Why I Love Kava

Hawaiian Kava LeavesINTRODUCTION
This is very broad question that I bring up because I’m curious to see what kind of responses I get.  I know why I love Kava; not only has it helped reduce my anxiety at times in my life when nothing else helped, it just makes me feel good because of the effects of the plant, as well as the ritual itself, and it has enhanced my enjoyment of my life in general.  Also, the effects that Kava has on me haven’t diminished in the least despite more than 2 decades of nearly daily Kava use, which has allowed Kava to help fuel my passions and desires for self-expression.
Part of my personal research and experimentation is with a watchful eye on my health.  One of the things that I feel is a key factor in my ability to try so many different plant teachers and plant medicines is because of the attention I give to treating my body like the temple it is.  I exercise every day, track it with Fitbit, and eat a healthy, semi-vegetarian diet with as much raw food as I can comfortably consume (including raw fish).  I’m a pilot and have to get an in-depth medical exam every 2 years.  Part of this exam is blood work, which I’m interested in because of my Kava use.  With so much false information regarding potential liver damage from consuming Kava, as a near-daily drinker of Kava, I don’t even have raised enzyme levels in my liver, which translates into my liver being as healthy as a scan of my blood can determine.
MY FIRST KAVA EXPERIENCE
So, Kava for me is a very personal journey that went very public.  When I get excited about something, I can’t help wanting to share it with as many people as possible. Kava is no exception.  When I was first working with teacher plants, I voraciously inhaled, literally, every psychoactive plant I could find.  I researched any and every plant that had an effect on consciousness or was considered a “Teacher Plant” in the literature.  One of the plants I encountered was Kava.  So, one random day, when I was sitting at home, queuing up a movie on DVD (The movie was “My Dinner With Andre”), I decided I was going to try some of the Kava that I had purchased from Kona Kava Farm.
I followed the instructions carefully; I purchased their “84% Kavalactone Paste” (which doesn’t exist anymore due to stricter FDA regulation of Kava).  It said to make a pea-sized amount, and to simply eat it.  I thought that such a small amount of this plant couldn’t really do that much, but, I always start small and work my way up.  I also know that the FDA errs on the side of caution, and tend to double any dosage that is recommended by the FDA.  Having a doctor in the family only confirms that; there are many medications that are “over the counter” in smaller doses, and by prescription only in larger doses.  It can be the exact same medication, but it’s believed that only doctors are knowledgable enough to dole out larger doses of medication.
Today, though, I only went with the instructions, measured out my pea-sized serving (1/8th teaspoon), placed it under my tongue, sat down, and started my movie.
I wasn’t 5 minutes into the movie when I started to notice a few things: My tongue was numb.  I hadn’t done a lot of research on Kava or Kavalactone Paste, so I didn’t know that part of knowing if you’ve got good Kava is that it will numb your mouth.  Besides that, though, I was alone, the movie wasn’t a comedy, but I started to giggle.  I never giggle.  Sure, I like to laugh, I’ve been known to let out a guffaw or two, but giggle?
As the Kava set in, the giggles didn’t cease, and in my excitement that I had discovered something amazing, I only got more giggly.  I stopped the movie, sat back and simply enjoyed the moment, I enjoyed being alive, and I was giddy for the next 45 minutes.
After that 45 minutes was up, I was already hooked.  I went into the kitchen, tried another pea-sized amount, and sure enough, within minutes I was giddy again.  That day began an amazing journey into meeting the mind behind Kona Kava Farm, buying her farm as she moved to Fiji to start a resort, and learning absolutely everything I could about Kava and the Kava biz.
KAVA AS A TEACHER PLANT
Teacher Plants demand one very specific thing from us; they demand patience.  With today’s instant gratification just a tap or click away, I fear that the lessons of Teacher Plants are in danger of getting lost with us.  We’re all racing around with our faces in screens, and if we don’t get punched in the face or knocked on our ass with something we ingest, it’s not good enough.
