Kava on testosterone levels; does it affect steroidogenesis

Q: Does kava increase testosterone?

A: It likely can, although it has not been directly studied. Kava increases dopamine, which directly and indirectly (by lowering prolactin), can increase testosterone.

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Traditionally within the South Pacific, kava extracts are prepared from masticated rhizome roots which are combined with water or coconut milk (R). The stems and leaves are toxic and shouldn’t be consumed. Previous studies showed that kava was toxic, but they used stems and leaves instead of roots, incorrect kava cultivars and chemical solvents for extraction which may be implicated in cases of liver damage.

Mechanism of action

There have been identified to date 18 different kavalactones. approximately 96% of the total pharmacological activity can be attributed to the presence of six kavalactones: methysticin, dihydromethysticin, kavain, dihydrokavain, demethoxyyangonin, and yangonin.

Components in kava:

  • block the voltage-gated sodium ion channels (which help against pain)
  • reduce excitatory neurotransmitter release (such as glutamate) due to blockade of calcium ion channels
  • enhance ligand binding to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) type A receptors (Unlike benzodiazepines, kavalactones do not bind directly to GABA, and appear to activate GABAergic effects via modulation of the GABA channels, and increased binding to, and of number of, GABA binding sites)
  • reversibly inhibit monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B; thus inhibiting the breakdown of dopamine)
  • reduce neuronal reuptake of noradrenaline and dopamine
  • namely yangonin, has an affinity for the CB1 receptor, which is involved in pleasure
  • namely kavain, which decreases extraneuronal serotonin, which is involved in anhedonia for example

Here is how kava might increase testosterone

Certain studies show that catecholamines, like noradrenaline, can stimulate testicular steroidogenesis (R).

Dopamine potently lowers prolactin and prolactin negatively affects testosterone levels. Lowering prolactin, especially if in excess, leads to an increase in testosterone.

Sensitization of the GABA receptor can help to keep a break on other neurotransmitters that might get out of control, such as serotonin. Serotonin exerts an inhibitory effect on steroidogenesis (R).

Although kava might not directly stimulate steroidogenesis, it can help to prevent a drop in testosterone induced by stress, overexcitation or serotonin.

Dosing, frequency of use and precaution

Typical doses are around 200-250mg, however, traditionally, its use varies substantially across various regions, ranging from 750 to 8000 mg kavalactones/day, which is huge.

But keep in mind they likely only used such large doses on special occasions.

Lastly, kava extract inhibits the activities of CYP2C9 > CYP3A4 > CYP1A2 > CYP2D6
> CYP4A9 and CYP4A11 (R). So if you’re using any drugs that are metabolized via those enzymes, kava could potentiate them. My only concern is that kava reduces CYP1A2 function, which metabolizes estrone and estradiol into 2-hydroxyestrone and 2-hydroxyestradiol respectively. Inhibition of that enzyme can lead to higher levels of estradiol. However, this needs to be tested in vivo to see if it’s actually a concern.

In general, kava has mostly been studied to date for anxiety, so it can be used on a daily basis. However, I’d rather combine it with Kratom and only use it on occasions. A good combination supplement is Feel Free.

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