Does Kava Affect Reaction Time?

Dear Kava Guru,
Does Kava affect reaction time?
Andrew, Seattle, WA

There have actually been quite a number of studies regarding reaction times with Kava on its own, when combined with benzodiazepines, and even alcohol.  The results are quite interesting, and definitely score another clear victory for Kava.

First, in 1993, a group of researchers investigated the effects of kava extract, a benzodiazepine (a general group of anti-anxiety drugs), and a placebo on behavior and event-related potentials in a word-recognition memory task.  The task was structured as a memory task designed as a double-blind crossover study in 12 healthy volunteers.  In the word-recognition test, oxazepam elicited “a pronounced slowing of reaction time and a reduction in the number of correct responses… observed.”  Wow.  They go on to further state, “The behavioral indices indicated a greatly impaired performance after oxazepam and an enhanced memory performance following kava.”[1]  Wow again!

Across the board, kava not only did not decrease reaction time, it was shown to improve reaction time in word-recognition tasks.

Also in 1993, a group of researchers assigned 24 subjects (11 male, 13 female) to receive a drink consisting of kava and fruit juice.  The drink containted 500 mL of 0.2 g/mL kavalactone, blended with 500 mL of fruit juice.  The test group was subjected to a wider range of tests that included cognitive performance, physiological functions, and mood.  No differences were found between the kava drinkers and the control group in measurements of various psychological parameters, including respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels.  Although what was not measured is what was most interesting, the researchers did conclude that kava, at least at the above dose, does not impair one’s cognitive functioning[2].

As a third example to present you with, there was a study conducted in 1989 by Saletu and co-workers.  The purpose of their study was to measure the physiological effects of kavain, a main kavalactone in kava, on brain activity compared to the benzodiazepine drug clobazapam [3]. In this placebo-controlled double-blind study, 15 healthy volunteers received single oral doses of either an inactive placebo, 30mg of clobazapam, or synthetic kavain at either 200, 400, or 600mg [3].

The researchers recorded the subjects’ EEG (electroencephalogram, a measure of brain wave activity) and other psychophysiological measures every 2 hours for 8 hours during each study session. The EEGs showed that, though kavain exerted a significant effect on brain waves, it modulated this activity differently than the clobazapam; specifically, the kavain increased delta, theta and alpha waves while decreasing beta waves (the clobazapam showed the opposite effect)[3].

Even more encouragingly, the psychophysiological tests given by the researchers determined that subjects who had taken the kavain showed behavioral improvements in attention, reaction time, motor reflex, and intellectual performance. The people in the kavain group also noted improvements in mood, alertness and feelings of well-being after taking 200mg of kavain. The 600mg dose produced greater sedation, but still less than the clobazapam [3].

The last example I’ll offer is a study in 1987 by a team of researchers led by Russell [4].  The purpose of their study was to assess the effects of a low dose of kava on alertness, as well as the speed of accessing information from long-term memory. Posner’s letter-recognition task was used to measure the speed and accuracy of long-term memory access: subjects have to press a button within a time limit to indicate whether a pair of letters appearing on a screen is identical to a previous pair, the same sequence in a different font, or a different letter pair [4].

Russell’s study involved two rounds of testing. In the first, 9 healthy subjects (5 male, 4 female) were given 250ml of water infused with 30g of kava root and tested against a control group given no kava. the Posner test was then repeated a few days later with the same experimental group, this time given 500ml of water infused with kava at a rate of 1g/kg of body weight [4].

And surprise, surprise… the researchers reported no differences in speed of long-term memory access or error rate between the control group and the people who had taken kava! In their conclusion, they wrote the result demonstrated that kava acts to induce relaxation without impairing memory, reaction time or mental focus–indeed, [3] and [1] show mental focus actually improves with kava. So you can imbibe your kava with confidence, knowing that not only will kava not impair reaction time, it can actually benefit it!

Mahalo,

Kava Guru

REFERENCES:

1. Münte, T.F. Heinze, H.J., Matzke, M. and Steitz, J. (1993). “Effects of oxazepam and an extract of kava roots (Piper methysticum) on event-related potentials in a word-recognition task. Neuropsychobiology 27: 46-53.

2. Prescott, J., Jamieson, D., Emdur, N., and Duffield, P. (1993). Acute effects of kava on measures of cognitive performance, physiological function, and mood. Drug and Alcohol Review 12: 49-58.

3. 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.

4. Russell, P.N., Bakker, D., and Singh, N.N. (1987). The effects of kava on alerting and speed of access of information from long-term memory.  Bulletin of Psychonomic Society 25: 236-237.

What Are Leis For?

What Are Leis For?Most people know leis as those fragrant chains of fresh flowers that get placed around one’s neck at Hawaiian resorts. Yet, you may be wondering, what are leis for in Hawaiian and South Pacific culture beyond promoting tourism? Because it turns out leis are a lot more than a gimmick invented to bolster the tourist industry—in fact, leis have long been used in Polynesia, and later Hawaii, as a way of bestowing love, respect and honor on someone [1].

Though in the popular imagination leis usually take the form of a garland of fresh flowers, my research has uncovered that leis can be made out of all sorts of objects. The only requirement for something to be a lei is that it be a collection of objects woven or strung together into a garland that is typically worn around the neck [2]. Hawaiian and Polynesian leis are frequently made from flowers, with the most common being plumeria, orchids, tuberose and carnations [1]. They may also be made from vines, leaves, seed pods, bone or shell, feathers, even paper money! The only constant is that leis are intended to be worn, and that they function as a sign of affection, honor or respect bestowed on the recipient [2, 3].