But Kava — Kava is far more subtle than that.  Kava demands attention. It asks that you pay attention to it, that you take the time to understand the effects, to simply FEEL what it has to show you.  And this, for me, is why I love Kava.  It may sound odd and eccentric to modern ears, but in ancient times, shaman developed relationships with the plants that thy worked with.  They took the time to get to know them.  They would find “plant allies”; plants that they found useful effects with over time.
Kava is certainly one of those. And because of the very nature of Kava, it demands that you slow down to notice it’s powerfully subtle effects that can have a profound impact on one’s life…really!
When I took my initial 3 months to explore every facet of Kava, I was amazed at how little information I could find about its use ritualistically.  I found some speculation about its use in Easter Island as a visionary plant, but it was only speculation.  On an experiential level, though, working with Kava literally transformed my life in ways I am still grateful for today.  I worked with it every 3 days, to give any tolerance a chance to reset itself.  And, I purchased every form of Kava I could find at the time, following the instructions very carefully with each form I purchased.
Recently, I spent some time in Hawaii, working with a cultivar of Kava called “Hiwa”.  It is supposed to be the most spiritual of the Kava’s, with the ability to open chakras and clear energy. So, I spent some time with Hiwa Kava when the opportunity arose.  You can read about that in “Kava Experience – Hawaiian Kava” over at ENTHEOLOGY.
My favorite was the Kavalactone Paste, mixed with Powdered Kava Root.  I found that if I doubled all of the recommended dosages, that the effects were far more noticeable, and much more to my liking. I worked with small amounts, up to amounts that were 8x the recommended dosage.  When I am working with a Teacher Plant, there can be profound effects that occur at larger doses.  One example is tobacco.  On Machu Picchu, there are two man Teacher Plants; tobacco and Angel Trumpets.  Both are powerful psychoactives, and tobacco was used as a Teacher Plant that, because in high doses, became very psychoactive.  One of the rites of passage for boys becoming men, was to send them off into the mountains with a large amount of tobacco.  They would consume the tobacco, which would produce visions at high enough doses.  I wanted to know if Kava had the same effect, and with utmost respect, I began my journey.
EFFECTS OF KAVA
Something I found is that Kava is very dose-dependent, at least for me:
  • LOW DOSES: At lower doses, Kava can be a sleep aid.  It can also help induce dreams as it makes one far more open to a dream state with its relaxing properties.  I don’t get much of the inhibition-lowering aspects of Kava at lower doses, but I do get the sleepiness, relaxation, and some of the pain reduction effects.  Especially for lower back pain, Kava can be extremely effective for me.
  • MIDDLE DOSES: at double the recommended dose, I could really see Kava starting to shine.  The sleepiness waned, and a more profound sense of relaxation ensued.  The pain-relieving properties were definitely there, but I got giddy, sociable, and wanted to immediately call up friends to share this experience.  Also, and I don’t think it’s because it was reducing inhibitions, it was definitely making my creative process awaken, and move front and center.  I wanted to make something, draw or paint something, or pick up my guitar and make some music.  It was a very subtle, but exciting sensation.
  • LARGE DOES: When I worked with Kava over an evening, where I would take 4-6 “shells” of Kava, that’s when things get really interesting.  With Kava bars becoming more and more popular, it’s not uncommon to have a night of Kava drinking, much like people enjoy a night of drinking alcohol.  This, for me, is where Kava reaches its peak effects.  I feel a sense of peace with the world.  All of my aches and pains recede way into the distance.  I no longer feel sleepy at all, but feel excited, social, and feel like “emotionally sharing” in a way that alcohol tends to do for people.  I didn’t have any inkling of visions, but 4-6 shells of Kava over the course of a few hours is an entirely pleasant experience for me, whether I’m at home focused on making art of music, or out in a social setting with friends.
