Kava extract, a dietary supplement made from the roots of kava kava (Piper methysticum), may provide relief from anxiety problems. A study published in the November 2003 edition of “Phytomedicine” found that 73 percent of patients treated with kava root extract over four weeks experienced decreased anxiety and improvement in general well-being. Herbalists often prescribe kava extract for elevating mood, treating insomnia and helping patients relax. The extract may cause side effects, however, so only take it under the supervision of a doctor.
Look for standardized kava root extract in liquid, capsule or tablet form that contains 30 to 70 percent kavalactones, the active ingredient in kava root. Standardized products clearly list the specific amounts of active plant material they contain per dosage. Products that are not standardized may produce little or no effect.
Take 150 to 300 mg of standardized kava root extract up to three times daily to treat anxiety and nervousness. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, most clinical trials have used the German kava extract WS 1490.
Continue taking kava root extract for at least four weeks before deciding if it's working for you, as it may take this long to notice results. If symptoms are still present after four weeks, consult a physician before increasing the dosage, as taking too much kava root extract may cause serious side effects.
Take a two-week rest period after taking kava root extract continuously for three months. You may begin taking the herb on a daily basis again after this period if desired. Kava is generally safe for consumption if taken as directed, as long as you discontinue use for two weeks once every three months.
Common side effects of taking kava extract include allergic skin reactions, upset stomach, dizziness, tremors, drowsiness and restlessness. For the best results, take the herb at night before bed and do not drive or operate machinery while under its influence.
Always consult a physician before taking kava root extract, especially if you are currently taking prescription medications or have a history of liver problems. Kava may cause liver damage if used incorrectly. If you begin to exhibit symptoms of liver damage after taking kava such as yellow skin, fatigue and abdominal pain, discontinue use and seek medical attention immediately.
Do not take kava in any form if you are pregnant or nursing, suffering from Parkinson's disease or severe depression,or before having surgery. Also, do not consume alcohol in conjunction with kava extract.
Do not give kava root extract to children.