Clinical trial supports use of Kava to treat anxiety

How Can I Be Happy? Turn Down the Volume on Anxiety

May 15, 2013

Piper_methysticum

Kava (Piper methysticum) (credit: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons)

A world-first completed clinical study by an Australian team has found Kava, a medicinal South Pacific plant, significantly reduced the symptoms of people suffering anxiety.

The study, led by the University of Melbourne, revealed Kava could be an alternative to pharmaceutical products for the hundreds of thousands of Australians who suffer from generalized anxiety disorders (GAD)

“In this study we’ve been able to show that Kava offers a potential natural alternative for the treatment of chronic clinical anxiety; unlike some other options, it has less risk of dependency and less potential for side effects,” said lead researcher, Dr Jerome Sarris from Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne.

The study also found that people’s genetic differences (polymorphisms) of certain neurobiological mechanisms called GABA transporters may modify their response to Kava.

“If this finding is replicated, it may pave the way for simple genetic tests to determine which people may be likely to have a beneficial anxiety-reducing effect from taking Kava,” Sarris said.

‘I’ll have what she’s having’

An additional novel finding of the study, recently published in Phytotherapy Research, was that Kava increased women’s sex drive compared to those in the placebo group, believed to be due to the reduction of anxiety, rather than any aphrodisiac effect.

Future studies confirming the genetic relationship to therapeutic response, and any libido-improving effects from Kava is now required. Dr Sarris said these significant findings are of importance to sufferers of anxiety and to the South Pacific region, which relies on Kava as a major export.

[snip]

“Although scientific studies provide some evidence that kava may be beneficial for the management of anxiety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning that using kava supplements has been linked to a risk of severe liver damage.” — NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine,

“Heavy use of kava with comorbid alcohol consumption or an existing liver condition appears to lead to malnutrition, weight loss, liver damage (causing elevated serum γ -glutamyltransferase and high-density lipoproteincholesterol levels), renal dysfunctionrashespulmonary hypertensionmacrocytosis of red cellslymphocytopenia, and decreasing platelet volumes. —  Fu PP, Xia Q, Guo L, Yu H, Chan PC (2008). “Toxicity of kava kava”. J Environ Sci Health C Environ Carcinog Ecotoxicol Rev 26 (1): 89–112 [98]. doi:10.1080/10590500801907407.PMID 18322868.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kava for more.

— Editor

UPDATE 5/15: Dangers of Kava cited in editorial statement.

Do Anxious Men Make Lousy Fathers? Happy Father’s Day?

From ScienceDaily (June 13, 2012) — Normally, male California mice are surprisingly doting fathers, but new research published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology suggests that high anxiety can turn these good dads bad.

Unlike most rodents, male and female California mice pair up for life with males providing extensive parental care, helping deliver the pups, lick them clean, and keep them warm during their first few weeks of life. Experienced fathers are so paternal that they’ll even take care of pups that aren’t theirs. “If we place a male California mouse in a test cage and present it with an unknown pup, experienced fathers will quickly start to lick and huddle with it,” said Trynke de Jong, a post-doctoral researcher at University of California, Riverside.

Inexperienced males, on the other hand, aren’t always so loving. “Virgin males show more variability,” de Jong explained. “They may behave paternally, or they may ignore the pup, or even attack it. We want to understand what triggers these three behavioral responses in virgin males.”

De Jong and her colleagues thought this variability might have something to do with social status. In other species — including another rodent, Mongolian gerbils — dominant virgin males are more likely than subordinate ones to kill pups. Perhaps social status influences parenting in California mice as well.

To test this, de Jong and her colleagues paired up 12 virgin males in six enclosures, and performed several tests to see which was dominant. First was a food competition. “If a cornflake is dropped in the cage, the more dominant male will manage to eat most of it,” de Jong said. The researchers also observed each mouse’s urine marking. “Dominant males will make more, smaller, and more widespread marks than subordinate males,” said de Jong

After determining the mightier mouse in each pair, the team tested parental behavior by introducing a pup. Contrary to the hypothesis, scores on the dominance tests did not predict whether a male licked or huddled up to the pup. However, the research did turn up signs that anxiety, not status, plays a role in paternal behavior.

Males who shied away from urinating the middle of a new enclosure — a behavioral signal that a mouse is anxious — were slower to approach a pup. Further tests showed that less paternal males had higher levels of the vasopressin in their brains. Vasopressin is a hormone that is strongly associated with stress and anxiety.

“Our findings support the theory that vasopressin may alter the expression of paternal behavior depending on the emotional state of the animal,” de Jong said. She believes these results could shed light on the role of stress in paternal care in other mammals — including humans.

Peace,

John

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology Coach

Author of the award-winning Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion & Thought

Guide To Self, Inc.

913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280

Danville CA 94526

GuideToSelf.comWeb site

WebAngerManagement.com – 10-week online anger management course

DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com –  Awarded #1 Blog in Positive Psychology by PostRank, Top 100 Blog by Daily Reviewer

@johnschinTwitter

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

The Connection Between The Gut, The Brain and Stress

From Harvard Medical School

Have you ever had a “gut-wrenching” experience? Do certain situations make you “feel nauseous”? Have you ever felt “butterflies” in your stomach? We use these expressions for a reason. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation—all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut.

The brain has a direct effect on the stomach. For example, the very thought of eating can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a patient’s distressed gut can be as much the cause as the product of anxiety, chronic anger, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected — so intimately that they should be viewed as one system, rather than two.

