Kava is on the uprise yet again!!

Kava upriseAlthough kava has been consumed by South Pacific islanders for centuries upon centuries, there have been some misguided attempts to reduce kava consumption. As a sad result there have been occasional dips in the amount of kava that is being consumed within the South Pacific and abroad.

We’re now on to a more pleasing time within kava history – Fijian reports are in and it’s official, kava consumption is on the rise in Fiji!!

With what could perhaps be considered one of the more tragic points within kava history (the series of bans resulting from the BfArM’s inconclusive studies regarding kava and liver toxicity), there was a severe decline in the consumption of kava worldwide. Unfortunately, this too had negative results in the South Pacific – as the global market for kava decreased, so did the kava-growing plantations on the islands, and with that many jobs were lost as well.

And it wasn’t too long ago that the Fijian government had attempted to ban kava drinking on certain days within some of its very own villages! As Commissioner Eastern Natani Riki explained, kava was being blamed for some of the social and economic development issues within iTaukei island populations.

However, bright and better days are upon us! It seems as though that ban never went through and the councils involved seem to have come to their good senses and realized that kava is actually very beneficial and helps the people to cope with their social and economic struggles. After all, without so many kava farms many of the iTaukei people would be left unemployed and a huge market for trade capital would be diminished.

The Fiji Times Online has just published an article outlining official statistics with regard to kava consumption in Fiji and it is my hope that these statistics reflect the global kava-drinking market as well.

However, due to a few conflicting points it is unclear how recent these particular statistics are.  The article reports, 1. a rise in kava consumption from 1993-2004, 2. that the survey is conducted every ten years, and 3. that the survey was launched just this last Friday – none of these points seem to coincide. If these statistics are conducted every 10 years, then how come the years listed are already ten years past?  What I think is meant, is that the last survey of 1993-2004 indicated an uprise of kava drinking and that the survey launched on Friday also reported positive feedback.

Either way, here are some quick and beautiful statistics as reported in the survey conducted by the Health Ministries’ National Food and Nutrition Centre:

  • The male drinking population is up by just about 10% and the female drinking population is up by just over 15%. Woo hoo! Although kava is traditionally only consumed by men – those traditional standards seem to be dissipating, allowing more and more women to share in the joys of kava on the islands.
  • About 70% of the Fijian population drinks kava at least two times a week.
  • A whopping 90% of Fiji adolescents reportedly drink kava at least twice a week. This could suggest just how much of a healthy opportunity kava could provide as an alternative to drinking alcohol in the United States and elsewhere that alcohol consumption is heavy amongst adolescents. All the more reason to keep those kava bars coming!

With the nearly global legal status of kava, I would wager a bet that there has been a fairly stark increase in kava-drinking populations all around the world and that the love of the South Pacific is well on its way to becoming a global icon of bliss and well being.

Cheers to kava and prospering joy!

Mahalo,

Kava Guru

Sources:

Sauvakacolo, Siteri. “Kava on the Up”.  The Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=283640.

 

Don’t Mix That Kava Supplement! New Articles Spotlight Risk of Kava Dermopathy

New Articles Highlight Risk of Kava DermopathyAloha, kava lovers, Kava Guru here! Over the past couple weeks, kava has been appearing in the news in a rather uncomfortable way: two recently published news articles drew attention to the possibility that kava may cause rashes, especially in combination with other herbal supplements or with medications [1]. This condition is called “kava dermopathy”, and while uncomfortable and unsightly it is also completely reversible by ceasing use of kava for a time. Kava dermopathy is much more likely to occur with long-term use of kava at higher doses, such as those typically consumed socially in the South Pacific. These amounts of kava are far above the therapeutic doses used in the West, and the majority of kava users will never have to worry about kava dermopathy at all.

