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Kava

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Kava

The medicinal herb Kava as an alternative herbal remedy - Kava is native to the islands of the South Pacific and is a member of the pepper family.Common Names--kava kava, awa, kava pepper Latin Names--Piper methysticum

What Kava Is Used For

  • Kava has been used as an herbal remedy and as a ceremonial beverage in the South Pacific for centuries.
  • Kava has also been used to help people fall asleep and fight fatigue, as well as to treat asthma and urinary tract infections.
  • Topically (on the skin), kava has been used as a numbing agent.
  • Today, kava is used primarily for anxiety, insomnia, and menopausal symptoms.

How Kava Is Used

  • The root and rhizome (underground stem) of kava are used to prepare beverages, extracts, capsules, tablets, and topical solutions.

What the Science Says about Kava

  • Although scientific studies provide some evidence that kava may be beneficial for the management of anxiety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning that using kava supplements has been linked to a risk of severe liver damage.
  • Kava is not a proven therapy for other uses.
  • NCCAM-funded studies on kava were suspended after the FDA issued its warning.

Side Effects and Cautions of Kava

  • Kava has been reported to cause liver damage, including hepatitis and liver failure (which can cause death).
  • Kava has been associated with several cases of dystonia (abnormal muscle spasm or involuntary muscle movements).
  • Kava may interact with several drugs, including drugs used for Parkinson's disease.
  • Long-term and/or heavy use of kava may result in scaly, yellowed skin.
  • Avoid driving and operating heavy machinery while taking kava because the herb has been reported to cause drowsiness.
  • Tell your health care providers about any herb or dietary supplement you are using, including kava. This helps to ensure safe and coordinated care.

News About Kava

Kava could help in cancer fight

(Radio NZ)

New research has found that traditionally prepared kava could help treat or prevent cancer.

Scientists used ground kava combined with other elements including sap from different sources in Micronesia.

Prepared this way, in a form used by people in the Pacific, rather than filtered, kava was more active in inhibiting breast and colon cancer cells.

One of the principal scientists behind the study, Linda Saxe Einbond from the New York Botanical Garden and the City University of New York, said the results were encouraging.

"We prepare kava the way it's prepared traditionally, as a water extract high in particular content and we did it squeezed or strained through hibiscus bark, in traditional preparation.

"I find it very interesting that what people were actually drinking turned out to be more active."

Dr Einbond said the study arose because epidemiological data showed cancer incidence was inversely associated with kava in countries like Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu.

"And we found that the less we did to it, the unfiltered preparation was more active than the filtered, that what people actually drink has particles in it is more active than the next step of filtering it or purifying it."

Dr Einbond said the extracts used in the study were from Fiji and Hawaii, with those from Fiji most active against cancer cells.

Dr Einbond said it would be worthwhile to develop and further assess traditional kava to prevent and treat colon and other cancers.


10 Amazing Benefits Of Kava Tea

(Rabeca, skintreatmentz)

Have you ever heard of kava before? Wondering what it is we are talking about and what good it can be? Then this post is a must-read for you, as kava, a plant native to South Africa, comes with a host of health benefits.

Are you interested in knowing more? Keep reading!

About Kava:

Kava, a native plant to South Africa, is referred by different names, like Ava Pepper, Ava Root, Kew, Kava Kava, Intoxicating pepper, Intoxicating long pepper, Kao, and many more.

The name ‘Kava’ was given by the legendary explorer, Captain Cook. However, the name was not discovered by Captain Cook. Kava was popular among Pacific Islanders for thousands of years. It is a popular social drink in South Pacific akin to alcohol in Western societies. Moreover, it still holds an important role in various ceremonies and rituals.

Kava tea is loaded with chemicals known as kava lactones. These lactones are the key active ingredient in Kava. However, any treatment with the Kava tea would show its effect after a minimum period of eight weeks. Although there is little research present about Kava benefits, it is used widely around the Southern Pacific region.

About Kava Tea:

The benefits of Kava plant come from its roots. Kava tea is prepared by finely grinding the roots and further letting this powder infuse in hot water to prepare tea. Kava roots are known to be loaded with rhizome components and lactones that are further purported to feature numerous health benefits. These lactones are generally believed to alleviate anxiety as well as mood swings.

Although it is new to many people, it has been popularly in use, not only for its pleasing qualities, but also for the various health benefits associated with it.

Identification & Effectiveness:

Kava plant belongs to the pepper family. The roots and underground stem are the parts used for medicinal purposes. These parts of the plant are treated and prepared to make drinks, pills, and extracts for use.

As stated by MedlinePlus, Kava tea could possibly be effective in the management of withdrawal symptoms related to medications (like benzodiazepines) for the treatment of anxiety.

Besides being an effective stress relieving agent, Kava tea has also been considered for over 3,000 years to possess medicinal properties. Additionally, the popularity of Kava tea in the food supplement market is due to its naturally occurring soothing properties.

Many studies have also revealed that the use of kava tea aids healthy weight loss and weight management.

Kava tea is usually available in the form of capsules, liquids, tablets, tinctures, and soft gels. Besides, it is also known for its anaesthetic and analgesic properties. These properties and benefits are explained further.

1. Ideal Stress Reliever:

Being a well-accepted natural sedative, the Kava tea proves quite effective in treating patients with chronic depression and stress. As a natural tranquilizer, Kava tea helps relieve stress and various symptoms associated with it, including depression, restlessness, anxiety, dizziness, and nervousness. It has also been proved by studies that the Kava root, the basic ingredient of kava tea, can relieve palpitations prompted by panic attacks.

2. Analgesic:

Loaded with intrinsic analgesic properties, Kava tea proves highly beneficial in relieving pain due to arthritis and muscle spasms. Moreover, the chronic pain experienced because of fibromyalgia can also be treated to a great extent through the regular use of this amazing tea.

3. Antispasmodic:

There are numerous medical and health conditions that feature muscle spasms as a common symptom, including menstruation. Research conducted on Kava root and the tea prepared with this root has proven that it can be used in the treatment of serious spasms.

4. Anaesthetic:

Kava tea is known to be blessed with anaesthetic properties. Consumption and use of kava root and the tea is known to numb body parts, albeit for a temporary period.

5. Treats Menopausal Syndrome:

Menopause is considered as one of the most difficult stages in the life of a woman. This stage is accompanied by various physical and psychological problems. Kava tea is bequeathed with anaesthetic, antispasmodic, sedative, and alterative properties. All these properties, when combined, help combat the menopausal syndrome in a more convenient manner.

6. Natural Cure For Insomnia:

The sedative and tranquilizing properties of the Kava root, which is transformed into finely ground powder, have been used by conventional physicians to treat various sleep disorders. Insomnia patients are often advised to consume Kava tea for better sleep at night.

7. Helps To Treat Uro-Genital Problems:

As reported by NCCAM (National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine), the antispasmodic, antifungal, and diuretic properties of Kava tea have been used since time immemorial to treat various infections that are known to affect the urinary tract and bladder.

8. Supports Fast Recovery From Stroke:

Kava tea has the remarkable ability to control the area of the brain that is impacted by ischemia and stroke. This tea ensures, although indirectly, that there is no extensive damage to the brain. This way, it paves the way for a better and faster recovery from stroke.

9. Potential Cure For Cancer:

Studies have revealed that Kava root may play a role in the treatment of leukaemia and ovarian cancer (6). Being a natural anti-inflammatory agent as well as a natural analgesic, it is considered to be compatible with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. This helps provide relief from the pain experienced during such conditions.

Moreover, Kava tea also features sedative properties that induce sleep and have an effect of partial numbing. All these properties of Kava tea help cancer patients cope with the disease in a better and more convenient manner. 10. Helps Overcome Addiction Challenges:

Giving up any form of addiction is quite challenging. In addition to helping a person quit his addiction, the tranquilizing and sedative properties of Kava tea help combat withdrawal symptoms associated with the de-addiction process in a better way.

Interesting Facts About Kava Tea Preparation:

1. A Soothing Cup Of Tea:

Kava Kava, a native plant to Polynesia, is used in parts, specifically the roots, to make a relaxing and calming tea. Kava kava relaxes muscles, thereby ensuring better sleep besides reducing stress and making people more sociable. Surprisingly, Kava tea is also usually offered during important government meetings and weddings. It also is offered during other stressful events, such as demise in the family, to produce a calming effect on the nerves and thus reducing the chances of conflict.

