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Kava anticholinergic? (re: studies connecting dementia with anticholinergics)

Discussion in 'Health & Wellness' started by neeko b, Apr 20, 2016.

  1. neeko b

    neeko b Member

    Hi all-
    First, thanks for a great forum, this is my first post. I've come a long way towards better kava consumption with the info here.

    I read about a study today suggesting a link between anticholinergic drugs like benadryl with dementia (source:

    I have also read that kava "may" have anticholinergic activity. (source:

    Is there any specific information available that clarifies whether or not Kava has this sort of activity? Any studies on dementia/long term mental health and kava use? Thanks very much.
  2. Zac Imiola (Herbalist)

    Zac Imiola (Herbalist) Kava Enthusiast

    No studies I assume. But experience over thousands of years :) and @Gourmet Hawaiian Kava do you have any info ?

    The thing with these connections is that those drugs are by their very nature anticholinergic.. and it takes a long time use of them.. not to mention the excessive amount of medicines that are being mixed .

    In my experience kava increases my memory capabilities.
    I've taken alot of benadryl in the past for insomnia before finding kava and you can feel the memory distortion from those drugs.

    All in all there maybe a compound in kava that is anticholinergic but it would be balanced by the many other chemical components in the root.
    There is nothing to worry about in that sense. It's not sedative enough to even be an even moderately anticholinergic. Since anything that is is very sedating since that's what anticholinergic means in a sense. It definitley doesn't block the neurotransmitter.

    Sorry if that was a rant haha I hope that answers your question.
  3. Alia

    Alia 'Awa Grower/Collector

    I hope this bit of information helps (if not, it is interesting anyway!)-- in 2008 a study was published in MOLECULAR PHARMACOLOGY which concludes- "kavalactones might be considered as an adjunct therapeutic strategy to combat neural demise in Alzheimer Disease and other oxidative stress-related diseases." Specific kavalactones mentioned were- methysticin, kavain, and yangonin. Mol Pharmacol 73:1785-1795, 2008. I am not sure of the link neek o b provided includes mention of this study.
  4. verticity

    verticity I'm interested in things

    Kava is not anticholinergic.

    - This ... thing, I'm not sure what it is; it is not a real science paper--claims that kava "...may have anticholinergic activity..." but cites no references to back up that claim.

    - This article claims a single case of Parkinsonism was caused by kava, which was alleviated by giving the patient anticholinergic drugs. If kava were anticholinergic itself, this makes no sense:
    Publication date: 2002, height of the 'liver scare' nonsense. Kava extract was used not kava.

    - A handful more case reports of Parkinsonism associated with kava kava extract:
    Source: anticholinergic&f=false

    So, no, kava is definitely not anticholinergic.

    Intriguing possible corollary: If kava gives you the hippy hippy shakes, try some Benadryl.

    EDIT: Sensible corollary 2: If you have Parkinson's Disease, don't use kava.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2016
    kavamehameha, Krunʞy and kavadude like this.
  5. Zac Imiola (Herbalist)

    Zac Imiola (Herbalist) Kava Enthusiast

    Kava blocks dopamine channels i had a rough time with mucuna because of constant kava consumption, so if she was taking levadopa and then some kava extract which we all know doesnt have the glutathione to protect us, that story just has so many flaws in saftey! lol.
  6. verticity

    verticity I'm interested in things

    I have seen it stated that yangonin blocks dopamine. I think actually in one of those same references I just cited. But on the other hand, kava is probably a mild MAOI, which means it would cause levels of all the catecholamines--including dopamine--to be increased. So if you are taking something like L-DOPA, or mucuna which iirc contains L-DOPA, you could inadvertently overdo the dopamine. [EDIT: Too much dopamine could cause "jitteryness" or a feeling of overstimulation, but that is not the same as Parkinsonism. Lowered dopamine levels cause Parkinsonian symptoms, L-DOPA raises dopamine levels to treat those symptoms. Lowered dopamine due to yangonin could theoretically cause Parkinsonian symptoms. These symptoms could happen if the effect of yangonin lowering dopamine is stronger than the dopamine-increasing MAOI effect, or if someone is already taking other medications that can lower dopamine such as anti-psychotics, or if the person actually already has Parkinson's Disease. So the extent of this effect would depend both on kavalactone profile (how much yangonin there is vs other KLs) and on the individual] That could cause annoyance and discomfort, but would go away as soon as the drugs left your system. Note, that is a completely different thing than saying that kava can cause Parkinson's Disease, which seems extremely unlikely to me. The difference is "Parkinsonian symptoms" go away when the substances causing them clear your system, whereas Parkinson's Disease is a chronic, progressive disease. It never goes away. It is not normally caused by drug use, but just happens like cancer. (Although there are some things, like some designer opioids that can actually cause brain damage that leads to a permanent Parkinson-like condition)

    So what are "Parkinsonian symptons" (or "Parkinsonism") anyway?
    1. Tremor
    2. Bradykinesia (Slowness of movement)
    3. Rigidity (Not being able to move)
    4. Postural instability (Problems balancing, not being able to walk, or even stand, falling on your ass, etc)

    These are symptoms that can be caused by many things including antipsychotic medication, other drugs, HIV infection, carbon monoxide poisoning, narcotics overdoses. In most but not all cases (exception is the neurotoxin MPTP found in designer street drugs in the 80's I don't know if it is still a problem these days), these symptoms are reversible when the cause is resolved or removed.

