The demands of our Western productivity-driven culture tend to generate a lamentably high level of tension in many people due to stressors such as financial obligations, inadequate sleep, hectic schedules, and unfulfilling work. Challenges such as health problems, family or marital issues, and difficult life transitions can pile on top of those everyday stressors, making the need for a safe and effective method of tension relief absolutely essential. Along with regular exercise and a diet that emphasizes a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals, kava kava and other herbal remedies can be highly efficacious for tension relief without heavily sedating you or interfering with your alertness the next day.
Regrettably often in the Western world, people looking to relieve tension and stress in their everyday lives turn to commercially available yet powerful drugs that come with a long list of side effects and the potential to become addictive over time. The most common drug people turn to for tension relief is alcohol: in the short term, alcohol is a reliable sedative with some evidence now emerging that it temporarily reduces anxiety by altering brain chemistry. The considerable downside to using alcohol to relieve tension and anxiety is that regular doses of alcohol cause the body to build up a resistance to its effects, requiring a person to drink more to feel the same sense of relief. This is a dangerously habit-forming proposition. Besides being potentially addictive, overuse of alcohol carries with it a high risk of causing liver, organ and nerve damage.
Prescription drugs for insomnia and tension relief aren’t much better. Despite many people’s perception of their relative safety, prescription sleep and anxiety drugs often come with surprisingly harsh side effects and medical risks. According to their own promotional literature, many prescription sleep aids can potentially cause side effects including headache, blurred vision, and next day drowsiness, and carry a risk of becoming habit-forming. Additionally, some prescription tension aids put their users at risk of seizure, neuromuscular disorders, and even psychosis! Given this laundry list of things that can go wrong when you take a prescription drug for tension relief, what are people who want to lighten the burden of stress in their lives supposed to do?
One answer can be found in the humble roots of the kava plant, a member of the pepper family that has proven itself a safe and effective natural route to tension relief. Since its emergence into the global herbal market in modern times, kava has been gaining a reputation as one of the safest and most effective plants to treat tension and stress relief and promote restful sleep. Kava seems to be active along a pathway in the brain’s amygdala, the region responsible for regulating feelings of stress, anxiety and fear; in fact, studies of kava suggest that the plant’s active constituents work in much the same way as the prescription anti-depressant Prozac! An important difference is that kava won’t dull your natural emotional range and seems to have little to no potential to be habit-forming.
The traditional way to take kava is to make a cold infusion of the root in water or a fatty liquid like coconut milk. However, these days you can also buy powdered kava root from health food stores, either in tea bags— sometimes additionally flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, or other tasty and warming ingredients— or in capsules that contain a standardized percentage of kavalactones. Whatever the method of ingestion, most people will start to feel kava’s effects within a half hour to an hour: most common is a feeling of mellowness and tranquility that pervades the body and mind, leading to a deep and restful sleep after a person goes to bed. Kava also has beneficial effects on emotions: it can uplift mood and greatly reduce any anxiety or worries you might have while leaving your mind and senses relatively clear and alert. One of the things many users like best about kava is that you can really feel it working: when good kava starts to come on, it won’t leave you wondering if what you’re experiencing is just a placebo! However, despite its potency, kava properly prepared from only lateral roots has been clinically shown to be gentle on the liver. Furthermore, kava drinkers don’t seem to build up a resistance to kava over time, which minimizes its potential for addiction.
Tension can be an outward manifestation of the way your body responds to external stimuli, especially stressful and challenging situations; many times, people who carry a high tension load have not been taught how to cope with life’s challenges in a healthy way. Trying out kava for natural tension relief is one of several things ordinary people can do to change the equation of how they respond to stress. Some other healthy ways of coping include regular meditation, physical exercise (especially practices that emphasize mindfulness such as yoga), and maintaining a healthy diet. Reducing consumption of alcohol, refined sugar and caffeine can be one simple way to ensure better sleep at night, while getting enough of vitamins B and C, and minerals like calcium, can ensure healthier brain function especially in times of stress. Although a certain amount of tension and stress is an unavoidable part of life, natural routes to tension relief like kava can help you overcome whatever life throws at you in a safe and effective manner.