2. A Cold Cup Of Kava Tea:

The active and main ingredients of Kava Kava are usually destroyed at a high temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, when making Kava tea, it is recommended to use a thermometer, so as to make sure the temperature of the brew doesn’t cross 120 degrees F. This would help to keep the benefits of kava kava intact and unharmed.

One good option is to prepare large amounts of the tea. This can be done by putting the root powder or the roots in a crock pot with a liquid of your choice and then turning it on to a temperature of 120 degrees F or even less. Thereafter, let the powder steep for about an hour. Thereafter, the cool tea can be consumed to enjoy its benefits.

3. Cream For The Tea:

While learning to prepare Kava tea, you might discover that the use of a fatty liquid base, like soy milk, coconut milk, or cow’s milk, can increase the extraction rate as well as the strength of the tea. It has also been found that these liquid bases also improve the texture as well as the taste of the tea. Using water can increase the amount of time required to steep the tea.

4. Create The Perfect Brew:

Once you have decided to heat the liquid base, add Kava root powder to the heated liquid and cover it with a lid. If you are preparing your tea in milk, steep the tea for about 30 minutes; or else you can steep in water for about 45 minutes. Once the tea has reached the required strength, avoid reheating. However, it is important to ensure the temperature of the liquid does not exceed 120 degrees F.

If you are making cold Kava tea, put the powder in a cold liquid and put it inside the refrigerator overnight for an improved taste and effective results. Remember, it is very important to grind Kava root finely to extract all its benefits. Also, make sure you use a fine strainer, like muslin or coffee filter, to extract the powder from the liquid. This should be done prior to drinking the tea. Recipes To Prepare Kava Tea:

Every individual has a different recipe to prepare Kava tea. The common methods to prepare this tea include:

Method I – The Kava Tea Powder:

Generally, Kava tea powder is easily available at local health food stores. There are many different types of Kava available under different brand names. Look for a good brand through trial and error.

The next step is to mix the powder in water. However, remember to remove the root powder before drinking. This can be done through a large teabag or by filtering the drink later. However, for those who like some extra fibre can leave the tea unstrained.

Finally, the amount of Kava powder is added to the drink according to your taste. More amount of powder means a more potent drink.

Method II – The Strainer Method:

The initial step in the preparation of the tea by the strainer method begins with adding the Kava powder directly into the water and mixing it thoroughly. If needed, you can opt to use a blender for large quantities or use a spoon for preparing one cup.

Allow the Kava and water to mix for at least 10 minutes. During this time, allow the blender to have a couple of breaks. The next step is to filter the Kava using a strainer. It can be a wire mesh or cheesecloth. It is worth noting that coffee filters don’t work well for filtering Kava tea.

Method III – The Kneading Method:

For this method, take a shallow bowl. Fill it with the desired quantity of water. Three cups or more is an appropriate quantity. Follow by placing a square cloth inside the bowl. Fill the clean cloth with the desired quantity of Kava powder. Then knead this Kava in the water. Make sure the powder doesn’t escape into the bowl. As the process is completed, pull the straining cloth out and squeeze out as much liquid as possible from it.

Method IV – Kava Teabags:

Besides the powder, Kava teabags are a great option to prepare tasty and effective Kava tea. It also is easy and saves time. Kava tea bags form the real crux of any Kava supplement. However, if you are not using whole kava root and a powder mix, capsule, or powder tea, try making sure the chosen supplement contains Kava extract and not just the dried and powdered root. This is because, without extraction of any form, plain powdered root might not be active physiologically.

Here is how you can brew Kava tea using Kava teabags:
• Pour boiling water over 1-2 tea bags.
• Allow the bags to steep for about 5-10 minutes.
• It is highly recommended to use cool water, as water heated at more than 140 degrees Fahrenheit might degrade kava lactones, thus reducing the effectiveness of the brew.
Precautionary Tips:

The use of herbs to strengthen the body and protect it from various diseases has been in practice for thousands of years. However, herbs also contain certain components that can prompt side effects and react with other herbs, medications and/or supplements. Hence, it is advisable to consume herbs and herbal products with care.

It is best to consume herbs under expert supervision of a physician or health care provider who is qualified and has vast knowledge of botanical medicine.

Kava tea is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women(7). Also, avoid drinking this tea if you are going to have a surgery as it can protract the impact of anaesthesia.

We hope this post has helped you. Do give your feedback by commenting in the box below!


Kava Kava Benefits

By Tracey Roizman (D.C.)

Kava-kava, an herb with certain effects similar to alcohol, has long been used and reserved for ceremonial purposes in the Pacific Islands. These days you can find kava-kava, also simply referred to as kava, as a supplement in your local health food store. It's also available in beverages in a number of trendy kava bars across the United States. While it is sought after because of its relaxing effects and other potential health benefits, kava may cause some potentially serious side effects. Always consult your doctor for guidance before using kava-kava or other medicinal herbs.

Anxiety

Kava-kava provides relief from some forms of stress and anxiety without being addictive or causing other undesirable side effects, such as drowsiness, according to a double-blind study published in the August 2009 issue of the journal "Psychopharmacology." Three weeks of kava supplementation in participants with generalized anxiety resulted in significant symptom improvement and was safe and well tolerated. Participants took five doses per day, totaling 250 milligrams of kavalactones, the active compound in the herb. Researchers also noted that kava relieved symptoms of depression along with alleviating anxiety.

Muscle Relaxant

High doses of kava may help take the edge off tense muscles and decrease pain, according to New York University's Langone Medical Center, which notes that the herb may have similar activity to valium but affect different parts of the brain. A laboratory animal study published in the October 2000 issue of the journal "Planta Medica" found that kava relaxed airway muscles and this suggests use for managing asthma. However, this was an in vitro study; therefore, its potential use in humans for this purpose would require much more clinical research. Also note that kava may impair voluntary muscle movement and you should not use kava if you have a neurological disorder, according to nutritionist Phyllis Balch, author of the book "Prescription for Herbal Healing, 2nd Edition: An Easy-to-Use A-to-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies."

Alertness

Kava calms your nerves while keeping you alert, according to a review of previously published research that appeared in the March 2011 issue of the journal "Human Psychopharmacology." No negative effects of kava on cognitive function were found and in some studies cognitive function received a boost from kava in the form of improved visual attention and working memory. However, kava caused certain physical side effects, such as body sway and decreased ability to maintain visual focus during particularly challenging cognitive tests. Kava's ability to regulate the activity of neurotransmitter noradrenaline, particularly in brain areas responsible for critical thinking, may account for its cognitive benefits.

Sleep Aid

Stress-induced insomnia responded well to kava in a study published in the September 2001 issue of the journal "Phytotherapy Research." Participants took 120 milligrams of kava per day for six weeks and noticed that it took significantly less time to fall asleep, they slept longer and they were in a better mood when they woke up. In a second phase of the study, two weeks after discontinuing kava, volunteers took 600 milligrams of valerian root per day for six weeks. Results showed that kava and valerian were equally effective at relieving symptoms of stress and decreasing insomnia. However, 12 percent of the volunteers experienced dizziness as a side effect of kava.


Kava Is an Effective and Safe Treatment of Anxiety

By James Lake, MD (Integrative Mental Health Care)

Many research studies confirm the anti-anxiety benefits of Kava

Kava Kava (Piper methysticum) is an effective treatment of generalized anxiety

In traditional Polynesian cultures Kava is used for ceremonial purposes and as an inebriant. In contrast to benzodiazepines when a standardized Kava extract is used at recommended doses (typically between 60 and 300mg/day) the majority of people do not experience mental slowing or impaired cognitive functioning. The use of Kava as a treatment of anxiety has been extensively reviewed in the biomedical and alternative medical literature. Animal studies suggest that the anxiety reducing mechanism of action involves serotonin blockade in the amygdala by alpha-pyrones, a principle bioactive constituent of Kava. Kava interferes with norepinephrine reuptake and is known to have binding affinity with both GABA and NMDA receptors, both of which modulate anxiety. Kava may also reduce anxiety by influencing vagal heart tone in patients with generalized anxiety (Watkins 2001).

A Cochrane systematic review of 11 controlled double-blind studies that met inclusion criteria and over 600 patients concluded that Kava was superior to placebo for the short-term management of generalized anxiety (Pittler 2004). Double-blind studies and a meta-analysis (Singh and Blumenthal, 1996; Hansel 1996) support the use of Kava preparations standardized to 70% kava lactones at doses between 70mg to 240mg/day for the treatment of “stress” and moderate anxiety, but not severe anxiety or agitation. An early systematic review of 7 quality studies involving a total of 377 patients concluded that Kava 300mg/day is more effective than placebo in reducing non-psychotic anxiety states (Pittler 1998). Daily use of kava 100-200mg/day effectively reduces anxiety symptoms associated with menopause (De Leo 2000).

