How Did Kava Come to Be Known As ‘Nature’s Xanax’?

For centuries, the root plant Kava has been used around the Pacific Islands as a pain reliever, an anxiety reliever, and even in ceremonial drinks. Today, because it’s so good at relieving anxiety it’s often used as a way to wind down at the end of a long day or night once it’s time to go to sleep. Just a few drops of a kava extract can put you into a state of relaxation and focus. So what’s the secret behind this plant and how and why are people calling it “nature’s Xanax?”

Kavalactones are the secret weapon (or ingredient) in the kava plant’s ability to put us into a state of calm and focus. To be more specific, kavalactones are actually psychoactive, so they’re the reason people use kava to relieve anxiety and stress, to sleep better, to be relaxed but alert at the same time, and to soothe sore muscles in ways we would often turn to alcohol, only without actually consuming alcohol now. It can be taken in pill, powder, or tea form, with experts recommending anywhere from 70 to 250 mg of kavalactones a day.

If you're hoping to find better sleep, kava is something you can simply consume an hour before bed to find yourself in a more relaxed state, and then just as importantly, wake up the next morning without feeling groggy. Your lips will start to feel numb in about 20 minutes and kava’s relaxation effects typically last for the next three hours, hopefully well into your sleep as your muscles have become more relaxed and loose.

Research shows that a nightly routine is actually the best way to train your brain and your body for the best time to wind down. This means making kava a part of a specific nightly routine can make it most effective, as opposed to a simple one-off or random crutch when you want to get to sleep. The “nightcap,” for example, is a staple for some. But while alcohol can help you wind down and even make you a bit groggy before bed, it actually prevents you from falling into a deep and productive sleep throughout the night.

For those with anxiety, kava can help people relax without compromising a mental edge. Studies have shown that kava extract is comparable in its effectiveness to antidepressants and benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium when treating social anxiety and general anxiety disorders. The key here is in taking kava extracts as a part of a daily routine. In one study, participants who took kava daily for up to 24 weeks were found to have none of the side effects or addiction that can be associated with pharmaceuticals.

It does all this without compromising mental clarity. While both kava and wine, for example, can boost relaxation but you’ll only stay sharp mentally with kava. In fact, kava is so well regarded for its relaxation benefits that there are even Kava bars in the Pacific Islands, which are so prominent they’re a social staple — places where people go for relaxation and social lubricant just as they would go to sit belly up at a bar with a cold beer and good conversation.

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