Image courtesy of Kava Vinaca.
Depression and anxiety are issues that many people are struggling with each day, and everyone would like a solution for it. There are many medications on the market to treat these mental illnesses, but a lot of people are still struggling. Some would just like to try a different solution, one that may not involve switching from pill to pill, trying again and again to find the right fit. In these cases, it is sometimes worth it to try out some alternative medicine. Some alternatives to the average pharmaceuticals are kava and 5 htp.
Both kava and 5 htp are naturally derived drugs that are purported to help with anxiety and depression. Kava mainly helps out with anxiety while 5 htp mainly assists with depression, but they overall have many positive effects. With depression or anxiety comes several debilitating symptoms like fatigue, appetite dysregulation, and lack of sleep, and these drugs target each of these symptoms in different ways. Knowing valuable information about these drugs will help you make the right choice for your mental health. Find out if kava or 5 htp are right for you!
What is Kava?
Kava is a depressant drug that slows down the messages that travel between the brain and the body. It is made from the root of the kava tree, known as Piper methysticum found in the Pacific Ocean Islands, and can be taken in a number of ways. The name Piper methysticum translates to “intoxicating pepper,” but the kava plant is known by many different names throughout the world. It is known by Milik, Tonga, Yagona, Ava Root, Sakau, Kew, Poivre des Cannibales, as well as several other names. It has been used on the Pacific Islands as traditional medicine for hundreds of years, and now people in our country are figuring out its benefits. It is used primarily for the treatment of anxiety and is said to have other uses as well.
It is served as a herbal supplement in an unregulated market as of now, so buyers have to make sure that they get their kava from the best possible sources. Kava is something that you should discuss with someone knowledgeable before beginning treatment. You should either go to a doctor or to a practitioner who is trained in the use of herbal supplements. With proper guidance when using kava, anxiety symptoms can lessen significantly over time.
How Does Kava Work?
Kava is a nervous system depressant. It can cause effects that are similar to alcohol. Small doses will cause a person to experience muscle relaxation, feelings of relaxation, and appetite loss among other symptoms, and larger doses can bring on dilated pupils, red eyes, drowsiness, and reduced control over movement.
Kava works by targeting the brain and other parts of the central nervous system. Kava is filled with kavalactones that are believed to cause its effects. Kavalactones are sticky, insoluble substances that pass through the bloodstream as it is absorbed. That causes the same effects as a muscle relaxant. It is even known to be a good replacement for benzodiazepines like xanax.
How To Take Kava
Kava can be used in several different ways. Traditionally, kava was served crushed and ground, and then soaked in cold water to make a drink. Another old way to use kava was to chew it. Nowadays, people who use kava have many different methods for ingesting it. It is available as a drink, as tablets, and as tea bags. And although there are different ways to take kava, you should only use one method at a time. If you are drinking kava tea, don’t also take a tablet. Stick with just the tea to limit your chances of an overdose.
It is recommended that you take kava on an empty stomach to maximize the effects. The taste is described as similar to dirt, and your lips and tongue may go numb for a few minutes after drinking it. To drink kava tea, you will need ground kava leaves to put into a muslin cloth to seep in water, micronized kava can simply be mixed into anything you are drinking, and kava concentrate is a concentrated liquid form of cava that can be added to any drink with an eye dropper.
Side Effects of Kava
When it comes to kava, there are a range of side effects you should worry about that range from mild to severe. You can minimize the risk of side effects by taking the right dosage. The right dosage for you would coincide with your body weight, and should ideally be set by an expert. Kava acts as a nervous system depressant, and because of that, too much can lead you from feel-good territory into just the opposite.
Some of the more mild side effects you can experience from kava include headaches, drowsiness, nausea, and diarrhea. More severe side effects can include numbness, fever, weight gain, and blurred vision. Many users report that kava makes them feel as if they were drinking alcohol, but only much more alert. The majority of users report feeling euphoria and intense relaxation after taking kava.
Kava is a substance that should be used very sparingly. The more frequently you use kava, the more you will risk some of its more serious side effects. Those side effects include liver failure and cirrhosis of the liver. Chronic kava use can affect the liver most because of how it metabolizes in the body. Signs that you could have liver damage are fatigue, jaundice, and dark urine. Other possible side effects of chronic use include stomach irritation, shortness of breath, and hallucinations. Kava is almost always safe for short term use, but with longer term use comes greater risks.
