anxiolytic with the potential to treat anxiety.
More research has been reported by Cochrane assessing the evidence for or against the effectiveness of kava root extract for working as a natural remedy for anxiety. Twenty-two potentially relevant, double-blind, placebo-controlled RCTs were identified. Twelve trials met the inclusion criteria and were in favor of kava extract as an aid in reducing anxiety. Few adverse events were reported, and of those reported, they were all mild. This data notes that kava extract might be an effective symptomatic treatment for anxiety.
6. Promotes Better Sleep
Kava first became popular in the 1990s as an herbal remedy for people who can’t sleep and have anxiety. We know that sleep is a big problem for about 50 percent of the population at some point in their lifetimes. Plant-based remedies are becoming more and more desired to help treat sleep disorders and general insomnia, including kava root.
In a study conduct at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, six commonly used plant-based sleep therapeutics were investigated to include caffeine, chamomile, cherries, kava kava, L-tryptophan, marijuana and valerian root. Though no mind-blowing results were reported, kava and kava drinks have been known to provide sedative effects.
4 Kava Root Side Effects and Risks
1. Drug Abuse
Because kava is known to provide some very deep relaxation benefits, there’s potential for drug abuse, though this problem seems to be low in most areas. Kava is marketed as an herbal anxiolytic in several countries and is consumed recreationally in high doses in many indigenous Pacific and Australian Aboriginal communities. Suggested dosage for treatment of non-psychotic anxiety is 105 to 210 milligrams daily for three to four weeks. The most common side effects of kava are headache, dizziness, drowsiness, depression, diarrhea and occasionally dermatologic manifestations. Precautions should be taken.
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