Coming Soon to In the Weeds – Kava. What is it?
What is Kava?
What is kava?
Kava is a small shrub grown in Pacific islands, mainly Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, and Hawaii. Islanders have used kava plants for centuries in social rituals, religious ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. The root and stump of the plant are ground down and made into a natural, non-alcoholic beverage. When consumed, the effect of the active ingredients in the kava plant is psychological and physiological relaxation. Kava’s botanical name is Piper Methysticum and there are estimated to be over 105 different varieties of the plant.
Why drink kava?
There are numerous kava root benefits. Kava root drinks relax the mind and body and induce a sense of calm and euphoria, making it ideal to use for social relaxation. It can also be used to reduce stress, those everyday normal feelings of anxiousness when facing challenging life events, as well as to relieve muscle tension or to help on those occasions when getting to or staying asleep if difficult. There are many reasons to drink kava:
- An alternative to alcohol for social relaxation
- A way to alleviate stress and keep calm
- A means of taking normal everyday anxieties, worries and fears down a notch
- A way to lift their mood and increase sociability
- A natural sleep aid or to help with occasional sleeplessness
The calming effects of kava root drinks are due to a combination of the main active ingredients in the plant, (known as kavalactones), not to a single substance or compound. There are thought to be 18 different kavalactones, with a large majority of active ingredients coming from just six. Each variety has a different composition of these six kavalactones. This composition is represented by a six-digit chemotype that is assigned to each variety.
One of the big kava root benefits compared to alcohol is that it will not overly dehydrate your body or fill it with the toxins that lead to headaches and hangovers. While kava won’t impair your cognitive abilities and mental clarity in the same way that alcohol does, it is still recommended that you don’t drive after drinking it.
One of the major kava root benefits is that it has been proven to be non-addictive. Unlike other substances, drinking kava is not habit forming and you will not build up a tolerance to the effects causing you to need to drink more each time. In fact, the exact opposite has been shown. The beneficial effects of a drink of kava can be felt even more when less is drank on subsequent occasions. This is because of the distinctive way that kava affects the brain.
Kava and potential liver toxicity
Despite this, anyone researching kava for the first time will most certainly find websites, blogs and articles that claim kava drinking is bad for the liver and your health. The origin of these claims is research that was done over 15 years ago in Switzerland and Germany that led to kava drinking being banned in those countries and that the ban was reversed in 2015 after a growing body of new research has called into question these early research findings. This research has showed that cases of liver toxicity attributed to kava actually occurred only when the person was also taking other drugs and medications known to negatively effect liver function or consumed contaminated kava products.
Unfortunately the misinformation and health warnings still dominate online and obscure the numerous, and more up-to-date, university research studies that have since been done to gain a better understanding of how kava affects the mind and body and that have revealed important potential kava root health benefits.
The likelihood of negative health side effects from drinking kava is minimal. As the National Library of Medicine has stated, “based upon reported cases, the estimated frequency of clinically apparent liver injury due to kava is less than 1:1,000,000 daily doses.”
One precaution to take though is to only purchase and consume lab tested, Noble Kava varieties and to avoid consumption of Tudei (two-day) varieties of kava. Tudei kava varieties are typically used only for medicinal purposes in their originating countries and are aptly named for the negative side effects, that include feelings of nausea and lethargy, that can last up to two days.
At In the Weeds we only sell lab-tested, high-quality, fresh kava, sourced direct from farmers we know.
You might also like to refer to these other online resources and forums to learn more about kava root benefits and safety.
What is kava culture? On the Pacific islands, especially Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and Hawaii, there is a long history of kava drinking. It is an integral part of religious and ceremonial occasions and, on each island, there are distinct, deep-rooted, strong, cultural traditions associated with drinking kava.
Over the last ten years, the popularity of kava has been increasing worldwide as more and more people discover the benefits it can bring. Numerous kava bars have opened all over the U.S. with many being located in Florida and on the west coast.
If you have any other questions about Kava, feel free to email us; we’ll be happy to answer them for you.
*Before starting a dietary supplement, it’s always wise to check with a medical doctor to find out which is best for you. None of the information included here should be construed as medical advice.