Kava compares favorably to benzodiazepines (e.g. lorazepam, clonazepam, alprazolam) and other prescription anti-anxiety medications. The findings of a small double-blind controlled trial suggest that generally anxious patients who gradually increase their daily dose of kava (up to 300mg/day of a standardized extract) while tapering off a benzodiazepine do not experience worsening anxiety or benzodiazepine withdrawal (Malsch 2001). A randomized placebo-controlled multi-center study enrolling 129 outpatients concluded that a standardized Kava preparation (LI 150) was as effective as two commonly prescribed anti-anxiety agents (Buspirone™ and Opipramol™) in the treatment of generalized anxiety (Boerner 2003). Three fourths of patients in both the Kava group and the conventional drug group were classified as “treatment responders,” and experienced 50% or greater reductions in HAM-A.

Safety issues associated with Kava

Kava is generally well tolerated even at doses significantly above usual therapeutic doses. Uncommon adverse effects include gastrointestinal upset, rash, headaches and dizziness (Schulz 2001). In recent decades there have been reports of Kava inebriation (Matthews 1988), although this social phenomenon has not been observed in Europe where Kava preparations are used medicinally to treat anxiety. Rare case reports suggest that Kava may potentiate the action of benzodiazepines resulting in increased sedation (Almeida 1996), but Kava does not potentiate the effects of alcohol consumption in humans. Rare case reports of hepatitis (Escher 2001) and fulminent liver failure (Kraft 2002) have led to restrictions in the sale of Kava products in many European countries and a warning by the FDA. However, independent experts have concluded that most reported cases of liver failure were associated with a processing mistake resulting in potentially toxic levels of alkaloids in a single batch of Kava (Waller 2002; Dragull 2003). Nevertheless, it is judicious to advise patients against taking Kava (Bone 1993) when there is a question of alcohol abuse or heavy use of conventional sedative-hypnotics. One case report suggests that Kava may interfere with anti-Parkinsonian drugs (Izzo 2001).


I tried a cup of kava, the South Pacific drink that some say could replace alcohol — here's what it was like

By Emma Rechenberg

Some adventurous eaters are starting to swap out their happy-hour cocktails for something a little more natural.

Kava drinks — often referred to as "kava tea" — are made from the roots of a plant grown in the South Pacific, and they're known for their purported anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.

When ground up and mixed with water, the root turns into a juice that some claim can be a natural alternative to alcohol. It has been used for thousands of years as a ceremonial and social drink in the South Pacific.

Basically, the drink mimics alcohol's relaxing and sedative effects without the downsides — no extreme emotions, no memory loss, and no hangover. Tech Insider previously reported on kava's key compound, kavain, which mimics a sedative and triggers relaxation in the body. It works as a muscle relaxer, so while you're mentally alert, you feel physically loose.

Some people even claim that drinking kava makes them feel high.

The drink has made its way to the US and is now being served at six KavaSutra bars across the country. Last Friday, I stopped by the New York City location to see if this magical drink was worth the hype.


Health Benefits Of Kava Tea

(Health Benefits Times)

Kava, which is also known by different names, like Intoxicating pepper, Ava Pepper,Intoxicating long pepper, Ava Root, Kao, Kew, Kava Kava and many more is actually a native plant to South Africa.

The name ‘Kava’ was given by the legendary explorer, Captain Cook. However, the name was not discovered by Captain Cook. Kava was popular among Pacific Islanders for thousands of years. It is a popular social drink in South Pacific akin to alcohol in Western societies. Moreover, it still holds an important role in various ceremonies and rituals.

Kava tea is loaded with chemicals known as kava lactones. These lactones are the key active ingredient in Kava. However, any treatment with the Kava tea would show its effect after a minimum period of eight weeks. Although there is little research present about Kava benefits, it is used widely around the Southern Pacific region.

The benefits of Kava plant come from its roots. Kava tea is prepared by finely grinding the roots and further letting this powder infuse in hot water to prepare tea. Kava roots are known to be loaded with rhizome components and lactones that are further purported to feature numerous health benefits. These lactones are generally believed to alleviate anxiety as well as mood swings.

Although it is new to many people, it has been popularly in use, not only for its pleasing qualities, but also for the various health benefits associated with it.

Health Benefits Of Kava Tea

Kava tea is usually available in the form of capsules, liquids, tablets, tinctures, and soft gels. Besides, it is also known for its anaesthetic and analgesic properties. The properties and health benefits of kava tea are explained further.

Good for Anxiety & stress

Kava tea can be a major help for relieving stress and anxiety. It has been clinically proven that low dose benzodiazepines present in kava kava help to relieve anxiety by normalizing the hormonal activities in the body and minimizing the release content of stress hormones in the blood stream. However, since the effects are pretty mild, it can take as long as 8 weeks to make the process work and show results in condition. Due to presence of phytochemicas known as kavalactones following health benefits can be obtain:

Kava tea is loaded with kavalactones, which are known to promote healthy sleep patterns by calming the mind and easing body aches. Hence, if you suffering from sleepless nights off late due to tension, stress, anxiety or some other types of bodily pains and discomforts, kava tea can come in as a huge help for treating insomnia and sleeplessness.

Stress can be a major reason for weight gain. People suffering from unwanted and uncontrolled stress often tend to snack heavily between meals, thereby gaining weight. This problem can be easily solved by consuming kava tea. Kava tea helps to soothe the mind, thereby easing stress, controlling appetite and promoting systematic weight loss.

As discussed before, stress can be a major stigma for heavy hair loss. Kava tea with the help of its nerve soothing properties, is known to minimize hair fall and hair loss, thereby keeping hair fall problems like hair thinning and balding at bay.

Kava kava is a wonderful aid for quitting addiction. It’s nerve soothing properties help to calm anxiety and stress, thereby curbing all cravings for addictive objects like cigarette, alcohol and cigars. A cup of Kava tea can completely help you come out off addictions in case you really want to do so.

ADHD is becoming a major problem in children and regular consumption of Kava tea can really aid in treating the disorder in children as well as adults. Kavalactones present in kava kava helps to calm the mind while promoting concentration and focus. It also helps to curb major symptoms of ADHD, namely hyperactivity, stress, tension, anxiety, forgetfulness and attention deficiency.

Analgesic Properties

Kava Tea is an amazing medicine for relieving all sorts of pain and muscle spams. Though it’s analgesic properties are not as prominent as the other properties, it can surely help you come out of severe pain.

Menopause Aid

Menopause can be a tough phase in the life of women. Ranging from frequent mood swings to suffering from hot flashes, women often go through a lot of discomforting feelings during this phase. Kava tea has shown positive results in controlling these symptoms and aiding in promoting sound hormonal health. Regular consumption of Kava tea can help women deal with the symptoms of menopause, especially mood swings and irritability.

Calm Hyperactive Children

Kava tea is also a fabulous remedy for calming children who are hyperactive. It’s nerve soothing properties help to calm the hyperactive nerves, thereby reducing hyper physical activities and initiating stability. What’s more, the nerve soothing properties of Kava tea have been proven to be more effective than prescribed medicines.

Cancer Prevention

Kava kava has been found to possess cancer preventing properties. Though researchers have not succeeded in determining its potentiality, it has shown positive signs of being a potential cancer treatment and may come out as a major cancer medicine in the recent future.

Stroke Recovery

Offering kava tea to patients who have suffered stroke can help them recover from the effects and can even prevent the convulsive effect, thereby minimizing the chances of future stroke recurrence. It is due to the natural abilities of kava kava to arrest brain damage due to ischaemia that kava tea can help stroke patients recover quickly.

Beneficial for Kidney problems

Kava tea being a diuretic, is also an amazing remedy for treating kidney problems and ensuring sound kidney health. People suffering from kidney problems tend to experience recurring problems even after prior treatments. Hence, if you want to treat these problems or even want to prevent such problems to occur in the future, a cup of Kava tea a day can save you from falling prey to such common yet dangerous ailments.

Aid For Body Building

Proper elimination and retention of adequate amount of water is inevitable for building muscles. Since excessive water retention can turn out to be a disaster for muscle building and achieving the right tone, kava tea being a diuretic, can help in eliminating excess water from body.