  • HIGH DOSES: If I don’t feel a “spiritual” side of a plant, I don’t take it in large doses.  When I was first deciding whether or not to bring Kratom into the country, I went through the same process as I did with Kava; I started small, and worked my way up to a very large dose.  That became very coldly psychedelic [DO I HAE AN ARTICLE ON THIS?], without any spiritual aspect of it whatsoever.  It was devoid; I had very “cold” visions of cement and viaducts and icy cold water.  It was not pleasant, and I decided never to venture there again.  So, for these kinds of explorations, I always have someone qualified to sit with me, as I began my journey into a high dose of Kava.  What happened to me was difficult to describe, even years later when I try to find ways to share the experience.  Imagine being really excited and really relaxed at the same time.  I felt energized, but not in a caffeine kind of way, simultaneously to feeling very relaxed.  I felt great anticipation, but couldn’t say why or for what..  It was not entirely unpleasant, and I felt a very spiritual side of this sacred plant, but any visual effects weren’t anything like the ayahuasca I had worked with in the Peruvian Amazon.  When I’d close my eyes, my thoughts became very visual, very colorful, but not with any added intensity.  I thought that if I spent a lot of time working with this plant at higher doses, I would likely be able to “sift through” all of these mental images and hone in on something specific, but I was uncomfortable enough that I simply put it aside and moved on to other aspects of Kava.  I may yet revisit this side of Kava, but I was hoping to find some research somewhere, that spoke of using Kava in higher doses as a Teacher Plant for ritualistic purposes.
I’m very interested to hear from anyone else regarding their Kava experiences, or why they love Kava.
WHY I LOVE KAVA
In the end, Kava has become a very subtle part of my life on many levels.  It can lift my spirits when I’m feeling a little down.  It can help with my writer’s block when I’m writing.  It can give me a kick in the pants when I am painting or working with photos.  In small doses, and after a stressful da at work, it can really be a catalyst to help me relax, even for the simple fact that I have to slow down, extract the Kava, knead it carefully, and spend some time making my drink.  I don’t have a lot of physical pain in my life at the moment, but I could see where Kava could be very effective for some in helping with pain.
Perhaps equally as important though, is the people I have met because of Kava.  I’ve traveled to Vanuatu, Fiji, and Hawaii in search of Kava and stories about Kava.  I realized the plight of Hawaii as the Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown as they were forcefully annexed to the United States.  I started to spend a lot more time in Hawaii, and found myself going to conferences with other Kava lovers.  Getting to meet Uncle Jerry, Vince Lebot, and other luminaries was an absolute delight for me.  I’ve had my hands in the ground at Kava camp, where I got to work with Kava plants taller than me, and root bundles that weighed more than my fully-loaded backpack during a research project.  I’ve had the opportunity to share Kava with so many, and continue to be an avid supporter of Kava, despite having to give up both Kona Kava Farm and Kava.com in late 2013 due to a devastatingly unfair move by MasterCard as they took away my ability to process credit cards for 7 years over something I was 1000% innocent of.
Kava truly does bring people together, it helps lower inhibitions and increase a sense of well-being and love.  It doesn’t connect me to nature as many plants do, what it does is connect me to people.  I tend to be buried in writing most of the time, and Kava makes me want to leave my cave for a minute to take a look around, to share thoughts with friends, to get outside and enjoy the sunshine or the rain or the ocean that’s just outside my door.  I have infinite respect for this plant, and know t will be an integral part of my world throughout my life.  I am still exited to learn even more about this plant, its history, and have started growing my favorite strain; a Mahakea 4-2-6 plant with about 9% Kavalactone content.  In 2017, there will be enough to sell to a few key online retailers.
Lastly, I’ve long been an avid fan of Lucid Dreaming.  I have written about it a great deal on ENTHEOLOGY and DREAMHERBS.  Recently, I have been experimenting with using Kava to help with dream recall, and the results are more than promising.  I’m working on a Dreaming Blend to see if I can increase the effects that I get from another favorite teacher plant; Calea zacatechichi.  As I’m writing this article, I just wrote one on Harvesting Calea Seeds over on DreamHerbs.com.
I just posted an sister article to this one called “Does Kava Have a Spiritual Side?” where I would be more than interested in any input.  And, If you have personal experiences with Kava and dreaming, I’d love to hear more.
Peace & Aloha,
Keith
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