What is 5 htp?
5-hydroxytryptophan, also known as 5 htp, is a naturally occurring amino acid that can be converted to serotonin in the body. It is a chemical byproduct of L-tryptophan, a protein building block. It’s produced from the seeds of an African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia, and is produced commercially.
This chemical compound is used to treat depression because it increases serotonin levels in the brain and in the central nervous system. It can affect behavior, sleep habits, and appetite by improving them for the better. It’s even known to work as well as prescription antidepressant drugs, which is why it’s becoming a growing treatment option. There is a chance that 5 htp may offer benefits to people with illnesses other than depression, but those benefits haven’t been confirmed as of yet.
How Does 5 htp Work?
It can take a few weeks to feel the initial effects of 5 htp, though it has a very streamlined way of lowering the effects of depression and anxiety symptoms. It increases the amount of serotonin available in the central nervous system, and it does that by bypassing the mechanisms that usually limit serotonin production. Absorption of 5 htp in the intestines does not require the presence of a transport molecule. It also isn’t affected by the presence of other amino acids, which is one thing that makes it so effective.
5 htp easily crosses the blood-brain barrier, so about 70 percent of it will end up in the bloodstream when it’s taken. Once it’s in the bloodstream, it increases the nervous system’s synthesis of serotonin by a lot, which is what will eventually lead to positive changes in mood, appetite regulation, and insomnia. The presence of serotonin in good quantities leads to a host of emotional benefits.
How to Take 5 htp
The best time to take 5 htp is right before you go to bed. Since it helps you relax, it will help lull you into a deep and comfortable sleep. If you have any trouble sleeping, this will be especially helpful for you. You should take it about 30-45 minutes before you go to sleep. That way it will kick in right at the perfect time. With 5 htp, you should start off with low doses and then raise it over time if you realize you could benefit from a higher dosage. 5 htp is usually served in capsules that you simply take with water.
Side Effects of 5 htp
One of the best things about 5 htp is that the side effects are surprisingly limited. When taken in recommended doses, 5 htp does not pose much of a risk at all. Though you can end up with some relatively mild side effects that some users of 5 htp have reported experiencing. Some of those side effects include nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, stomach pain, and grogginess. These symptoms usually aren’t debilitating and for those who experience them, they can be far less severe than their previous depression symptoms.
And like with any chemical compound, even naturally occurring ones, if you take too much, you can face some more serious consequences. Serious side effects associated with too high a dosage of 5 htp include vomiting and sexual dysfunction. In very rare occasions like this, a patient could suffer from EMS, a rare condition that affects the muscles, skin, and lungs. This condition can cause pain during everyday life, so it is best to always take the right dosage.
How Do Kava And 5 htp Compare?
Kava is less regulated than 5 htp. 5 htp is something that has the backing of a lot more medical professionals, and that is because it happens to be safer than kava. 5 htp has relatively mild side effects, and even its more severe side effects aren’t all that damaging. Kava on the other hand requires a lot more caution. It can also have mild symptoms, but only when taken for short periods of time. When you take kava for prolonged periods of time, it can cause some pretty negative side effects. One of the worst side effects you can experience from kava is liver damage. This damage has a big chance of being chronic, so kava ultimately carries a lot more risk as a treatment.
5 htp is easier to get than kava. Because of the potential side effects, kava is banned in some countries. You are able to purchase it within the U.S., but since it's unregulated, it can be more difficult to find a reputable seller. When items are unregulated, some sellers will dilute or cut their product with anything they can to maximize their profits, which could put you in danger if you buy from the wrong person. 5 htp can be gotten at pretty much any drug store. It used to be given only with a prescription, but for years now, it has been available to buy over the counter as supplements.
Kava and 5 htp Combined
Kava and 5 htp should not be used together. The biggest reason you should not use them together is that they both have the ability to make you drowsy, and so combining them will only worsen those effects. 5 htp is known to interact with about 95 drugs, while kava is known to interact with a total of 267 other drugs. These drugs each do their best work when they aren’t combined, so take them separately for the best results.
Kava and 5 htp are drugs that help with mood disorders like anxiety and depression, and they are used in ways that are similar but still different to produce somewhat similar results. These drugs are made to make you feel better overall when you are suffering through mood disorders, and now that you know a little bit about them, you can decide which one is best for you!