Sore Throat

Kava tea is also tremendously popular for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Hence, it can help curb major problems related to cough and cold, like respiratory tract infections and sore throat.

Toothache

Nerve soothing properties of Kava tea can help curb toothaches. Consume 1-2 cups of Kava tea on a regular basis to get relief from toothache due to cavity formation or even after going through a dental surgery.

Urinary Tract Infections

Kava is antibacterial and antifungal, hence, help in eradicating infections from the bladder. Being diuretic, it flushes all bacteria causing germs from the bladder and helps in treating UTI and other bladder infections.

Anaesthetic

Kava has numbing properties and can reduce and numb sensations in various body parts for temporary periods of time. It thus can be used to numb pain sensations in aching body parts and causes numbing in the tongue for some time after it is chewed.

Different methods of Making Kava Tea

Every individual has a different recipe to prepare Kava tea. The common methods to prepare this tea include:

Method I – The Kava Tea Powder:

Generally, Kava tea powder is easily available at local health food stores. There are many different types of Kava available under different brand names. Look for a good brand through trial and error.

The next step is to mix the powder in water. However, remember to remove the root powder before drinking. This can be done through a large teabag or by filtering the drink later. However, for those who like some extra fibre can leave the tea unstrained.

Finally, the amount of Kava powder is added to the drink according to your taste. More amount of powder means a more potent drink.

Method II – The Strainer Method:

The initial step in the preparation of the tea by the strainer method begins with adding the Kava powder directly into the water and mixing it thoroughly. If needed, you can opt to use a blender for large quantities or use a spoon for preparing one cup.

Allow the Kava and water to mix for at least 10 minutes. During this time, allow the blender to have a couple of breaks. The next step is to filter the Kava using a strainer. It can be a wire mesh or cheesecloth. It is worth noting that coffee filters don’t work well for filtering Kava tea.

Method III – The Kneading Method:

For this method, take a shallow bowl. Fill it with the desired quantity of water. Three cups or more is an appropriate quantity. Follow by placing a square cloth inside the bowl. Fill the clean cloth with the desired quantity of Kava powder. Then knead this Kava in the water. Make sure the powder doesn’t escape into the bowl. As the process is completed, pull the straining cloth out and squeeze out as much liquid as possible from it.

Method IV – Kava Teabags:

Besides the powder, Kava teabags are a great option to prepare tasty and effective Kava tea. It also is easy and saves time. Kava tea bags form the real crux of any Kava supplement. However, if you are not using whole kava root and a powder mix, capsule, or powder tea, try making sure the chosen supplement contains Kava extract and not just the dried and powdered root. This is because, without extraction of any form, plain powdered root might not be active physiologically.

Here is how you can brew Kava tea using Kava tea bags:

1. Pour boiling water over 1-2 tea bags.
2. Allow the bags to steep for about 5-10 minutes.
3. It is highly suggested to make use of cool water, because water heated at more than 140 degrees Fahrenheit might degrade kava lactones, therefore decreasing the efficiency of the brew.
Precautionary Tips:

The use of herbs to strengthen the body and protect it from various diseases has been in practice for thousands of years. However, herbs also contain certain components that can prompt side effects and react with other herbs, medications and/or supplements. Hence, it is advisable to consume herbs and herbal products with care.

It is best to consume herbs under expert supervision of a physician or health care provider who is qualified and has vast knowledge of botanical medicine.

Kava tea is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women. Also, avoid drinking this tea if you are going to have a surgery as it can protract the impact of anaesthesia.


Kava

(Body and Soul)

An ancient ceremonial drug of the Asia Pacific, Kava is famed for its sedative and anaesthetic properties.

Kava - or ‘kava kava’ as sometimes called - is a root that has been used medicinally for many centuries in the South Pacific for its calming and anaesthetic effects. Its active principal ingredients are the kavalactones, of which at least 15 have been identified and are all considered psychoactive. Kava is consumed primarily to relax without disrupting mental clarity.

Where it's found

Kava is extracted from a root plant - grown mostly in the Republic of Vanuatu, now widely recognised as the "home" of kava. It’s also consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia - ingested as a liquid drink.

How it can benefit you

Kava is a sedative so has a calming effect, producing changes in the brain similar to those that occur with medicines such as diazepam (Valium, for example). Kava also can prevent convulsions and relax muscles. Research has also shown that kava's calming effect relieves anxiety, restlessness, sleeplessness, and stress-related symptoms such as muscle tension or spasm.

Naturopath Mim Beim says:

“I love Kava. It is such a great herb for anxiety. It works pretty quickly, within about 40 minutes after taking it. It’s good for performance anxiety, or interview jitters. For some people it doesn’t work at all, in which case, don’t keep trying. Also, it can help you sleep, although it’s not a sedative herb, but it’s good if stress and anxiety are behind your insomnia.”


Medicinal Plant Kava Safe And Effective In Reducing Anxiety, Study Suggests

(Springer)

Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia have found a traditional extract of Kava, a medicinal plant from the South Pacific, to be safe and effective in reducing anxiety.

To be published online this week in the Springer journal Psychopharmacology, the results of a world-first clinical trial which found that a water-soluble extract of Kava was effective in treating anxiety and improving mood. The Kava was prescribed in the form of tablets.

Lead researcher Jerome Sarris, a PhD candidate from UQ’s School of Medicine, said the placebo-controlled study found Kava to be an effective and safe treatment option for people with chronic anxiety and varying levels of depression.

“We’ve been able to show that Kava offers a natural alternative for the treatment of anxiety, and unlike some pharmaceutical options, has less risk of dependency and less potential of side effects,” Mr. Sarris said.

Each week participants were given a clinical assessment as well as a self-rating questionnaire to measure their anxiety and depression levels. The researchers found anxiety levels decreased dramatically for participants taking five tablets of Kava per day as opposed to the placebo group which took dummy pills.

“We also found that Kava had a positive impact on reducing depression levels, something which had not been tested before,” Mr. Sarris said. In 2002 Kava was banned in Europe, UK and Canada due to concerns over liver toxicity.

While the three-week trial raised no major health concerns regarding the Kava extract used, the researchers said larger studies were required to confirm the drug’s safety.

“When extracted in the appropriate way, Kava may pose less or no potential liver problems. I hope the results will encourage governments to reconsider the ban,” Mr. Sarris said.

“Ethanol and acetone extracts, which sometimes use the incorrect parts of the Kava, were being sold in Europe. That is not the traditional way of prescribing Kava in the Pacific Islands. Our study used a water-soluble extract from the peeled rootstock of a medicinal cultivar of the plant, which is approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia and is currently legal in Australia for medicinal use.”



Academic says kava good for mental health

(Dateline Pacific)

A Tongan academic says he hopes to see kava more commonly used to combat mental illness among Pacific people in the future.

Massey University lecturer, Dr Sione Vaka presented a paper at a kava conference on how kava use was hugely beneficial for people in a number of health areas, including mental illness.

His previous doctorate research on the topic focused on Tongan men.

He says while kava drinking is already used widely in many social and formal Pacific culture and traditions.

Dr Sione Vaka began by telling Sara Vui-Talitu that the crop containts relaxant properties and the setting makes people reconnect with others around the kava circle and they get to share their views on life.

Transcript

SIONE VAKA: Talking about how we incorporate kava, because to engage with Tongan men to get in-depth data, kava is very useful in that context and also the language there - to collect that information from people. And we use that to look at how Tongan people define mental illness and also, on another project which I presented, as well as discussing with Tongan in the kava circle, how can we decrease smoking. Because while [smoking] is decreasing [for other groups], for Tongan men it is still going up.

SARA VUI-TALITU: So what drew you to such research?

SV: My background is in mental health and my PHD research was looking at definitions of mental illness from a Tongan perspective. But I find the importance of using kava, because the group that I use kava for was the one that provided the most information. So I did another project on smoking and that's when we used the kava there as well.

SVT: What has been your perception of kava and how do you see it evolving as we move through the decades?

SV: I think kava is quite important for our Pasifika people because it identifies land, it identifies our identity, identifies who we are and it keeps us connected to the crown and also where we come from as well. So kava has all those symbols and also reminds us where we come from. It's also a forum where we get to learn more about who we are. So for the future i hope it will be around for a very long time, because I know in mental health - to have good mental well-being you have to be connected culture-wise with your level of identity, so those levels of support will be good to maintain mental well-being.