The cultural tradition of the lei spread from an origin in Polynesia to Hawaii with the first human immigrants to the islands. People are often given leis at occasions where they are the guest of honor: birthdays, weddings, graduations, retirement parties and the like [3]. With the introduction of Lei Day on May 1st, 1927—the same day as May Day in the rest of the United States—the lei has also become a symbol of cultural solidarity for indigenous Hawaiians. The concept of Lei Day was first proposed in 1927 by Don Blanding, a poet and writer for the Honolulu Star Bulletin. Each island in the Hawaiian archipelago now marks Lei Day with its own color and style of lei woven from native flowers [1].

Even though leis orginated in Polynesia, today they represent a uniquely Hawaiian experience for many tourists, who are often given leis upon their arrival at resorts and other attractions. The type of lei most visitors are familiar with is the plumeria lei, made from fragrant fresh plumeria flowers strung on a cord or string. However, there are many other kinds of lei that are even more significant in indigenous Hawaiian culture. For instance, the maile leaf lei made from the maile vine was once used to cement peace agreements between warring chiefs: the two leaders would meet in a heiau, or temple, to intertwine their maile leaf leis in a symbolic expression of renewed harmony and peace [3].

Fortunately, lei etiquette is pretty casual these days: despite the garland’s ceremonial contexts, it’s also fine for anyone to wear a lei outside of a formal occasion, or even buy one at an airport giftshop [2]. Basically, there are only three rules of lei etiquette you need to follow [3]:

1. Always accept a lei that is given to you. If someone gives you a lei, it is a sign of their respect, affection or esteem for you, so refusing it–or removing it in their presence–is considered rude.

2. If you cannot wear a lei someone gives you (due to allergy, for example), display the lei in a prominent place close to you.

3. Never discard a lei into the trash. A lei is a symbol of respect and love, so throwing it away is like symbolically throwing away the love of that person. Alternatives are to return the lei to the place where the flowers and vines that make it up were collected—or if you don’t have that option, return the lei to a natural spot such as a wooded area where it can return to the earth.

You can also leave your lei to dry in the sun over a few days; dried leis make a great decoration and will also perfume your house with a wonderful tropical fragrance. It’s hard to think of a better way to bring a little piece of the South Pacific back home… except perhaps bringing back a nice bundle of dried kava root!

Mahalo,

Kava Guru

REFERENCES

1. “Lei (Garland)”. Wikipedia. Accessed April 30th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lei_(garland).

2. “What Are Leis?” WiseGEEK: Clear Answers for Common Questions. Accessed April 22nd, 2014. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-leis.htm.

3. “The Hawaiian Lei Tradition”. Hawaiian Flower Lei. Accessed April 24th, 2014. https://www.hawaiiflowerlei.com/leitradition.aspx.

Can I Combine Kava Root?

Dear Kava Guru,

What can and can’t I combine Kava with?

Dan, Reno, NV

This is a question I get asked so often, and it’s a wonder at how much literature there is on the topic. Well, if you think about it, ‘Kava combinations’ is quite a broad topic, since the combinations of interest can range from herbal to pharmaceutical and everything in between! So, there’s a lot of information here – and I’ve done my best to break it down and pick out the most important Kava combinations from the masses of research that there are on various combinations with Kava and their interactions. If you don’t see your combinations of interest here – go ahead and summon my guru wisdom. How can you summon my wisdom? By simply asking!

Herbal Combinations:

Naturally, many people instinctively combine other medicinal herbs with kava kava, thinking something along the lines of “Hey it’s all natural – why not throw it all together and reap multiple benefits!”   But, it’s important to realize that- as with Kava – many medicinal herbs have biochemical interactions with the body that could alter the functioning of enzymes, hormones, or other biochemical components of the body. For example, Kava inhibits the CYP 450 enzymatic pathway, and as a result any herbal treatment that is metabolized by these enzymes cannot be properly metabolized and there may be resultant health risks [5]. It’s possible then that certain chemical reactions or states might not mix well with each other. As a result – it’s always wise to err on the side of caution and do a bit of research before combining Kava with other herbs or plants. So, to help you out I’ve put together some of my own research with regard to combining Kava and other popular herbal remedies.

Sedatives: (lavender, passionflower, valerian, chamomile, hops)

The general consensus within the field of herbal interactions is that you will experience a heightened sedative effect when combining any other herbal sedative with Kava; this is an effect that may or may not be desirable [1, 3, 6].   Since Kava is in some way also a sedative and acts on the same enzymatic pathways – the two naturally coincide. In terms of safety there isn’t really any information with regard to Kava and herbal mixture health concerns or precautions. But, nonetheless you should always research your combination of interest or ask a health practitioner.

Passiflora (Passionflower): One study directly monitored the effect of passionflower and Kava alone and in combination.   The results indicated that there was a doubling effect, meaning that the combination of the two increased the effect of each individually by 50%.  The study demonstrated that in terms of sedative effects, there was a 91.6% prolongation of sleep duration when the combination of kava kava and passionflower was administered [3].

Valerian: There was an extensive study conducted on the effects of Kava and Valerian independently and combined with each other. The results indicated heightened levels of stress reduction and anxiety alleviation in three categories: social, personal and life events. Also, there was a significant improvement with subjects experiencing insomnia – ie. insomnia was decreased. One of the most common effects indicated by the subjects who took the combination of Kava and Valerian was vivid dreaming [8].

