Kava tea is having a moment because of its potential stress relief and relaxation properties. The kava plant, also known as kava kava, is an evergreen shrub with heart-shaped leaves and is a member of the nightshade family of plants. It’s native to the South Pacific islands, where people have been using the plant’s root ceremonially for centuries. Today, kava is most commonly found in tea but is also sold in liquid or capsule form.
Studies of kava have uncovered significant relaxing and stress-reducing properties. One of the first long-term studies on the effects of kava found that it significantly decreased anxiety and stress in participants, as compared to a placebo, with negligible side effects. The results have been replicated many times since then, to the degree that researchers are considering it as an alternative to certain anxiety medications.
When studying the components of kava, researchers found that its active ingredients are compounds called kavalactones. These compounds interact with neurotransmitters in the brain, decreasing anxiety, aiding sleep, and even potentially reducing pain sensations.
However, kava isn’t the only tea that studies indicate has stress-relief properties.
GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that’s credited with lowering stress levels. Some tea leaves naturally contain more GABA, such as oolong, but any tea leaves can be turned into GABA tea through a special oxygen-free fermentation process. This method naturally converts certain amino acids in the tea leaves into GABA. While GABA is a source of stress relief in the brain, studies have not confirmed that GABA tea is as effective in decreasing stress.
VALERIAN ROOT TEA
Valerian has been used to promote relaxation since ancient times, and modern studies confirm its potential for reducing stress. Various antioxidants in valerian interact with neurotransmitters the same way that many anti-anxiety medications do, promoting feelings of calmness and tranquility.
Want to try valerian root tea? Here's our favorite blends:
Although passionflower has not been studied extensively, it already shows promise in relieving stress and anxiety. There are about 500 known species of passionflower, but the one that’s been studied is Passiflora incarnata, more commonly known as purple passionflower or maypop.
Like many other herbal teas, kanna has been used by cultures where it grows natively for a long time, but research into it has only just begun. South African cultures have enjoyed its effects for centuries, and some European cultures even use it to prevent separation anxiety in dogs and cats. Studies into kanna’s effects have been minimal, but show promise in its ability to reduce anxiety and improve mood.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the compound in cannabis that doesn’t cause a high. It’s a trendy product at the moment, and for good reason. Studies consistently show that CBD can boost your mood and manage your stress, as well as other benefits such as potentially reducing chronic pain. CBD can be consumed in numerous forms, but CBD tea is one of the most natural and healthy options available.
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