Drinking kava becoming popular with Tongan women

By Sara Vui-Talitu (Senior Journalist)

For Ikanamoe Ma'u, that is exactly what she has been doing for almost two decades.

She proudly calls herself a heavy kava drinker.

"I can drink kava all night and drink more cups than men," she says proudly.

Now living in Aotearoa, it was a pleasant surprise to notice a shift in female kava consumption on a recent trip back to Tonga, she said.

"I went home and was surprised to see a lot of young females as kava consumers and they do drink the kava."

She said when she started drinking kava heavily in the late 1990s, she hadn't heard of any other Tongan women who also did it.

By tradition, the Tongan fai kava or practise of drinking kava is usually done with men sitting around the kava bowl circle and a woman serving kava to the men is known as a tou'a.

"So I was often labelled a rebel for breaking with strict cultural traditions, but I'd much rather drink kava than alcohol," she said.

Tongan academic Nalei Taufa said cultural protocols were hard to break.

She talks about the role of the tou'a: "Traditionally and historically it was a very privileged and prestigious demonstration of a woman's virtue and titled key ceremonies."

She believed Ikanamoe's behaviour wasn't common so further research into women in general as kava consumers was overdue.

"Certainly given its commercialisation, it also just kind of creates more awareness around kava as a trend where women will start to be consumers more frequently."

But Nalei Taufa warned in her research about male kava drinkers, that there were risks to consuming too much.

"If you are at a long kava session there is sleep deprivation and there is tiredness and are already sleep deprived, and then drive home with a strong sedative, depending on how strong the kava mix is as well," she said.

Mele Lino said she used to just serve the kava as a tou'a until she joined up with a female Tongan kava group when visiting America.

"With the tou'a I think I played a different role where I just sit there and serve but in the circle with the girls, I got to drink and participate in the conversation."

And kava drinker Mele Havli said change was a good thing.

She said she would often drink kava with her late father as a way to communicate.

"I used to be able to do it often with my late dad and I loved it as it enabled us to chat and catch up," she said.

"I think that because we have come here to New Zealand and other places, and we see that for Fijiians it is a social thing that some women do. So some Tongan women have taken it on and done it as a sort of social gathering, even though it is not common."

Kava researcher Apa Aparosa said that the response to a presentation from Ikanamoe Ma'u at a recent kava workshop was really positive and inspiring.

"I think for her to talk about kava from a Tongan woman's perspective is pretty controversial," he said.

"There is this general rhetoric out there that Tongan women don't drink kava and Ikanamoe definitely challenges that."

Ikanamoe Ma'u encouraged women to drink the kava on their own terms.

"Be yourself and just do it," she said with a wide smile.

"It's your personal choice as a Tongan woman to do what you want to. So if you feel like drinking a lot of kava with other women, go for it."


Introduction of the kava manual will boost its industry

(Fiji Broadcasting Company News)

The National Kava Standard and Fiji Kava Quality Manual were officially launched last night.

This is an effort to improve kava quality and grow exports.

While launching the manual, Acting Minister for Agriculture Osea Naiqamu says the manual has been launched at the right time given the renewed interest of markets for kava in Europe and the United States.

“We must explore every opportunity to protect and promote Fiji kava as an authentic high quality Fijian products when competition in the international markets.”

Naiqamu says kava producing countries in the Pacific including Fiji struggled in the aftermath of a kava ban imposed by Germany in 2012.

He adds that the ban was later lifted in 2014 and while Fiji’s kava earnings have gradually increased, recovery has been relatively slow.


Health Benefits of Kava

By Joshua Rogers

Kava is a herb that first started becoming utilized in the Pacific. Also scientifically called Piper Methysticum, the stem and the roots are where the crucial ingredient is that’s been employed both in alternative and conventional westernized instances of medicine.

Typically crushed or chewed up in order to create a liquid, Kava can now be generally discovered in capsules, liquids, and even in tea. All of these forms of the herb are aimed at decreasing a number of tension associated problems, pressures, and illnesses.

The Health Benefits of Kava

Scientific study has found that the herb has a lot of usefulness in sending feelings of well being to the brain, which then helps muscle relaxation, increases focus, reduces sleeplessness, lowers inhibitions, and can be appropriate for discomfort such as back pain or hyperactivity in kids. It has been recommended that kava may impact dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters, even though there’s no complete proof.

The herb’s root’s extracts have been used to supply people with instant access to the many amazing benefits and uses of kava. Other health advantages of this natural treatment include aid with asthma, menopausal symptoms, depression, and urinary tract infections. Because of its calming, relaxing characteristics, a health improvement has been provided by it to numerous people that will have otherwise had to endure quite a bit of chronic pain.

In recent years people and sports individuals, to significantly enhance efficiency by decreasing daily pressures, have used kava. It’s also fascinating to notice that kava has actually been applied by the military. This has been the case for certain uses of the herb in specific areas across the globe in order to decrease stress and enhance the concentration of its soldiers.

Lately, there have been quite a few people asking about how safe kava is when taken on a frequent basis. Among these primary issues happens to be the liver, where liver toxicity and failure occurred in a few patients which were discovered to be using a nutritional supplement containing the kava extract. Though this is something that couldn’t be proven as alcohol and other forms of medicine had also been ingested by the patients.

The consequences of prolonged usage of the organic material are, however, as of yet unknown. There were indications that ingesting large doses of kava all at once may lead to skin rashes and headaches. Just one dose of the natural treatment has been found to have little to no negative effects.

Researchers have recommended that kava is never to be utilized with other medications, alcohol, or by pregnant women. Just like anything new, you should contact your primary care physician before starting any treatment of kava.


6 Herbs Proven to Help Treat Depression and Anxiety

By Zoe Blarowski

Antidepressant medications are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. Possible side effects include impaired sexual function, suicidal thoughts, an increased risk for internal bleeding and potential withdrawal-like symptoms when the drugs are discontinued.

Herbal remedies may provide a more natural way to treat depression and anxiety with less potential side effects. Recent studies have shown the following herbs are some of the best for reducing depression and anxiety.

1. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

A review of various herbal remedies, such as lavender, passionflower and lemon balm, found that St. John’s wort was the only one that was effective for treating depression.

The studies also showed that St. John’s wort had no significant side effects when taken by itself. Although, it can interact negatively when it’s taken with other medications. Speak to your doctor before consuming St. John’s wort to make sure it’s compatible with other pharmaceuticals you might be taking.

St. John’s wort is available in capsules and extracts in most health food stores. The plant is also easy to grow in your own garden. It’s a small shrub hardy to USDA zone 5 that blooms with attractive yellow flowers all summer. You can eat 2 to 4 grams of the dried herb daily or steep it into a tea. Both leaves and flowers are safe to use.

2. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

An herb traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha translates to “smell of horse.” This refers to its distinct smell as well as the belief that the herb will give you the strength of a horse.

It is a shrub native to India and North Africa and the roots are used medicinally. Ashwagandha is what’s known as an adaptogen, a plant that can increase your body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote healthy physical function.

Various studies have found that ashwagandha is a safe, non-toxic herb that can reduce depression, anxiety and stress responses in your body. Interestingly, it’s also been shown to increase hemoglobin and iron circulating in your blood. This provides more energy to the body in general and could be a factor in improving mood and physiological reactions to stress.

3. Camu Camu (Myrciaria dubia)

This is a shrub native to South America. The berries of camu camu are high in vitamin C and are often sold as a powder, juice or in capsules. They’re not typically eaten fresh because they’re very sour.

Many health benefits are claimed about camu camu, including that it combats depression. Research is still limited, but it’s been proven that camu camu has excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. There is a definite link between inflammation in the body and depression, so it would be logical that reducing your inflammation will also help reduce depression.

Currently, no toxic effects of camu camu have been found.

4. Maca (Lepidium meyenii)

Maca is cultivated exclusively at an altitude of 4000-4500 meters (13,100 to 14,700 feet) in the Peruvian Central Andes. It has been used traditionally for its nutritional and medicinal properties. Maca is exported as a powder, flour and liquor, as well as in capsules and extracts.

A few studies have shown that maca acts as an antidepressant in mice and helps to control oxidative stress in the brain. Human trials have also shown improvements in mood and energy when people consume maca. For example, a group of postmenopausal women who received 3.3 grams per day of maca for 6 weeks had significant improvement in depression symptoms compared to women who did not consume maca.

