Herbs for Natural Sleep – Kava

Insomnia is a major concern in modern lifestyles. Without sufficient sleep, we cannot concentrate, cannot accomplish tasks and stress ourselves so that we are more susceptible to getting ill. Although there have been many prescription and over the counter medications made to help people with insomnia, most of these products comes with severe side effects. This is why modern insomniacs are turning to traditional herbal remedies such as kava to help them sleep.

What Is It?

Kava, also known as kava-kava, is a shrub that originated in the Pacific islands. Its scientific name is Piper methysticum, which is Latin for “pepper of intoxication”. Captain James Cook (1728 – 1779) christened kava with this scientific name. From that name alone one can deduce that kava makes you drowsy in a similar fashion to alcohol, except that you do not get drunk.

Kava is found in many products, including tinctures, capsules, juices and teas. The root is used to make these products. The chemicals that help relax a person and make them sleep are called kavalactones. Scientists do not yet fully understand how kavalactones operate on the brain, but one theory states that they affect the brain’s neurotransmitters and help tell the brain that it is time to go to sleep.

Any Side Effects?

Before you take any herbal product, be sure and talk to your doctor. Just because herbs are natural does not mean they are necessarily right for your particular health situation. Herbs are powerful medicine. Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D., author of “Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible” (Simon & Schuster; 1992) notes that the best method of using kava is to place between 10 to 30 drops of extract of tincture into water or a favorite juice.

Other mild side effects noted include hot flashes, some sensation loss in the mouth and a skin rash. Normal side effects include drowsiness, a drop in blood pressure or seeing things because you are so drowsy. Kava should only be used occasionally or less than a month continuously because it could harm the liver if taken over a long period of time, such as a year, according to America’s Food and Drug Administration. If you develop any sudden strange symptom after taking kava, contact your doctor.

Other Tips for Treating Insomnia

Insomnia can be a complex problem that no magic bullet such as kava can solve. Often a wide variety of physical, mental and environmental factors can combine in order to produce insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic. But kava and other natural favorites such as chamomile tea can help a patient regain control of his or her sleep patterns. Kava may be the only herbal solution to those who are allergic to chamomile.

Start getting into a ritual for sleep a couple hours before bed time. Do not drink caffeinated beverages or eat large portions of fatty foods. Do not watch very upsetting television such as a horror movie or the national news right before bed. Keep the sleeping room dark and cool. The use of a white noise machine can often help cover up disturbing noises that may wake you up.


Kava or Piper methysticum has been used for traditional herbal medicine for centuries in the Pacific Islands. It was used to help treat anxiety, bloating from water retention and to help get restful sleep. Kava is not for long-term use, but can help many people get back into the habit of regular sleep.

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