A traditional extract of Kava, a medicinal plant from the South Pacific, may be safe and effective in reducing anxiety as well as depression, a study has found.
In the study, researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia found that a water-soluble extract of Kava was effective in treating anxiety and improving mood.
The Kava was prescribed in the form of tablets.
Lead researcher Jerome Sarris, a PhD candidate from UQ's School of Medicine, said the placebo-controlled study found Kava to be an effective and safe treatment option for people with chronic anxiety and varying levels of depression.
"We've been able to show that Kava offers a natural alternative for the treatment of anxiety, and unlike some pharmaceutical options, has less risk of dependency and less potential of side effects," Sarris said.
Each week participants were given a clinical assessment as well as a self-rating questionnaire to measure their anxiety and depression levels.
The researchers found anxiety levels decreased dramatically for participants taking five tablets of Kava per day as opposed to the placebo group, which took dummy pills.
"We also found that Kava had a positive impact on reducing depression levels, something which had not been tested before," Sarris said.
While the three-week trial raised no major health concerns regarding the Kava extract used, the researchers said larger studies were required to confirm the drug's safety.
The study is to be published online this week in the Springer journal Psychopharmacology.