Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is widely distributed throughout the central nervous system (CNS) and is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Reduced GABA levels, or impaired GABA function, in the brain has been linked to psychiatric and neurological disorders including anxiety, depression, insomnia and epilepsy.
A cup of tea is often associated with a sense of calm. L-theanine, a unique free amino acid naturally present in tea (Camellia sinensis), is likely the compound contributing most significantly to this.
Botanicals are an alternative option to prescription drugs for the alleviation of symptoms due to anxiety disorders and insomnia. Melissa officinalis L. has been shown as an antistress and anxiolytic agent.
A six-week, double-blind, randomised controlled trial involving chronic administration of kava (120mg kavalactones/day, titrated in non-response to 240mg kavalactones/day) or placebo for participants with generalised anxiety disorder.
Results showed no significant differences across groups for liver function tests, nor were there any significant adverse reactions that could be attributed to kava.
Depression and anxiety disorders are exploding in prevalence. It is believed that at least 3 million Australians, at any given time, suffer from these conditions. And, while we do have standard medication for many psychiatric and psychological conditions, research shows that anywhere between 60-90% of people prescribed antidepressants fail to get a benefit that is superior to placebo. What these statistics suggest is that we are not addressing the underlying causes.
Kava (Piper methysticum) is one of the most researched herbal anxiolytics showing the ability to significantly reduce anxiety symptoms in a variety of patients.
We are all familiar with what it feels like to react to a stressful or threatening event. That uneasy feeling of worry or panic, coupled with an increased heart rate, rapid breathing and loss of hunger, is a typical physiological response known as ‘fight or flight’. Of course, once the perceived threat goes away, so too should this reaction, and we soon after expect to return to a normal and relaxed state. However, for a considerable number of people, that uncomfortable feeling of fear or impending danger can be a persistent presence and so too can those distressing physiological symptoms.