Easing Anxiety with Kava

New research indicates this South Pacific root—an ancient tonic for relaxation—can help calm frayed nerves.

A recent study supports what Pacific islanders have known for thousands of years—kava, the root of a tropical pepper plant, can help reduce symptoms of anxiety.According to the study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology in May, kava may offer a natural and less addictive alternative to prescription medications for the skyrocketing number of people who suffer from anxiety—some 57.7 million American adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.Adam Smith is one of those people. After a military tour in Iraq, the 37-year-old from Asheville, North Carolina, says his PTSD-related anxiety was so intense at times he couldn’t leave his house. Kava hasn’t “cured” him, but he says it’s definitely helped him to relax.Smith heads to Noble Kava, a local shop, to drink the earthy brew a few times a week. He says it gives him a general feeling of well-being. “It’s that good feeling you have when you watch a sunset,” he says.For some 3,000 years across the South Pacific, the root of the kava plant has been pounded, mixed with water, strained, and enjoyed among friends as a social beve …

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