Stimulants: (coffee, kola nut, máte, guaraná)

Unfortunately, there isn’t too much information available with regard to the safety of combining Kava with herbal stimulants or their interactions. But, generally speaking, it’s unwise to combine kava kava with any herbal stimulant, and probably any synthetic stimulant as well. Quite generally – it’s unwise and counterproductive to combine stimulants and sedatives, because of their counteractions on the same or relatively similar biochemical compounds [6]. If you’re looking for something to calm you down, you take a sedative — you don’t want to then take a stimulant and undo what you’re trying to accomplish.

For example, coffee and Kava probably interfere with each other and their relative performance. It’s quite possible that Kava aggravates dopamine or dopamine receptors, meaning that it interferes with its release [2]. If this is the case, then something like coffee – a natural substance that stimulates the release of dopamine [7] – will naturally compete with Kava because each is trying to do a different thing to your biochemical system.

Combination with Alcohol:

Ahhh, now to discuss the single most commonly searched Kava combination – alcohol and Kava. I won’t go into too much detail here, as I’ve unloaded much of my wisdom on another post with regard to combining alcohol and Kava; I’ve posted the link below.

But, I will say very generally that although people often combine Kava and alcohol and have remained alive to tell the story – it isn’t necessarily very safe or wise to do so. There are several studies on the combination of Kava and alcohol and the general consensus of all of these studies is that you should never combine Kava and alcohol, as the combination of the two greatly increases your chance of hepatotoxicity (toxicity of the liver).

Besides, why not just drink Kava instead of alcohol altogether? Many people actually prefer to drink Kava over alcohol – given that it has very similar effects, and is generally considered to be a nonaddicting and healthy alternative to drinking alcohol.

More Information on Combining Alcohol and Kava

Pharmaceutical Drug Interactions:

In the case of Kava combinations with pharmaceutical drugs – it is imperative that you seek medical advice from a practitioner or at least do some research on the interaction of the two substances. Yadhu N. Singh suggests that pharmaceutical interactions could be the most significant of the Kava combinations. Kavalactones – the beneficial compounds in Kava – inhibit cytochrome P 450 (CYP 450) [5]. CYP 450 is an enzyme that acts as a catalyst in the process of oxidizing organic substances. However, most importantly, it is a major enzyme category used by the body for the metabolization of drugs [8].   Given that these enzymes are inhibited by Kava, Kava may then prevent the body from properly metabolizing pharmaceutical drugs [5]. As a result it is extremely important that you do your research before combining Kava with any pharmaceutical drug. I’ve put together some information on the most common Kava and pharmaceutical interactions – hopefully you’ll find your answers!

Central Nervous System Agents (Benzodiazepines): Given that Kava and Benzodiazepines act on the same CNS receptors, it is likely that the combination adds to the effects caused individually by each and/or has at least a synergistic pairing with each other (ie. increases the effects of each substance). Also, Kava will add to the drowsiness that is stereotypically experienced by those who use benzodiazepines [2].

Anesthetic Agents: Kava is actually considered to be an anesthetic itself and has been reported to have muscle relaxant effects as well as inducing numbness. Since anesthetics are intended to essentially do exactly the same thing – relax and numb muscles/tissues – there will inevitably be synergistic effects and Kava will prolong and intensify the effects of the anesthetic [2]. It’s actually recommended to not ingest Kava before going in for surgery for precisely the reason mentioned above – that there will be an interference with the functioning of the pharmaceutical anesthetics that you will be given [1].

Analgesics or Painkillers (Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, Percocet): There is an increased chance of liver damage or hepatotoxicity and kidney damage when Kava and pharmaceutical painkillers are taken simultaneously.   As a result it is simply wise to avoid this combination [2].

Diuretics (acetazolamide, amiloride, furosemide and ACE inhibitors such as benazepril, captopril, lisinopril, quinapril and ramipril): Kava is a diuretic itself and also does cause dehydration, so if Kava is combined with pharmaceutical or herbal diuretics it will likely add to the effects and increase dehydration [10, 1].

Psychoactive Drugs (Xanax): While there is one reported case of coma induction, which is possibly linked to the combination of Kava with Xanax [4], it is nonetheless unclear what the exact biochemical interaction is like.

Dopamine agonists/antagonists (Xanax, prozac, droperidol, haloperidol, risperidol, metoclopramide, and other antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications): As was mentioned above in relation to coffee – Kava is reported to be an antagonist of dopamine; meaning, Kava inhibits dopamine receptors and transmitters. As a result Kava can either act as an additive to the effects of pharmaceutical dopamine antagonists or an inhibitor in the case of the combination with dopamine agonists [1].

As you can see there are a TON of possible interactions that Kava may have with herbal and plant-based remedies or pharmaceutical medications. If your health is as important to you as it is to us – then hopefully you have read this article and are doing further research on the particular Kava combination you have in mind. If you don’t see information on the Kava combination you seek to gain knowledge about, please do ask me! My guru wisdom is pretty much endless when it comes to many topics and I would love to share as much as possible with my readers – but of course sometimes it’s not possible to cover everything. That’s where you come in! I love to get some direction from my readers telling me what it is exactly they want to know about. In the meantime, I hope that this has helped!

A few quick tips to remember:

 – It is unwise to combine Kava with alcohol – rather, use Kava as a healthy alternative!

– Always consult a physician when wanting to combine Kava with a pharmaceutical drug.