    "Parkinson's Disease" is like I said, a chronic, progressive disease with the above symptoms. It's cause is unknown in most cases.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
  7. KavaKitty

    KavaKitty Meaow

    Big Pharma and the medical industry will do anything to demonize natural alternatives. It never ceases to amaze me.
  8. verticity

    verticity I'm interested in things

    Please see my edits to this comment to clarify that Parkinsonism is caused by lowered dopamine levels.
  9. Capitán Bastos

    Capitán Bastos Presanteur

    Kava does not cause dementia. If it did, how would the people of Tonga, Vanuatu, Fiji, Hawaii etc remember that they started drinking it more than 3000 years ago?
    If anything, that should indicate that kava ensures longevity.
    kavamehameha and verticity like this.
  10. neeko b

    neeko b Member

    Yes, that is where I am coming down as the most reliable source of information...long term human use. Long live Kava. Thanks everyone for the responses.
  11. ThePiper

    ThePiper Kava Enthusiast

    I'm very curious about how kava affects dopamine. Is it possible that it lowers it? I like to keep as many feel good and motivation-implicated neurotransmitters available to my brain as possible because I have motivational issues sometimes, as well as depression. I know it's more complex than just that. Interesting kava seems to help with ADHD symptoms similar to dopamine agonists like adderall. Effects are widely different but both can help attention.
  12. verticity

    verticity I'm interested in things

    Well, I think you are right: it is complex. It can both lower it, and increase it. I guess if you want to avoid lowering dopamine levels, avoid strains that are high in yangonin. Now I bet the MAOI effect (dopamine increasing) and the dopamine antagonizing effect of yangonin have different kinetics. In other words, over the course of a session, you might experience both effects in a time-dependent manner...
  13. skippykava

    skippykava Member

    One reason I would suspect kava effects the acetylcholine (AChR) receptor is because drinking kava just once gives me dry eyes (with a 1-2 day delayed onset after drinking). This is why I can't drink kava. I did some searching and found dry eyes is related to anticholinergics. Perhaps kava is an agonist, not an antagonist and there is a rebound effect, who knows. If the dry eyes problem can be solved I could probably drink kava again.

    There is one thing I wanted to try with kava though. I've switched to a one meal a day diet which is intermittent fasting. It subsequently occurred to me this would be ideal for Kava drinking since Kava must be eaten on an empty stomach (6+ hours fast) anyway. If for any reason the AChR receptor is less susceptible to dysfunction with whatever neurological or metabolic activity during longer fasts or if the Kava problem is more related to digestion in some way then drinking kava at the 24 hour fast mark may be more beneficial.

    For people in general drinking Kava who don't have side effects they may enjoy the one meal a day plan anyway and find it works well with kava.

    I also got a lot of eczema when drinking kava just a few times though, so that is another problem. I seem to be very sensitive to Kava.
  14. Hm, you probably are just sensitive to kava. Maybe the eczema is also the kava dermopathy people speak of? As for me, I've got a sensitivity to anticholinergics and even with acceptable doses of such medications, I still get some very bad effects. IMO Kava is in no way comparable to the experiences I've had when taking drugs with anticholinergic effects. Maybe with a lot of kava, I'd feel similar in terms of my state of consciousness but I don't think kava has ever made me have 5 second memory and forget what I was saying mid-sentence. Then again, there are different ACh receptors like nicotinic and muscarinic and I'm pretty sure the muscarinic receptors are the ones that get blocked by anticholinergics like benadryl and cause the stuff I've experienced like memory issues, extremely dry mouth, fast heart rate, a heavy feeling that's very unpleasant and accompanied by a burning sensation, and muscle jerking at random. One thing I've noticed though, both heady kava and anticholinergics give me the shakes.
  15. PsyGuru

    PsyGuru Kava Enthusiast

    anticholinergic medications (benadryl, cogentin, artane) treat parkinsonian symptoms. if kava is "anticholingergic" it should not cause parkinsonian sympoms.
  16. ThePiper

    ThePiper Kava Enthusiast

    I have the same reaction. Half of a benedryl pill can send me from normal sleeping to restless delirium and strange body sensations. Im not even exaggerating. Kava doesnt do this at all, ever. kava affects many neurotransmitters and receptors. It affects dopamine, gaba, cannabinoid receptors (would like to reaearch this part more) and even has nmda antagonist qualities.
  17. verticity

    verticity I'm interested in things

    2019 update. This is an old thread but I was just realizing that some later research that came out in 2017 is directly relevant to the question of whether kava is "anticholinergic". This was the study that found that kava could cause convulsions and paralysis in worms, symptoms that in humans would be called Parkinsonian, and suggests that kava does have some effect on muscular acetylcholine transmissions:
    The effect might actually be described as cholinergic, or the opposite of anticholinergic.
  18. schatz

    schatz itchin for kava

    Good information to be aware of as I have parkinson tendencies I can't go into right now. And was thinking levodopa or anticholenergenics as diagnostics.
  19. Zac Imiola (Herbalist)

    Zac Imiola (Herbalist) Kava Enthusiast

    We obviously have to be careful when studies are not done on humans.
    Personally I believe kava has a sort of balancing effect on the cholinergic system, it seems to balance out tobacco very well but also cause people to crave it when they are users. Their is some activity their for sure.

    It's hard to say what exactly it does when mixed with anticholinergic's because it enhances them via the liver so we can't know if it's doubling the anticholinergic effect also from kava being one or if it even cancels it out since the effect is already increased from the liver alone.

    We do know from experience kava helps with nicotine withdrawal. And not just because it's relaxing. It can totally shift a person out of a craving. Ive seent it