Maca has also been shown to have no apparent toxicity.

5. Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

Originally from northern and mountainous regions of Europe and Asia, rhodiola is also an adaptogen like ashwagandha. The root has been proven to reduce stress and fatigue as well as increase mental and physical performance.

An Armenian study found that a rhodiola extract given in either 340 or 680 milligram dosages over 6 weeks had an anti-depressive effect for people with mild to moderate depression. No serious side effects were reported in the study.

6. Kava (Piper methysticum)

Kava is a plant native to the islands of the South Pacific. The roots have long been used to treat insomnia, fatigue and anxiety.

A review of eleven different scientific studies concluded that kava appears to be an effective treatment for anxiety. The studies suggest that kava is relatively safe for short-term treatment of 1 to 24 weeks.

Although, cases of liver damage associated with kava have been reported worldwide. Some experts argue that the connection between kava and liver damage isn’t certain. For instance, some of the reported cases could have been from other drugs the people were taking, or using excessive doses of kava.

Regardless, kava has been banned in countries like the United Kingdom and Germany due to its potential toxicity. If you’re considering taking kava, speak to a health care professional first about any possible side effects, especially if you have any pre-existing liver conditions.


What Is Kava and Should You Try It?

By Kristina Headrick

Kava found me a few years back when I was trying to manage what can be crippling anxiety. A child of the “there’s a pill for that” era, I’d tried everything from a Xanax prescription to self-medicating with red wine. Both these options led to further anxiety in the long run and I’m one of the lucky ones who never developed a crippling dependence to either. The powers of Google offered overwhelming but hopeful promises to my search for “holistic remedies for anxiety.” That week I purchased a tincture of Valerian and a few boxes of Yogi brand kava tea. The latter calmed me without inducing brain fog, a hangover, or sending me straight to the land of nod.

National chain Kavasutra has been open for awhile in the city, but Bushwick now claims not just one, but both of Brooklyn’s only kava bars. Brooklyn Kava and House of Kava opened within weeks of one another, and each brings a unique spin to the experience. Sourced from the islands of Fiji, Hawaii, Vanuatu and Samoa, kava is traditionally consumed from the half-shell of a coconut. Don’t be surprised if you hear your kava drinking receptacle referred to as a shell.

Brooklyn Kava, owned by Harding Stowe and Nick Haycock, is a full-service cafe. “This is the only place like this on the East Coast. We wanted to create something super healthy,” Harding says of the choice to only serve all natural ingredients, Counter Culture coffee, and kombucha on tap. The minimal vibe is served by the incredibly detailed, pencil-drawn artwork of artist Sarah Tse and hardly recalls its former tenant, Cafeteria La Mejor, though it did inherit its legacy as a purveyor of delicious morning coffee. While kava is typically more popular in the post-work hours, Brooklyn Kava already has a loyal contingent who take their morning brew with kava, which “provides a nice relaxed focus.” Harding found the beverage the way many do: searching for an antidote job-related stress. “I felt like the only thing to do every night was drink. I was looking for a natural alternative to alcohol,” he explains. He tried to kava and to his “amazement,” it worked. Kava bars were already popular in his home state of North Carolina, particularly the crunchier mountain towns like Boone and Asheville. Prior to opening Brooklyn Kava, he and Nick sold ready-to-drink kava beverages at Whole Foods Markets.

Kava’s popularity is well established in another southern state: Florida. Though born in Brooklyn, House of Kava co-owner Joyci Borovsky grew up primarily in Florida, where “people kava hop. Florida has over 30 kava bars alone.” Like Harding, she came to kava as an alternative to alcohol because she “couldn’t afford to be hungover all the time. An ex brought me to a kava bar because he was recovering and drank it all the time. I thought he was drinking dirt. I fell in love with it because it made me feel great but didn’t alter my mind in any way.” She would do homework at kava bars and “end up hanging out for hours.” The large, loungey space on Central Avenue will soon have a movie projector, which feels like the most logical pairing for the relaxing tonic.

A biology major with an interest in pharmacology, Joyci hopes her spot becomes a community for people seeking safe alternatives to alcohol and other drugs. Those interested in nootropics might already be aware of kava’s reverse tolerance effect: the more you drink, the less you need. As a result, House of Kava offers the first shell for free as first timers will feel its effects less.

Studies have confirmed kava’s efficacy in treating short-term social anxiety should you desire FDA-style approval. Then again, the FDA approves plenty of substances it shouldn’t because big pharma totally has your best interests in mind. While kava has the FDA stamp of approval, House of Kava also sells kratom tea, which does not. In headline-grabbing fashion, VICE once called kratom “the beverage of recovering heroin addicts.” Some of the strains also have caffeine, and Joyci drinks it in the morning as a substitute for coffee.

Having only tried Yogi Tea kava, I was surprised by the intensity of the ingredient served on its own. The drink has an earthy taste, slightly numbing to the tongue thanks to analgesic properties. A chocolate and red rooibos beverage at Brooklyn Kava is a nice option, as the chocolate complements the kava’s earthen taste instead of masking the flavor entirely. Think chocolate milk that relaxes you. At House of Kava a peach flavored shot goes down easily enough. Those who prefer to go hard can order a shell of the pure stuff at either establishment.

I wonder if it will catch on here and find the popularity it deserves. Will Netflix and kava become a “thing”? Will someone try to serve it in mason jars? These are hard hitting questions I can’t answer. For now, I do hope it provides some chill the city desperately needs.


Kava trade and retail

By Samantha Rina

KAVA is an important agricultural commodity for a number of Pacific Island countries, forming an integral part of cultural, economic and social life.

About 30,000 households are involved in its cultivation in Vanuatu, with a further 3000 earning an income from the kava trade and retail (nakamal) operations.

Kava is widely consumed in Vanuatu and Fiji, but is also exported to countries such as New Zealand, New Caledonia, the US, and the EU.

There has been great interest in kava as a "nutraceutical", a herbal alternative to pharmaceutical sleeping and anti-anxiety pills because of kava's soporific and calming qualities.

The global nutraceuticals market is valued in the billions of dollars.

A regional quality standard

A milestone agreement was reached at a regional meeting of the Codex Alimentarius (or Codex) Commission.

This body sets global food standards, guidelines and codes of practice (known as the Codex) aimed at ensuring the safety of food traded internationally.

The Codex Commission is supported by a Secretariat which is managed by two UN bodies — the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) — and is based in Rome.

Regional chapters of the Codex Commission meet to discuss regional food safety standards, and it was the FAO/WHO Co-ordinating Committee for North America and South West Pacific that met in Vanuatu in September, and agreed to develop a new regional standard for kava.

The Codex agreement is a significant step that holds renewed promise for the future of the kava industry.

Support from the PHAMA program

The pathway to this point has been a long and winding one. There has been talk of developing a regional standard for kava for many years.

Given the importance of kava to Pacific livelihoods and its significant market and export potential, the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program, an Australian Government initiative, co-funded by the New Zealand Government has been providing market access assistance for kava for about two years.

In Vanuatu, the first step was to bring the various government and private sector players together to form a Kava Industry Working Group (KIWG). PHAMA provided support to the KIWG to develop an industry strategy outlining priority areas for development.

In Fiji, industry co-operation was made easier by the existence of the Yaqona Taskforce, with which PHAMA partners. Number one on the list of priorities for the industry in both countries was the need to rebuild the image of kava following a ban on kava imports put in place by the EU because of health concerns raised by various pieces of research.

The EU ban (since lifted in 2015 following subsequent research) had a devastating effect on exports of kava from the region.

Documenting varieties

In order to rebuild kava's image, PHAMA, the KIWG and the Yaqona Taskforce recognised the importance of demonstrating the quality of exported kava.

There are over 80 varieties of kava in Vanuatu and 13 in Fiji.

All of the varieties in Fiji are "noble" varieties, but in Vanuatu there is a mixture of noble, wild and what is termed "tudei" varieties.

Question marks remain about the safety of consuming tudei and wild varieties of kava, indicating the importance of being able to distinguish between noble and other varieties.

The way kava is harvested and dried is also important, as certain parts of the plant should not be used and poor drying can lead to mould and aflatoxin contamination.

Given this context, stakeholders in both Fiji and Vanuatu requested PHAMA's assistance in undertaking research into the varieties of kava grown locally.

In Vanuatu, this research was conducted by renowned kava expert, Dr Vincent Lebot, who documented the 80+ varieties grown in Vanuatu and identified the different chemical properties of the varieties such as the level of kavalactones.