–  Kava acts on CYP 450 enzymes, as do many herbal and pharmaceutical remedies – so, be careful when combining them! These enzymes metabolize some herbs and medicines, so Kava could interfere with the metabolization process or have other undesirable biochemical interactions.

Mahalo,

Kava Guru

 Sources:

1. Basch, Bent, Boon, Ernst, Hammerness, Sollars, Tsourounis, Ulbricht, Jen Woods. “Safety review of kava (Piper methysticum) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration”. Natural Standard Research Collaboration, 2005. Vol. 4 (4), p. 779-794.

2. Bressler, Rubin. “Herb-drug interactions: interactions between Kava and prescription medications”. Advanstar Communications, INC, September 2005. Vol. 60 (9), p. 24.

3. Capasso, A and Sorrentio, L. “Pharmacological studies on the sedative and hypnotic effect of Kava kava and Passiflora extracts combination”. Phytomedicine, 2005. Vol 12, p. 39-45.

4. Graedon, Joe and Graedon Teresa. “Herb Interaction Could Lead to Coma”. Tribune Publishing Company LLC, February 21, 1999.

5. Singh, N. Yadhu. “Potential for interaction of kava and St. John’s wort with drugs”. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, May 18, 2005. Vol. 100, p. 108-113.

6. Stuart, Armando Ph. D. “Kava Kava”. 2005. Online: http://www.herbalsafety.utep.edu/herbs-pdfs/kava.pdf

7. Wenk, Gary Ph. D. “Why Does Coffee Make us Feel so Good?” Psychology Today – Your Brain on Food, October 28, 2011. Online: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-brain-food/201110/why-does-coffee-make-us-feel-so-good

8. Wheatley, David. “Stress-induced insomnia treated with kava and valerian: singly and in combination”. Human Psychopharmacology, 2001. Vol. 16, p. 353-356.

9. Wikipedia. “Cytochrome p450”. Last updated, April 28, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cytochrome_P450

10. Wong, Cathy ND. “Kava Kava”. About.com – Alternative Medicine. Last Updated, April 08, 2014. Online: http://altmedicine.about.com/od/kava/p/kava.htm

 

Kava Bar Now in Boone

Kava Recipe - Coconut Milk Kava

Kava bars made a landing in the United States of America back in 2002 with the opening of Nakava, located in Boca Raton, Florida [2]. These Kava bars are places where people can go to relax with friends while enjoying a Kava beverage or one of the many other Kava supplement options offered. People who have been invested in Kava culture and want to share the love with others tend to be the people that open and run these bars. And I am pleased to announce that the joys of Kava are spreading!

The proud owners of Vanuatu Kava Bar in Asheville, North Carolina are once again in the mood for sharing Kava love and culture. They’re opening a second Kava bar in Boone, North Carolina! The bar is to be called “Noble Kava” – certainly a very appropriate title for such a noble business [1].

The owner Andrew Procyk testifies to the benefit of Kava over alcohol and explains that he’s on a mission to offer a Kava alternative to students in North Carolina college towns.

“Our target area is 18 to 21 year olds who are adults, but unable to do most of what there is to do in a college town…The community benefits through this swiping out of alcohol, and it gives you a happy, friendly and relaxing feeling,” says Procyk in an interview with Mountain Times [1].

Procyk explains how back when he first got the idea of opening a Kava bar in North Carolina – his idea was triggered by a conversation he had with a college campus security guard. The security guard told him how all of the cases of rape, break-ins and assaults almost always involved alcohol. Procyk realized something had to change and that the students needed a healthy alternative to alcohol [1].

While the bar’s primary focus is of course Kava beverages, it will be offering Gatorade, coconut water and other hydrating options – to balance out the dehydrating effects of drinking Kava. The bar will also offer other Kava options and water-based soluble extracts that are intended  to add to the overall experience [1].

Procyk has been a dedicated advocate of Kava culture for quite some time. He is so dedicated to the spreading of Kava appreciation that he was the sole vendor at an international symposium on the subject in Fiji, and was mentioned in several Fijian publications for his wealth of knowledge on the subject [1].

We can only pray to the Kava spirits that the opening of Noble Kava is the continuation of an ongoing process of Kava love and growth!

Sources:

1. Campbell, Jesse. “Noble Kava Establishes Roots in Boone”. Last updated, March 27, 2014: http://mountaintimes.com/watauga-news/articles/Noble-Kava-establishes-roots-in-Boone-id-025151

2. Nakava. “A Real Kava Bar has arrived in North America”. Online: http://www.nakava.com

What is Kava Root?

Dear Kava Guru,

What is Kava Root?

This is difficult to believe, but it was pointed out to me recently that I’ve never actually addressed the most basic of questions regarding something as simple as what exactly Kava root is.  It’s further evidence that the obvious is what often escapes me, but I will make up for that oversight by shedding some light on my favorite plant in the world!

Kava root is of course, first and foremost – a root – the root of the Piper methysticum plant. But, just what does this mean on a broader basis? Well, below are a few personal insights as to what Kava root is in its entirety, right down to its bio-constitution.

