Q: Everyone's talking about the herb ST. JOHN'S WORT for depression. What ifyou have the opposite problem? I'm a walking anxiety attack. I've tried "calming" herbs like CHAMOMILE tea and VALERIAN, but they didn't help much. Can you suggest any other natural remedies?
A: I'd recommend KAVAKAVA, a relaxing herb popular in the Polynesian islands, where it is crafted into a sacred drink that is often used in ritual and ceremonial functions, as well as a popular beverage consumed daily for its mood-altering effects. There have been more than 800 studies of kava's pharmacological and chemical properties; it counteracts fatigue, soothes the nervous system, and leaves one feeling pleasantly relaxed. I've found the herb works well for patients who are anxious. They gain a sense of well-being without the typical fatigue associated with most tranquilizing drugs. I do offer a word of caution, however: There have been some indications that kava may interfere with the functioning of DOPAMINE, an important neurotransmitter. As a result, it may worsen some cases of Parkinson's disease. In addition, a recent report titled "Coma from the Health Food Store" warns that there may be an interaction between kava and BENZODIAZEPINE tranquilizers.