Why mention kava dermopathy since it’s so rare? Well, the story behind these recent articles piqued my interest: the reports center around a man who experienced a rash characteristic of kava dermopathy after he started taking a kava supplement to help him quit smoking [1]. This in itself I found interesting! While kava supplements have not been marketed as smoking cessation aids, research has been done on kava’s potential to help soothe nicotine cravings due to kava’s calming and stress-relieving properties [2]. The recent reports also indicated that the man had only been using kava for three weeks, and not at the higher doses that would put him at risk of developing kava dermopathy. On top of that, he stopped using kava when the rash first appeared—which reversed the condition—only to have the rash reappear as soon as he resumed using kava!

So what’s going on here? As it turns out, when the man went to his doctor after the second rash appeared, he revealed in his patient interview that he had been taking citalopram (Celexa), an anti-anxiety medication, concurrently with the kava supplement. In a bit of medical detective work, the doctors hypothesized that since kava kava is metabolized by the same enzyme pathway as citalopram, it likely interacted with the medication, causing an adverse reaction in the man’s sebaceous (oil-producing) skin glands [1]. A second article also noted that the man had a history of high cholesterol [3], a fact that my guru wisdom found especially telling—one of the hypothesized causes of kava dermopathy is that kavalactones, when taken at high doses over long periods of time, may interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize cholesterol. It’s quite possible that besides the kava supplement-medication combination, this man may have been predisposed to developing kava dermopathy as well.

To me, the takeaway from this story is that it’s very important to tell your doctor or holistic healthcare practitioner all the medications, herbal supplements, and other kinds of supplements or vitamins (such as fish oils) you are taking. Informing your doctor is especially important when you’re considering adding a new supplement such as kava kava to your daily regimen; your doctor can help you navigate the pros and cons of many supplements and how they might interact with what you’re already taking. Supplements can be a great way to boost your health and enjoy a better quality of life. Being honest about your medical history, as well as other medications and supplements you’re taking, can help ensure that you enjoy the greatest benefit while minimizing the risks. And you wouldn’t want to miss out on all the great benefits kava has to offer!

Mahalo,

Kava Guru

REFERENCES

1. Gilette, Hope. “Skin Rash? Stop Taking That Kava Supplement!” Saludify. October 3rd, 2014. http://voxxi.com/2014/10/03/kava-kava-skin-rash?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+voxxi+VOXXI.

2.Steiner Laboratories. “Kava As an Anti-Craving Agent. Preliminary Studies.” Pacific Health Dialogue.

3. Boxe, Agata Blaszczak. “Popular Supplement Is Culprit in Itchy Rash”. Fox News. October 2nd, 2014. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/10/02/popular-supplement-is-culprit-in-itchy-rash/.

4. Castillo, Stephanie. “Mixing Kava With Other Meds Gave One Man an Itchy Rash; How to Eat Your Supplements and Medicate, Too”. Medical Daily. October 4th, 2014. http://www.medicaldaily.com/mixing-kava-other-meds-gave-one-man-itchy-rash-how-eat-your-supplements-and-medicate-too-306260.

Can Kava Be Used as a Herbal Sleep Aid?

Can Kava Help You Sleep? Kava Guru

A recent article in Hampton Roads titled “Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids May Impact Overall Health” shone some light on the drawbacks of many of the non-prescription sleep aids people in our overstressed, overworked society use to help them get to sleep at night [1]. Besides the short-term risks of delayed awakening and daytime drowsiness—no small consideration if you have to get behind the wheel of a car every morning!—the article pointed up long-term risks of habitual sleep aid use, including worsening sleep apnea, increased risk of heart disease and even cancer.

As the Kava Guru, I could only say, “Really? And all while a totally natural herbal sleep aid has been used in the South Pacific for millennia with no issues?” While the article did mention briefly that some people use kava kava (Piper methysticum) as a sleep aid, as well as other popular calming herbs like valerian, lavender essential oil, and chamomile, it was quick to label these remedies as lacking in scientific evidence. And of course, it also repeated the long-discredited information that use of kava may be linked to liver damage, which anyone who has read the new studies defending kava’s superior safety record knows was based on studies that were flawed at best, sensational at worst. But uneven as it was, the article got me thinking: can kava help you sleep?

Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep specialist writing on WebMD, stated that kava kava has been used a sleep aid in the South Pacific for its sedating and calming qualities [2]. However, at the time he was writing in 2011, there was much more uncertainty as to why some people experienced idiosyncratic reactions to kava kava, so he still recommended avoiding its use. However, as recently as last year, new evidence has emerged suggesting the culprit in the mid-2000s liver toxicity cases might be flavokavain B, a non-kavalactone compound found only in ignoble (or “Tudei”) kava strains that are now banned from export [3].

Diagnose Me, an online diagnosis website similar to WebMD, suggests that kava kava may encourage sleep by reducing the anxiety and stress that is a common cause of sleeplessness for many people [4]. Makes sense to me! Everyday stress, especially the inability to settle one’s thoughts before bedtime, is a huge factor in sleeplessness. The less sleep you get, the harder it is to get a handle on projects and tasks the next day, the more stressed you become, and the harder it is to get to sleep…you see the pattern developing here? Kava could very well offer harried Westerners a giant “reset” button by helping them achieve a state of relaxed calm, making it that much easier to drift into restful sleep. Other studies have suggested that kava has mild analgesic and muscle relaxant properties [4], so it might reduce mild aches and pains that can interefere with rest and help the body unwind physically before bed.

The site also references a very intriguing study on kava’s effects on brainwaves that was done by Saletu et al in 1989 [5]. The double-blind placebo-controlled study found that doses of synthetic kavain between 200 and 600 mg “enhances brain activity that favors restorative sleep… EEG [electroencephalogram] activity showed that kavain increased the alpha-1, theta, and delta waves that are associated with sleep while decreasing beta waves, which are a sign of wakefulness” [5]. As if that wasn’t enough evidence, these effects also increased as the dose of kavain was increased, so that “600mg of kavain produced sedation comparable to 30mg of clobazapam”, a benzodiazepine drug used as a control.

Well readers, I think it’s pretty clear that kava kava does have some scientifically backed evidence of effectiveness as a herbal sleep aid, especially in cases where anxiety or stress is a root cause of sleeplessness. Other methods for getting to sleep naturally include limiting your intake of caffeine, alcohol and sugar (especially right before bed); reducing the amount of ambient light and noise in your bedroom; and developing other healthy sleep routines such as ceasing the use of electronics 2 hours before sleep and making sure to eat your last meal about 3 hours before sleep. One creative strategy even suggested eating foods high in magnesium (which is a natural sedative) before you go to sleep. Some magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, cashews, almonds, legumes, whole grains, brewer’s yeast, and blackstrap molasses.

However, many health sites still identify mental stress as the number one cause of difficulty sleeping. Perhaps the best way to ensure you get a great night’s sleep is to combine the above strategies with a high-quality kava supplement to round out your healthy sleep toolkit!

REFERENCES

1. Ferguson, Pat. ‘Over-the-counter Sleep Aids May Impact Overall Health, According to Study”. Hampton Roads. August 3rd, 2014. http://hamptonroads.com/2014/08/overthecounter-sleep-aids-may-impact-overall-health-according-study.

2. Breus, Michael J. “Kava For Sleep? Why It Continues to Be a Mystery”. Huffington Post. August 20th, 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/kava-sleep_b_924318.html.

3. Teschke, Rolf. March 2011. “Special Report: Kava and the Risk of Liver Toxicity: Past, Current, and Future”. American Herbal Products Association Report 26 (3): 9-17.

4. “Treatment: Kava”. Diagnose Me. Accessed September 23rd, 2014. http://www.diagnose-me.com/treatment/kava.html.

5. Saletu, B., Grünberger, J., and Linzmayer, L. (1989). “EEG-brain mapping, psychometric and psychophysiological studies on central effects of kavain–A kava plant derivative”. Human Psychopharmacology 4: 169-190.