Kava Root Overview:

First off, it’s important to realize that when people refer to commercial Kava or Kava supplements more generally – they are referring to the root of the Kava plant. The other parts of the plant or aerial parts (parts above ground – not including the lateral root) are absolutely no good to us! The leaves, stem, and other sub-components of these upper parts of the Kava plant are actually hazardous to our health, as they can be poisonous [5]. It’s quite possible that these other parts of the plant are the source of the problems indicated by infamous cases of Kava and liver toxicity. There have been reported cases of Kava causing liver toxicity – cases that have since been proven to be unsubstantiated – and it’s quite possible that Kava was actually misused in these cases [4]. So, remember when discussing Kava as a supplement that is ingested, we are referring only to the Kava root and not to the entire plant. The dried Kava root used to produce Kava root powder has the highest kavalactone content at 15% of its constitution, while the rest of the root is made up of starch, fibers, sugars and proteins – which are all good things [7].

Rootstock Anatomy – Lateral vs. Underground Root:

Plant roots are composed of various parts and all plants have roots of some kind, which are responsible for many biological functions, but are primarily for nutrient and water uptake. Some vascular plants, including Piper methysticum (Kava or ‘Awa), have both lateral or aerial (above ground) roots and underground roots [6]. The lateral roots can serve many purposes, including nutrient reception from the air or even aeration of the plant.

While it is known that these lateral roots start to develop after Piper methysticum’s initial three-year maturation [3], the exact purpose of the lateral roots are unclear. However, my guru senses lead me to believe that it is likely that the aerial roots allow the plant to gain certain nutrients from sun exposure that it wouldn’t other wise have access to if all of its roots were underground. The reason I speculate this is that the amount of kavalactones in the lateral roots are increased upon sun exposure – indicating that increased sun does interact with the lateral root chemistry in some way [2, p. 40].

Given that the sun-drenched aerial roots of the Kava plant are brimming with kavalactones (more so than the underground roots), the most potent/strongest Kava is made from these lateral roots. Kavalactones are the compounds in a Kava plant that are to be thanked for all of the wonderful benefits and pleasurable outcomes of having a Kava root beverage [1] – so, it’s no wonder that processes of cultivation have led us to be more attracted to the potent aerial roots!

Although underground roots are also used in the production of Kava supplements and are more abundant than the lateral roots [3] – they aren’t the best option when it comes to choosing what Kava supplements you would like to take. There are a host of reasons as to why the lateral roots are used more often. For one, underground roots are less potent, as mentioned above. Additionally, they are more difficult to harvest. Furthermore, on more of a tragic vein – much of the plant must be destroyed in order to get at the underground roots [3]. Why would we want to destroy a plant to get at the less beneficial parts, when we could just snip away at the lateral roots and get a higher quality Kava root? We wouldn’t! That’s why the highest quality and morally intact Kava supplement you can get is from the lateral Kava root, while the underground root is used in the cheaper, lower-quality options.

Kava Variants:

Many years of cultivation and genetic pruning of the Piper methysticum plant have allowed it to travel and grow in regions of the planet that are best suited to its prime development. The wild version of Piper methysticumPiper wichmannii – hasn’t had the care and tender support of educated farmers and as a result tends to have lower amounts of kavalactones. This is why Hawaii has become known as a prime source of Kava root – it has all of the resources to cultivate and care for the highest quality of Kava [2, p. 40]!

Different varietals of the Piper methysticum plant have different levels and types of kavalactones, but the Hawaiian varietals – or the cultivars primarily used in growing Kava in Hawaii – have been developed over the years to have the highest quantity of potent kavalactones. There are three kavalactones in particular that Hawaiian cultivars are known for: kavain, methysticin, and dihydrokavain. And no wonder Hawaii is known for its Kava – those three kavalactones have been dubbed as the perfect concoction for “fast-acting and pleasant experiences” [2, p. 31]!

According to Wikipedia, “…one of the most potent strains of Kava is called ‘Isa’ in Papua New Guinea, and also called ‘Tuday’ in Hawaii. In Vanuatu, it is considered a type of ‘Tudei’ kava, pronounced as ‘two-day’ because it is said to have effects lasting two days due to its chemical profile being high in the kavalactone dihydromethysticin. The plant itself is a strong, very hardy, fast-growing variety with multiple light to dark green stems covered with raised dark spots.”

When it comes to kava, though, “most potent” certainly does not necessarily mean it’s the best.  If you’re curious to find out why, read some Facebook comments regarding this topic, the Kava Forums Tudei post with an opposing viewpoint, or a recent study regarding “Flavokawain B, the hepatotoxic constituent from kava root“.

What About Those Kavalactones?:

According to James A. Duke, “Phytochemicals called kavalactones produce kava’s stress-beating, muscle-relaxing influence.  Each produces a somewhat different physiologic effect in the body and all of them working together are better than any of them acting alone.” [8]

For someone who simply enjoys Kava as the best natural means I know of to calm my mind outside of meditation or surfing, what had intrigued me most about these mysterious kavalactones, are finding out which ones are most responsible for the pleasurable effects of Kava.  Many years ago, just some cursory digging in my favorite Kava books got me the answer I wanted and in detail, summarized below.

In 1989, the true guru of Kava; Vincent Lebot and J. Lésque and a subsequent paper entitled “The origin and distribution of Kava (Piper methysticum Forst. f., Piperaceae): A phytochemical approach”, they assigned numbers to the 6 major kavalactones.  As mentioned above, there are about 18 known lactones in Kava, but just 6 of these account for 90% of the total Kavalactone content, and subsequently, for most of the effects Kava produces.

