Kava for Depression: Answering Your Top Questions

November 16, 2022

Kava is a relatively new relaxation option for the Western World. As more people outside of the Pacific Islands start embracing the “relax the island way” mindset, questions naturally pop up about when and why you should drink kava. Many of our customers drink kava to soothe anxious thoughts, but some kava-curious people have asked us whether they should sip on kava for depression.

There are many definitions for depression, but the American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines it as the following:

“Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home.”

The APA also says symptoms of depression may include feeling sad, having a depressed mood, having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of energy or increased fatigue, and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, among others.

Given that some kava varieties have uplifting, mood-boosting effects, it’s natural to wonder whether drinking kava for depression is a viable option. At Kalm with Kava, we want to do our best to answer any questions kava-curious individuals may have.

First and foremost, we highly recommend talking with your primary care physician first to discuss whether drinking kava would be helpful for your depression symptoms. The following information is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis of using kava for depression and cannot take the place of seeing a health professional. If you think you are depressed, talk with your primary care physician immediately.

With this in mind, let’s review some of the top questions we receive about kava for depression, experts’ insights on the subject, and the nature of kava in general.

Answering Your Top Questions on Kava for Depression

Question #1: Does Kava Help with Depression?

A: At the moment, there is no clear answer on whether kava is good for easing depression symptoms. The science around this topic is still evolving as more people research the benefits of kava.

Several studies conducted in the last decade have shown positive evidence that drinking kava may help with depression. According to research published by Mental Health America (MHA), “Kava has been shown in more than a dozen placebo-controlled studies to be effective with good tolerability for treatment of generalized anxiety, with some evidence for stress, depression, and insomnia.” Also, a 2009 kava study referenced by the National Library of Medicine indicated that “aqueous” extracts of kava produced significant antidepressant activity, and appeared effective in cases where anxiety is accompanied by depression.

Question #2: Should I Drink Kava for Depression?

A: While studies have shown encouraging results about the relationship between kava and depression, no 100% conclusion has been reached. If you want to try kava for depression, we recommend consulting with a healthcare professional first.

Question #3: Does Kava Help Boost Your Mood?

A: Short answer, yes, but how impactful it is depends on the kava variety. Long answer, certain varieties of kava can cause mood-boosting side effects due to specific arrangements of the kavalactones in kava.

Kavalactones are the active ingredients in kava that give it its signature “relaxing” qualities. There are thought to be 18 different kavalactones with a large majority of active ingredients coming from just six. Each kava variety has a different composition of these six kavalactones, which is why different varieties provide different physiological effects.

Some varieties of kava have “heady” qualities, as the kavalactones produce uplifting kava effects. Many of our customers enjoy sipping on heady kava varieties, whether medium grind or micronized, to help them feel more social for a night out with friends, to lift their mood on a rainy day, or to help them relax during the work day without the drowsiness associated with heavy kava varieties. Heady varieties—like Pouni Ono kava and Samoa Ava—can have a range of effects, including the following:

  • Lifting your mood
  • Increasing your sociability
  • Helping you feel happier
  • Making you feel euphoric
  • Mentally and physically relaxing
  • Easing you into an uplifting sense of calm

Given that some of the symptoms of depression involve low emotions, decreased sociability, and trouble falling asleep, this may be the reason why kava-curious people have asked whether they should drink kava for depression. However, since the science is still developing on the subject, we recommend consulting with your primary care physician on whether you should try drinking kava for your depression symptoms.

Question #4: When and Why Should I Drink Kava?

A: At its core, kava is about relaxation and community. Since ancient times, people in the Pacific Islands have sipped on kava for both ceremonial occasions and social bonding, practices that have carried on to this day. In modern society, relaxation and socialization are primary reasons why people choose to sip on kava, especially as people turn to relaxation drinks to help them unwind naturally. People choose to drink kava for a wide variety of reasons, but here are several of the top reasons why our customers sip on kava:

  • To have an alternative to alcohol for social relaxation
  • To alleviate stress and keep calm
  • To lower anxiety, worries, and fears
  • To lift their mood
  • To increase sociability
  • To use as a natural sleep aid

As for when you should drink kava, the answer depends on your personal relaxation needs! If you need a hand drifting off to sleep, you may choose to drink a heavy kava variety at night to help you fall asleep. If you feel stressed during the day at work and need a kava that won’t make you feel drowsy, sipping a heady or balanced kava in the afternoon may be your best option. Take time to understand your personal needs and what time of day you hope to enjoy some relaxation to know when you should have a bilo of kava.

If you’ve decided kava is a great fit for your relaxation goals, check out our premium range of kava products. At Kalm with Kava, we offer a wide range of kava types, varieties, and accessories to help you relax the island way YOUR way. From medium grind kava root to micronized kava, our selection matches your every relaxation need.

FDA Disclaimer: This product is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease and has not been evaluated by the FDA. Excessive consumption may impair one’s ability to drive or operate heavy equipment. Not recommended for pregnant or nursing women. Ask a healthcare professional before use if you have or have had liver problems, frequently use alcohol, or take any medication.

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