Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is the diagnosis given to people with excessive worry and anxiety, that is difficult to control. Women are twice more likely to experience GAD than men, and a diagnosis of GAD is uncommon in children and adolescents with the incidence of GAD greatly increasing later in life (onset is usually after 25 years of age).

Symptoms can range from Excessive worrying and Impaired sleep to shortness of breath and digestive disturbances. So, what can be done about it?

In 2006 I was fortunate enough to visit Tonga, one of the Pacific islands and experience a Kava ceremony. Pacific Islanders have used kava (Piper methysticum) for centuries. The islanders use the root to prepare a beverage used in welcoming ceremonies for important visitors. The islanders believed that drinking kava induced pleasant mental states but also reduced anxiety and promoted socialising.

People believe that the first report about kava in the West originated from Captain James Cook’s voyages through the Pacific region. Kava has now been well studied and continues to show exceptional promise as a first-line treatment for anxiety.

In this study by Jerome Sarris et al., in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology results revealed a significant reduction in anxiety for the kava group compared with the placebo group. Among participants with moderate to severe diagnosed GAD, this effect was even larger. Kava was well tolerated, and aside from more headaches reported in the kava group no other significant differences between groups occurred for any other adverse effects, nor for liver function tests. At the conclusion of the controlled phase, 26% of the kava group were classified as remitted compared with 6% of the placebo group.

In a 2003 Cochrane review, twenty-two potentially relevant double-blind, placebo-controlled RCTs were identified in a systematic literature search. The Cochrane review is considered the gold standard for reviewing the scientific literature. Twelve trials met the inclusion criteria. The meta-analysis of seven trials suggests a significant treatment effect for the total score on the Hamilton Anxiety Scale in favour of kava extract. Few adverse events were reported in the reviewed trials, which were all mild, transient and infrequent. The data implied that, compared with placebo, kava extract might be an effective symptomatic treatment for anxiety.

These results are very promising, and like many other herbal treatments, when science is done correctly, Kava’s traditional use is backed up by scientific investigation. Supplementing with Kava can be a brilliant aid to help lower your feelings of anxiousness. However, to recover from anxiety, you should always consult a qualified health practitioner that can treat the cause and not just the symptoms. Nutrition, sleep, exercise, and learning to practice relaxation actively, should all be part of a personalised treatment plan to help you get on top of your anxiety and see you thrive.

For more information refer to my page on anxiety here:



Braun, Lesley & Cohen, Marc. Herbs and Natural Supplements: An evidence-based guide Volume 2, 4th Edition. Elsevier Australia, 10/2014.