Kava is commonly associated with an exotic prelude to ceremony in an equally exotic place like the Fiji islands. However, Fiji isn’t the only place that uses this psychoactive root. Kava can be found throughout the South Pacific and is also used for medicinal purposes. But there are more than a few myths associated with its intake. So before rushing out to take advantage of its healing and pain relief properties – get the facts.
What Is Kava?
A perennial, or steady growing plant, indigenous to the South Pacific islands, there are many varieties, known by different names throughout the pacific: Yagona (Fiji), Kava-kava (Hawaii), ‘Awa (Hawaii), ‘Ava (Samoa) and Sakua (Pohnpei).
By any name, it’s synonymous with the almost mystical attribute of delivering an overall feeling of well-being to the consumer; making it popular with people that want a natural way to relax, or that prefer a non-habit forming alternative to prescription medication for pain relief.
Kava’s Primary Use?
In the west it is primarily used as a muscle relaxant and to treat sleep disorders like insomnia. It is also used to ease menopausal symptoms and to treat minor urinary tract infections and even acute anxiety. In the South Pacific, it is primarily used in ceremony, and chewed by natives to achieve a steady state of calm and well-being daily; much like relaxing with a cup of tea or a glass of wine may be in the west.
Any Dangerous Side Effects?
People that are not accustomed to regular doses of kava should start with small quantities, taken infrequently. It has been reported that some adverse reactions could occur if ingested frequently and in large amounts by people with no prior exposure to it, such as interference with regular body functions and healthy brain activity. Kava consumption has also been suspected of worsening some pre-existing conditions like Parkinson’s disease, and increasing the likelihood of hypertension. In worse case scenarios, liver disease and even liver failure have been reported.
Worth The Risk?
Yes and no. There are a few factors that must be considered before deciding if drinking kava is suitable for you. If any health-conditions exist, especially anything that may surround blood disorders and anemia, it is wise to consult with an alternative medical doctor to find out what your options are and if drinking kava is a safe practice for you.
What Are The Benefits of Drinking Kava?
So, you’ve given me the bad news, what are the kava drink effects like?
Well, building a tolerance is one positive aspect. The range of side-effects for large, frequent doses of this powerful antioxidant are virtually unknown in the range of indigenous people that live throughout the South Pacific; they’ve enjoyed it’s cumulative effects for centuries.
And, unlike a number of other drugs used to achieve the same effect including: alcohol, barbiturates, antidepressants, and antipsychotic drugs or synthetic tranquilizers, kava isn’t habit forming.
In fact, a peculiar property of kava is that it must be used fairly often to truly reach the desired effect and the body does not become addicted to it, nor build a type of tolerance that requires more frequent use. One that consumes kava regularly needs less of it over time to achieve the same effects. Just be careful not to pair the consumption of kava with any of the drugs listed above to avoid a serious reaction in an otherwise robust individual.
How Do I Take Kava?
Kava can be found in a variety of forms: liquids, tinctures, extracts, tablets, and capsules. It’s worth mentioning, however, that in the South Pacific where kava use is common, some communities, like in Fiji and Pohnpei, insist that unless it is processed at some point via mastication its full beneficial properties may not be realized. This insistence comes with a brief explanation that this is so because of chemical reactions between kavalactones, the main psychoactive ingredient of kava, and human saliva.
Where Can I Get Kava?
If you can’t find it in a health store, natural foods marketplace, or alternative treatments facility, the internet is a good source. Expect the variety to be significantly broader if sought online. Just search for Kava distributors, and kava powder, or whatever form you’d prefer to ingest it in.
Hope you have many good times with a hot cup of kava tea.