Similar research was supported by PHAMA in Fiji in partnership with Mr Usaia Dolodolotawake at the University of the South Pacific.

Promoting quality kava cultivation

Following on from this, PHAMA then worked with the KIWG in Vanuatu and the Yaqona Taskforce in Fiji to develop a quality assurance system for kava in each country.

Comprehensive kava quality manuals and awareness materials have been developed for distribution to farmers in each country, outlining how to produce quality kava products for export.

In Vanuatu, PHAMA is partnering with the kava industry, government and FAO to disseminate the PHAMA materials and provide training for farmers.

The efforts of PHAMA and its partners have raised awareness of correct production, processing and storage at all levels of the value chain. Fiji meanwhile is feeling the devastating effects of Severe TC Winston, which destroyed about 55 per cent of the kava crop.

Thought is being given to how production can be rejuvenated such as through the development of kava nurseries, distribution of planting material and other support to farmers.

A test to regulate exports

PHAMA also teamed up again with Dr Lebot on the development of a simple and cost effective kava quality test.

This colour test can be used by exporters and regulatory authorities across the region to distinguish between noble and other varieties of kava.

The development of practical and economical quality testing tools like this will enable more effective quality assurance along the value chain.

National quality standards

Exports cannot be regulated if legislation is not in place or if farmers and exporters have not been made aware of quality requirements.

PHAMA has therefore worked with the governments in Vanuatu and Fiji to develop their own national quality standards for kava.

In Vanuatu, the national standard has been widely consulted and is soon to come into force through an amendment to the Kava Act.

Fiji is also close to finalising its standard following consultations with farmers and industry in June and July 2016.

The Fiji Yaqona Taskforce and Ministry of Agriculture have also identified the need to progress legislation to formalise the representative industry body, provide a basis for quality standards and develop an industry plan for kava.

Pacific collaboration

All stakeholders recognise that the Pacific kava producing countries need to work together to promote quality exports.

If one country exports poor quality kava, and this results in restrictions by importing countries, it risks affecting exports of kava from other Pacific countries.

For Vanuatu, that could mean the loss of $US7 million ($F14.43m) of annual exports.

This underlines the importance of developing a regional standard that is informed by the work already undertaken on national standards.

This is why PHAMA supported a number of Pacific Island countries to prepare for and attend the recent regional Codex Commission meeting in Port Vila.

While tangible progress has been made at the national level, the process for developing a regional Codex standard has only just begun.

The development and finalisation of a regional standard could take a few years. PHAMA expects to continue its support on the development of this standard, but will also cement its work in Fiji and Vanuatu to promote the quality of kava production and exports that are so important to the livelihoods of so many people.


Relax with kava on the Big Island

By David Thompson (Special to The Chronicle)

Fights don't break out at kava bars.

Unlike regular bars, where tempers can rise with the voices as the night wears on, the more people drink at a kava bar, the more hushed the place becomes. The later it gets, the greater the sense of peace and goodwill.

Kava the drink is made from the pulverized root of kava the plant, a relative of the pepper. It may taste like dirt, but you don't drink it to please the palate, which, in fact, it numbs. You drink it for the same reasons Polynesians have for thousands of years: It makes your worries seem manageable, your bones seem to settle into place, and your brain feel focused, friendly and clear. It's as if you've just done 90 minutes of intense vinyasa flow yoga, without the sweat-soaked laundry. And it relieves toothaches.

The Big Island is the unofficial kava capital of Hawaii. There are probably more kava bars per capita there than anywhere else. Here are the four biggies:

Kanaka Kava

This tiny, open-air kava watering hole sits smack in the boozy, touristy heart of Kailua-Kona, a counterintuitive spot for a mellow kava experience. But calm at the center of the storm is what native Hawaiian kava farmer Zack Gibson had in mind when he opened the place - that and creating a market for the certified organic kava he grows.

Gibson believes that Hawaii would be a lot better off if it drank less alcohol and more kava. "So we went right down to where the beer and partying is and created a peaceful place," he says.

Kava didn't taste any better in ancient Hawaiian times than it does now, which is why kava drinkers then usually had pupus on hand. Kanaka Kava serves traditional Hawaiian pupus such as sweet potato, poi, kalua pork and a hard-to-find, chewy shellfish called opii.

Kava Kafe

At the northern tip of the island in the one-street former plantation town of Hawi, this thoroughly laid-back kava hangout is the kind of place where young moms let diapered kids roam, and nobody has to leave the dog in the car.

On the frequent live music nights, it feels more like a house party than anything else. The crowd spills out onto the tiered decks, because there's just enough room inside for, say, a three-piece reggae band, a low-slung couch filled with local girls and a handful of dancers trying not to trip over the mutts and free-range toddlers.

The kava's gone vegan here, with wheat- and gluten-free kava brownies, and kava drinks concocted with coconut milk, honey, ginger, chocolate, cayenne and cinnamon.

Bayfront Coffee, Kava and Tea

Looking across the highway and through the palms at Hilo Bay, this kava bar in Hilo's old downtown has the breezy appeal of a sidewalk cafe. It also pours the easiest-to-drink kava on the island, made from a blend of certified organic or no-spray varieties served cold.

The temperature makes a huge difference. A coconut shell cup of cold, fresh kava goes down far more smoothly than a shell of room-temperature dried kava, which is how it's typically served. Smoother still is the "alii style," prepared with fresh coconut water instead of tap water.

"The coconut water makes it taste better, and you get a more thorough extraction," says proprietor Dave Stevenson. "In other words, it's more potent."

Uncle's Awa Bar

Kava goes by its Hawaiian name, awa (pronounced with a "v"), at this outdoor bar in the front yard of Uncle Robert Keliihoomalu, in Kalapana, a centuries-old fishing settlement almost entirely destroyed by lava in 1990. The huge flow rose to the top of the rock wall at the edge of Uncle Robert's property, then changed direction and spared his home.

By day tourists tromp through his yard, inspecting a sculpture barn, a fading photo display of Kalapana's destruction and an exhibit laying out the legal case for the restoration of the overthrown Hawaiian monarchy. By night the awa drinkers turn out, sitting at a couple of picnic tables or around the horseshoe bar, sipping plastic cups of potent, powdered Hawaiian awa and conversing in hushed tones beneath the beneath the stars late into the evening.


What can kava herb do as an aphrodisiac?

By Louanne Cole Weston, Ph.D.,

Q: Recently I've been hearing about an herb called kava. I've seen some products containing kava that tout the herb to be an aphrodisiac. Is this true?

A: If a substance that reduces anxiety can be considered an aphrodisiac, then add kava to the list.

For approximately 3,000 years, South Pacific civilizations have used the root of this plant to make a ceremonial drink to celebrate births, coronations, weddings, visiting royalty and most social gatherings, according to Richard Huemer, M.D., a medical nutritional consultant in Washington.

Today kava is used in Germany (where it is sold over the counter) to treat anxiety, says Cheryl Richitt, vice president of marketing at Natrol.

The kava plant, a cousin to the black pepper plant, has an unusual fable that describes a shift in the cultivation of kava. This fable may be a source of some of the aphrodisiac claims.

Here's the fable according to Chris Kilham, a botanical researcher of the South Seas, in "Kava: Medicine Hunting in Paradise" (1996, Park Street Press): Two sisters were out gathering wild yams. After collecting many, the women went to a tide pool to wash dirt off the yams and to scrape off their peels. They squatted by the water's edge and began to work on the yams.

Unbeknownst to the women, a kava plant had been hidden in the rocks near the water by a voyaging warrior. While working at the water's edge, she felt delightful sensations in her body, and this brought a broad smile to her face. She called out, "Oh, my sister. Something is giving me sweet pleasure. Tell me, do you see what it is?"

The sister looked and saw the nearby kava was the stealthy agent of happiness. Realizing that this was no ordinary kava plant, the two sisters removed the plant from where it had been hidden, and brought it home. They planted the kava in their garden and tended it secretly.

The story continues on and describes how the sisters introduced this "true kava" to the men of their village, how they cultivated it in gardens and how they eventually caused the men to prefer it over the kava found in the wild.

Today it is generally acknowledged that a group of compounds known as kavalactones are primarily responsible for the effects of the plant. Documented effects of kava include: general relaxation, anti-anxiety activity, muscle relaxation and anti-convulsive effects.