This is especially true in cases where a person experiences gastrointestinal upset with no obvious physical cause. For such functional GI disorders, trying to heal a distressed gut without considering the impact of stress and emotion is like trying to improve an employee’s poor job performance without considering his manager and work environment.

Stress and the functional GI disorders

Given how closely the gut and brain interact, it becomes easier to understand why you might feel nauseated before giving a presentation, or feel intestinal pain during times of stress. That doesn’t mean, however, that functional gastrointestinal illnesses are imagined or “all in your head.” Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as the modulation of symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, cause inflammation, or make you more susceptible to infection.

In addition, research suggests that some people with functional GI disorders perceive pain more acutely than other people do because their brains do not properly regulate pain signals from the GI tract. Stress can make the existing pain seem even worse.

These observations suggest that at least some patients with functional GI conditions might find relief with therapy to reduce stress or treat anxiety or depression. And sure enough, a review of 13 studies showed that patients who tried psychologically based approaches had greater improvement in their symptoms compared with patients who received conventional medical treatment.

Is stress causing your symptoms?

When evaluating whether your gastrointestinal symptoms — such as heartburn, abdominal cramps, or loose stools — are related to stress, watch for these other common symptoms of stress and report them to your clinician as well.

Physical symptoms

  • Stiff or tense muscles, especially in the neck and shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Sleep problems
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Recent loss of interest in sex
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Restlessness

Behavioral symptoms

  • Procrastination
  • Grinding teeth
  • Difficulty completing work assignments
  • Changes in the amount of alcohol or food you consume
  • Taking up smoking, or smoking more than usual
  • Increased desire to be with or withdraw from others
  • Rumination (frequent talking or brooding about stressful situations)

Emotional symptoms

  • Crying
  • Overwhelming sense of tension or pressure
  • Trouble relaxing
  • Nervousness
  • Quick temper
  • Depression
  • Poor concentration
  • Trouble remembering things
  • Loss of sense of humor
  • Indecisiveness

Harvard Medical School. For full article, visit the Web site at http://www.health.harvard.edu to find reports of interest to you and your family.

Copyright © 2010 by Harvard University.

 

Mindfulness meditation increases well-being in adolescent boys,

From ScienceDaily (Sep. 1, 2010)

‘Mindfulness’, the process of learning to become more aware of our ongoing experiences, increases well-being in adolescent boys, a new study reports.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge analyzed 155 boys from two independent UK schools, Tonbridge and Hampton, before and after a four-week crash course in mindfulness. After the trial period, the 14 and 15 year-old boys were found to have increased well-being, defined as the combination of feeling good (including positive emotions such as happiness, contentment, interest and affection) and functioning well.

Professor Felicia Huppert of the Well-being Institute at the University of Cambridge said: “More and more we are realising the importance of supporting the overall mental health of children. Our study demonstrates that this type of training improves well-being in adolescents and that the more they practice, the greater the benefits. Importantly, many of the students genuinely enjoyed the exercises and said they intended to continue them — a good sign that many children would be receptive to this type of intervention.

“Another significant aspect of this study is that adolescents who suffered from higher levels of anxiety were the ones who benefitted most from the training.”

For the experiment, students in six classes were trained in mindful awareness — mindfulness. Mindfulness is a ‘way of paying attention. It means consciously bringing awareness to our experience, in the present moment, without making judgements about it’. Students in the five control classes attended their normal religious studies lessons.

The training consisted of four 40 minute classes, one per week, which presented the principles and practice of mindfulness. The classes covered the concepts of awareness and acceptance, and taught the schoolboys such things as how to practice bodily awareness by noticing where they were in contact with their chairs or the floor, paying attention to their breathing, and noticing all the sensations involved in walking.

The students were also asked to practice outside the classroom and were encouraged to listen to a CD or mp3 file for eight minutes a day. These exercises are intended to improve concentration and reduce stress.

All participants completed a short series of online questionnaires before and after the mindfulness project. The questionnaires measured the effect of the training on changes in mindful awareness, resilience (the ability to modify responses to changing situations) and psychological well-being.

The researchers found that although it was a short programme, the students who participated in the mindfulness training had increased levels of well-being which were proportional to the amount of time the students spent practicing their new skills.

Professor Huppert continued: “We believe that the effects of mindfulness training can enhance well-being in a number of ways. If you practice being in the present, you can increase positive feelings by savouring pleasurable on-going experiences. Additionally, calming the mind and observing experiences with curiosity and acceptance not only reduces stress but helps with attention control and emotion regulation — skills which are valuable both inside and outside the classroom.”

The success of this initial study has recently led to the creation of an exciting 8 week mindfulness curriculum for schools in both the state and private sectors. This new curriculum, which includes games and video clips, should have even greater benefits.

For further information, see http://mindfulnessinschools.org.

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Cambridge, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
1.    Felicia Huppert, Daniel Johnson. A controlled trial of mindfulness training in schools: The importance of practice for an impact on well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2010; 5 (4): 264 DOI: 10.1080/17439761003794148

FREE Copy of the Best Self Help Book of the Year!

I’m kicking off the launch of my new video blog at drjohnsblog.wordpress.com. And to make the announcement fun for all, I thought I’d offer a FREE copy of my book Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought.

It’s all about how to quiet the voices in your head, turn down the volume on negative emotions and turn up the volume on positive emotions, click here for instant access!

So if you want a free PDF version of some of the latest proven tools to manage your mind, the latest methods to increase your happiness via positive psychology, the greatest tips to manage your anger, check it out! Click here for a fantastic freebie!

Enjoy!

John