These 6 major lactones are as follows:

1 = desmethoxyyangonin
2 = dihydrokavain
3 = yangonin
4 = kavain
5 = dihydromethysticin
6 = methysticin

These 6 numbers have become the accepted system for not only identifying the overall amounts of Kavalactones in relation to each other within a single sample of Kava Root, but the 6 digit code that is generated from a single Kava sample can also be used to identify its geographical location.  How?  Well, each region of the world produces a very unique cultivar of Kava due to it’s own unique weather patterns, sunlight intensities, soil composition, and even the elevation that the Kava plant grows.  All of these factors, including human propagation and selection over the past 3,000 years, gives Kava a distinct “fingerprint” that is extremely consistent in the Kavalactone content within that regions main cultivar of Kava.  And it’s the combination of the 6 major kavalactones that provide the range of effects.

One example of this is the Borogu Kava variety from the Islands of Vanuatu.  This particular variety is famous for its psychoactive effects throughout Oceania.  It has the 6-digit sequence of 245613, with dihydrokavain followed by kavain as its highest concentration kavalactone constituents [9].  Those seeking for “happy” kava, typically seek out the Vanuatu cultivar of Kava, and specifically the Noble Vanuatu variety.  “Noble” is a name that’s reserved for just a few cultivars of Vanuatu Kava.  They are prized for their excellent “drinkability” as well as the quite noticeable effects on the mind.  We know that Bula Kava House offers only Noble varieties of Vanuatu Kava, as does Kava Dot Com.

And In Closing:

Now you have more than a basic understanding of what the Kava root is when it comes to the drinking kind of Kava root. You also now know the important distinction between lateral root and underground root and can do your research on various vendors to determine which one has the highest quality of Kava as well as the Kava with the “Kavalactone lineup” that you prefer most.  If you choose to go with lower quality products that is, of course, up to you – but do remember that it’s always wise to be advised.  Whether you choose the Tudei Kava, go with a Noble Vanuatu cultivar, or find a Fijian Kava that, as Bula Kava House says offers “an inner warmth and mental bliss”, part of the joy of Kava and the many varieties found around the web is simply trying out as many as you can, and discovering your own ‘awa ‘uhane (Kava spirit) in the process!

Mahalo,
Kava Guru

Origins


The origins of the Piper Methysticum variety that most simply know as “Kava Kava”, may have derived from a different plant altogether, called Piper wichmannii.  Piper wichmannii is indigenous to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.  According the “Kava: The Pacific Elixir“, the argument has been made that there is “convincing morphological, checmical, and genetic grounds for considering these two taxa of Piper to be wild and cultivated forms of the same species.”  What exactly does that mean?  It means that Piper methysticum consists of several sterile cultivars (Kava does not reproduce sexually; it’s by cuttings only) cloned from P. wichimannii in a selection process throughout the early history of Kava Kava.  It appears that the psychoactive effects were what was most revered by early cultivators, so of course, the plants that produced the most pleasant and/or the strongest psychoactive effects, were the cultivars that were selected for cloning and subsequent transplanting.

Folklore


Evidence shows that the earliest kava consumption, always in the form of a drink, was more closely associated with ancestor worship.  Each morning, in the house of an ancestor known as a “būrau”, prepared kava as an offering to the village ancestors.  There were priests, so it was definitely a religious ritual of some kind, but evidence is scant for the early uses, partly due to the missionaries and conquerors attempting to completely obliterate the consumption of kava.  It was not only thought to be the “work of the devil”, it was deemed “unhygenic” because the method of preparation involves chewing the leaf, and spitting it out into a 4-legged bowl called a “tanoa”.

Traditional Preparation


According to Clunie and Tora at the FIji Museum in Suva (capital of Fiji), the practice of chewing the rootstock to prepare the kava drink was actually borrowed from Tonga in the late 1700′s.  Clunie also suggested that 18th century Christian Missionaries encouraged the move from Fijian preparation styles to the Polynesian style of pounding the root with rocks, adding it into water, and then filtering it through Hibiscus tiliaceus bark.  (The early Fijian style was to filter the kava through “bracken fern leaves held in a woven canister-like device.)

Sources:

1. Cassileth, Barrie, PHD.  “Oncology”. United Business Media LLC, San Francisco: April 15, 2011. Vol. 25-4 p. 384-385.

2. Johnston and Rogers, Helen. “Hawaiian ‘Awa: Views of an Ethnobotanical Treasure”. Association for Hawaiian ‘Awa: Hilo, HI, 2006.

3. Kava Dot Com. “Kava Root”. Online: http://www.kava.com/?p=970.

4. Teschke, Rolf, MD. “Kava Hepatotoxicity: pathogenetic aspects and prospective considerations”. Liver International: October, 2010. Vol. 30-9, p. 1270-1279.

5. Whitton, Lau, Salisbury, Whitehouse and Christine S. Evans. “Kava Lactones and the Kava-Kava Controversy”. Pergamon: June 5, 2003. Phytochemistry (64) p. 673-679.

6. Wikipedia. “Root”. Last Updated, March 26, 2014: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Root#Root_growth

7. Wikipedia. “Kava”. Last Updated, April 5, 2014: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kava#cite_note-5

8. Duke, James A. 2000. The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook: Your Comprehensive Reference to the Best Herbs for Healing.  Rodale Books.

9. Lebot, Vincent, Mark Merlin, and Lamont Lindstrom. 1992. Kava: The Pacific Drug. New Haven, Yale University Press.

Kava Review – Root of Happiness

If you’re looking for flat out strong Kava Root, then you’ve found your perfect Kava at Root of Happiness.  Focusing on Kava with a kick, this is some of the strongest product we’ve discovered to date. Make no mistake; Root of Happiness fully intends to appeal to the discerning Kava Connoisseur crowd, with prices to match. Continue Reading

Kava Natural Stress Relief

Kava Natural Stress Relief

April is stress awareness month and this is very important news for me to draw to your attention – it gives me the opportunity to tell you about how kava kava is a natural stress relief agent!

According to statisticbrain.com the American Psychology Association (APA) has reported that over 70% of the United States of America’s population suffers from stress and stress-related symptoms [1]. According to Foxnews the APA has also indicated that American teens are actually more stressed out than the adult population [3]! I fear that this might show a trend toward stressful living styles – intensified pressures from school and from parents encouraging the Western conception of success in their children – money, money, money! Yikes! This is certainly something that needs to be nipped in the bud!

Fortunately, for as much of a trend as there seems to be toward stressful living and resultant anxieties and health problems, the world is also finally starting to come to a heightened sense and understanding of century old wisdom about natural remedies, which are becoming more and more widespread, accepted, and appreciated! The world is becoming more knowledgeable about the true needs and limits of the human body and people are turning to natural options for answers to their everyday problems; for example, stress relief options like kava kava root and herb blends infused with Kava.

Kava kava is becoming more and more recognized for its natural stress relief properties and I cannot be more pleased! Kava is not physically damaging when used correctly, is affordable, and absolutely completely naturally graced upon this earth.  It grows from the fertile and nutrient-rich ground that we walk on, and Kava has been used for centuries by the South Pacific island peoples; and South Pacific islanders are certainly well known for their happiness and carefree ways – perhaps we can learn quite a bit from them and their lifestyle!

An article recently posted on petoskey.com tells us about how popular Kava has become for stress relief in the United States.  One health food and herbal remedy store manager – Lee Anne Dunkley of JoJo’s Natural Market – tells us about just how popular kava kava is.  With reference to what people buy to alleviate their stress Dunkley stated: “usually people ask for Kava” [5].

Kava is even becoming popular on more of a mainstream market basis. Recently a “1Hour break” stress and anxiety relief spray has been launched on the market and it includes our beloved Kava along with other natural stress relief herbs, such as lemon balm and passionflower [2].  Although I’m sad to see Kava become so commercialized – I’m overcome with joy that people are discovering its healthy uses and using it to aid their troubled souls and to help with everyday problems. Unfortunately, many people across the Americas and other parts of the world have been using Prozac and other harmful pharmaceuticals to combat their stress and anxiety; these drugs have been shown to have brain-damaging effects and to cause other health problems [4]. I can only hope to one day see a completely healthy and drug free world – and for this I pray to the Kava spirits on a daily basis.

The tragic symptoms of stress can be caused by all kinds of things including debt issues, relationship problems or even something as simple as a bad day at work. But, just because there are stressful situations everywhere doesn’t mean you or your loved ones have to let them get you bummed or stressed out – you can combat them with a Kava lifestyle of simplistic living, happiness, exercise, time with nature, a natural diet, lots of love and of course your daily dose of Kava!

Sources:

1. American Psychological Association – American Institute of Stress, NY.  July 28, 2013. Online: http://www.statisticbrain.com/stress-statistics/

2. Digital Journal. “1Hour Break Stress Relief Spray Doubles Fundraising Goal”. Last updated, April 8, 2014.  Online: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1838943

3. Foxnews. “ US Teens More Stressed Than Adults”. Last updated, February 11, 2014. Online: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/02/11/us-teens-more-stressed-than-adults/

4. Lamvert, Craig. “The Downsides of Prozac”. Harvard Magazine, June 2000. Online: http://harvardmagazine.com/2000/05/the-downsides-of-prozac-html

5. Parshall, Lorene.  “Stressed out? Area Professionals Offer Relief Options”.  Last updated, April 8, 2014.  Online: http://www.petoskeynews.com/gaylord/news/community/stressed-out-area-professionals-offer-relief-options/article_05712070-bf27-11e3-9c3a-001a4bcf6878.html

Plan to Ban Kava Consumption

Ban on Kava could cause crop loss

This particular news bit that I am about to report, brings me nothing but sheer sadness – if I hadn’t just had my afternoon cup of Kava I might very well be curled up in a ball in a corner somewhere crying!

There is a current policy shift in motion within the Fijian government.   They plan to ban Kava kava in some of the more remote villages of Fiji’s island on a regular Monday through Friday basis – declaring that it is only to be had on the weekends.  Fiji is one of the possible birth homes of domesticated Kava kava, so to hear that it might become less of a regular part of some Fijians’ lives, is truly extremely heart wrenching.

What could this mean on a greater scale? It’s possible that Kava crops and Kava farming might be reduced as a side effect of cutting back on regular Kava enjoyment.  The villagers,  some of whom rely on Kava farming for a livelihood, might be put out of work.  And yet, Commissioner Eastern Netani Rika suggests that villagers start reducing their consumption of Kava kava and begin working on income-generating village projects.  He spoke with villagers from Vanuatu, Komo, Namuka and Ogea on that matter in particular.

The basis of this heart-breaking policy recommendation according to Commissioner Eastern Netani Riki, is that Kava is to blame for the poverty of these villages and the problems with development that the iTaukei people have been experiencing.  But, as I mentioned above and will now reinforce – cutting out Kava consumption entirely five days a week is going to greatly reduce the need for Kava crop production.  Not only is this a source of local income, but Kava is also one of the major trade products coming from Fiji and enjoyed by many other nations.

So, if Kava consumption is reduced on the basis of it becoming less of a part of Fijian villagers’ daily lives – then is it not safe to say that jobs will be lost and GDP (Gross Domestic Product) reduced? This sounds like it will reduce development and productivity to me, not increase it.

It seems unlikely that Netani Rika has ever had pure Kava kava himself, because surely if he had he would understand all of the wonderful benefits and life enjoyment it brings and how all of this will be taken away from the villagers if this terrible ban goes through!

One other thing batting around in my mind is whether or not the people behind this policy recommendation understand that the regular enjoyment of Kava might not be the cause of poverty and stunted village development – but might rather be a healing mechanism.  I would beg for the councils involved to look at the deeper roots of the social problems and not to blame one of the things that continue to add to the happiness of the village people.

I am very much relieved to hear that it is only something in the making and has not yet actually gone through.  Hopefully there is still time for the Fijian policy developers to come to their senses and learn to appreciate and encourage Kava kava consumption for the many beautiful things it has done for the people of the islands.

The Fiji Times – Plan to Ban Kava Consumption

Rugby Teams Love Kava

Rugby Teams and KavaKava’s healing charm is picking up speed and working its way out of South Pacific islands and into other nations as rugby teams love Kava:  Members of New Zealand professional rugby teams, such as the Warriors, Kiwis, and the Chiefs, swear by the beneficial and healing powers of Kava.

As the legalities surrounding the consumption of alcohol and other mind-altering substances are tightened for professional sport teams, some members of these teams are turning to  alternatives.  Prior to discovering Kava, some team members had turned to mixing pharmaceuticals with energy drinks to induce a similar effect to alcohol.  But many of those who have found or been introduced to kava – have discovered how it makes for such a wonderful and healthy alternative to all of those toxic and harmful substances.

Some team members actually prefer kava kava to alcohol and other substances altogether – stating that it doesn’t have the same negative effects as alcohol.

I’m so happy people have been given the opportunity to experience how Kava is such a wonderful alternative to drinking alcohol – nothing brings me more joy than blooming interest in the wonder of Kava.  Did you know that Kava is so highly valued over alcohol in some parts of the world that it is actually being used in therapy to help alcoholics heal from alcoholism!? So, people aren’t just using Kava as an alternative to alcohol, but are actually using it to heal from the damage that alcohol can cause.

“It’s a better choice to alcohol.  If you drink alcohol it’s going to take three days to recover and you’re dehydrated…” says Ruban Wiki, one of the Kiwi’s very successful players.

Wiki is thankful that he had been introduced to Kava by Fijian teammates earlier on in his rugby career: “I’ve been associated with kava for a long time and it has done me wonders”.  Ruban Wiki swears by the benefits and long term healing powers of Kava, and speaks of how he accredits Kava for his long and successful career; Wiki has had 55 tests and 312 first-grade games as a player for the Kiwi’s.

Other players, such as Manu Vatuvei, also testify to the healing benefits that Kava bestows upon its receivers: “it’s very relaxing and gives me a good nights sleep.  If you have a few aches and pains, they go away”.

And to make the story even better, many teams that use Kava have even created mandatory “Kava sessions” which members of these teams are required to attend.  I cannot tell you how pleased I am to hear this – not only is Kava being experienced, but its warm and social tradition is also being maintained! Traditionally Kava is used as a social and ceremonial substance to honour achievements and create relaxing and joyful social gatherings, much like the “Kava sessions” these teams have created. As Matt Elliott of the New Zealand Warriors says, “we sit around in a chilled environment… a controlled and family environment”.

Just about the only thing the team members have to say about Kava that isn’t about how in love they are with it – is just plainly that it tastes bad, as Simon Mannering of the Warriors suggests.   I would personally tell Mannering about all of the wonderful Kava recipes there are to concoct his favourite flavours with Kava, so that he doesn’t have to miss out on all the wonderful things his fellow team mates are experiencing with Kava!

Source:

The New Zealand Herald – League: Kava Sessions Liquid Gold for Warriors

Confiscation of Kava Shipment

FRCA Confiscation of KavaIf you’ve gotten wind of the recent confiscation of a kava shipment at the Nadi International Airport – never fear – it turned out not to be kava! Sadly, the shipment was actually proven to be cocaine.

The shipment of what was wrongly labeled as kava kava, had originally been exported to China. It was then returned or re-exported back to one of the kava dealers in the Fiji local.  Perhaps this kava dealer is involved? I certainly hope not!  But, that’s certainly something to be wary of when shopping for your preferred kava vendor – this can be a reminder to us all to do our research before choosing where to buy our kava or anything at all for that matter!

The Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) – responsible for monitoring bioshipments coming through the airport – became suspicious after noticing discrepancies in the Biosecurity Phytosanitary Certificate.  The BAF brought their suspicions to the attention of the customs authority at the Nadi International Airport and unfortunately their suspicions ended up being correct. The initial test that the Customs Officers performed on the shipment proved positive for cocaine and was confiscated by the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority (FRCA) on 25/03/2014.

One thing that certainly is reassuring about this case however, is that we have authorities like the BAF to monitor things coming in and out of airports that kava shipments are going through – this gives me the feeling that kava can safely travel overseas to benefit everyone far and wide!

At this point, further investigations are still being made by the police to determine just exactly who was involved and the other horrible details.

It’s terrible that cases like this are tainting the image of kava and tampering with its positive purpose – but, fortunately this case was publicized and all can see that our beloved kava is still just as beautifully pure as always.

Source: FRCA Confiscation of Kava Shipment