Unlike alcohol, which dulls perceptions, kava generates a calm, but not intoxicated, state. This is relevant to the sexual activity because it may permit some who are anxious to calm themselves without some of the negative sexual side effects of anti-anxiety medications.

Over-the-counter kava in Europe typically contains 200-250 mg. of kava extract. One to three capsules per day is the general range of use. Calming effects usually take about 20 minutes to begin. "Kava should be used as needed and not taken daily," says Richard Kunin, M.D., psychiatrist and nutrition physician in San Francisco.

"Overuse can lead to skin reactions such as inflammation and yellowing."

Many people find that exciting sex includes having some anxiety - just not too much of it. Kava may be helpful for people who find aspects of sex to cause overwhelming amounts of anxiety or for people who just want to feel an even greater sense of calm.



Study shows traditional preparation of Kava may help prevent cancer

By Tamara Vaifanua

SALT LAKE CITY – A root known as Kava that grows in the Pacific Islands could yield some promising health benefits. Scientists in New York say it’s becoming a useful weapon in the fight against cancer.

Kava is used in traditional ceremonies on the islands and elsewhere. Pacific islanders grind the root and mix it with water. The mixture is then squeezed and strained into a coconut shell, ready to serve.

People say they feel tingling and numbness in their tongue.

“I was able to see Kava ceremonies performed in the islands, they're beautiful parts of the culture,” said Karen Mulitalo.

Mulitalo is of Samoan descent and the director of the University of Utah’s Physician’s Assistant program. She has studied the healing effects of Kava.

“The healing properties began to be noticed when there was a high incidence of smoking in the Pacific Islands, like there is in the states," she said.

Mulitalo is encouraged by a recent study conducted by scientists in New York. They found that squeezing the Kava extract through sea hibiscus bark inhibited the growth of breast and colon cancer.

This supports previous research that shows that, in places where Kava is used, incidence of cancers is low despite high smoking rates.

“Some of the studies even looked into Kava that they found in one island was more effective than the Kava they found in another,” Mulitalo said.

In this particular study, extracts that were most effective against cancer cells were from Fiji. Mulitalo says there’s definitely a correlation, but there could be other factors at play, such as lifestyle.

“Certainly, very exciting," she said. "It's always nice to find that there is something that is hopeful in preventing cancers.”


5 natural remedies for anxiety

By Anuradha Varanasi

Anxiety disorders can be extremely challenging to deal with as patients struggle to cope with feelings of overwhelming fear and constant worrying. While there are different types of anxiety disorders, symptoms include trouble sleeping, sweaty hands and an inability to stay calm, among others. These 5 natural remedies could help in fighting against anxiety.

Passionflower: Iranian researchers included 36 anxiety patients in their study where half of them were given extracts of passion flower (45 drops per day), while the others were given an anti-anxiety drug called oxazepam for four weeks. They found that passion flower extracts were as effective as the medicine in reducing symptoms.

St. John’s Wort: These extracts are derived from the flowerings of this shrub found in Europe most commonly. It is used commonly in Germany to treat anxiety and depression. Several studies have established it is effective in fighting against symptoms of depression that is linked to anxiety.

Magnesium supplements: Studies have found that magnesium intake has anti-anxiety effects on patients. British researchers found that 200mg of magnesium along with 50 mg of vitamin B6 is effective in fighting against premenstrual anxiety among women.

Kava: Kava is a root found most commonly in the Pacific region and its roots extracts have been found to be effective in tackling symptoms of anxiety. Researchers first discovered its anti-anxiety properties in 1997 after conducting a study that included 101 patients.

Chamomile: Chamomile tea is known for its relaxing effects. Researchers have found that the extracts can also treat patients with mild to moderate anxiety disorders.


Kava Tea and Its Benefits'

(Drink Herbal Tea)

Kava kava root has been used for hundreds of years in the Pacific Islands for both its cultural significance and medicinal properties. In the last few decades, kava tea has become popular as a sleep aid and a natural remedy for anxiety. While its use is not without controversy, kava offers many benefits for the conscientious consumer.

What Is Kava Tea?

Kava’s scientific name is Piper methysticum, but it also goes by kava kava, cava, and yangona. It is native to the Pacific Island area and is a member of the pepper family. The plants grow in shrubs up to 12 feet tall and are distinguished by thick stems and heart-shaped leaves. The plants can range from green to black and may flower with yellow-green spikes. Kava tea, however, is generally made from the root of the plant, which is soft when first harvested but hardens when it dries out. What Is Kava Tea Good For?

While kava tea has many traditional medicinal uses, it is best known today for its calming effect on the nervous system. It’s commonly used to relieve symptoms associated with:

• Anxiety. Kava’s anti-inflammatory effect on the central nervous system makes it popular with those who suffer from anxiety and chronic stress. Some studies have shown that kava works even better for some people than prescription anti-anxiety medications.
• Insomnia. Those same stress-reducing and calming properties also help the body relax and prepare for sleep. It’s common to start feeling drowsy as soon as 20 minutes after drinking kava tea.
• Headaches. Kava has been used as a traditional remedy for aches and pains, and the roots can be chewed to relieve severe headaches. These same pain relieving properties can also be experienced when ingesting the plant in tea form.
• Arthritis. Kava is also good for pain associated with arthritis, sore muscles and general achiness.

The kava root is very potent. If you’re drinking kava tea to help with anxiety or sleeplessness, you may want to drink it before bed and when you’re ready for sleep until you get an idea of how your body responds and the right dosage for you.

What Does Kava Tea Taste Like?

Pure kava tea has a decidedly warm, earthy taste that can be somewhat bitter at times. When prepared and brewed correctly, it may have a hint of pepper or spice to it as well. The aroma is often described as a “spicy dirt” smell.

Tea Pairings

Many people prefer to temper the flavor with milk or creamer and a bit of honey, but you can also find kava tea that is blended with other herbs to bring out its inherent warmth. Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg are common. Other earthy, rich flavors such as licorice, sarsaparilla, and ginger are a nice complement.

Healing Benefits of Kava Tea

Kava tea’s main healing benefits are its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. The kavalactones in the tea affect the body’s central nervous system, producing a calming effect — sometimes to the point of drowsiness. Kavalactones also reduce the stress response in the body, lowering blood pressure and pulse to normal levels.

Biochemical Profile of Kava Tea

The main component and active ingredient in kava tea is a substance known as kavalactones, which are fat soluble. These are responsible for the plant’s calming and sleep-inducing properties. Traditionally, people chewed the kava roots to take advantage of the various medicinal properties, but now dried and powdered roots and teas are widely available. Are There Any Side Effects from Kava Tea?

The main possible issue with taking kava tea is the chance of liver damage. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released a warning that dietary supplements containing kava may increase the chances of cirrhosis, hepatitis, and liver failure. Those who are already taking medications for liver issues or are at risk of liver problems should not take kava in any form. Women who are pregnant or nursing should also avoid kava. There have not been any conclusive scientific studies conducted on the effect of kava during pregnancy or breastfeeding, but it is possible that the plant can affect the uterus or pass through breastmilk.

Because kava affects the nervous system, those taking antidepressant or sedatives should not use kava tea. Kava can increase the effects of these medications and possibly increase depressive symptoms as well. Kava may also increase the effectiveness of anesthetics and should be avoided for at least two weeks before any surgical procedures.

Dosage and How to Make Kava Tea

Because of the relatively small amount of research done on kava tea, it’s unclear if there is a certain dosage that will bring about the most benefits. Due to the concerns over issues with the liver, however, the American Herbal Products Council has advised limiting yourself to less than 300 milligrams kavalactones a day or just as needed during times of stress, anxiety, or insomnia. Most people are able to get relief from these symptoms with 70 to 150 milligrams taken 30 to 60 minutes before bed. While the tea is generally considered less potent than the extract form, kava tea should also not be used for longer than three months at a time.

If you’re using commercially prepared tea bags, one tea bag per cup of boiling water is a good start, and this tea does best when allowed to steep for 3 to 6 minutes. Using spring or filtered water can also help ensure you get an unadulterated flavor profile. Fresh kava root will give a much stronger tea, so you may want to stick with packaged varieties until you see how the tea affects you.

Where to Buy Kava Tea?

Kava tea is not as common as some herbal varieties like chamomile or peppermint, so you may have to find a health food store or order online. Both Yogi Kava Stress Relief and Buddha Tea’s Kava Kava Root Tea are good choices. The Yogi blend includes cinnamon, sarsaparilla, and carob for a rich, spicy taste, while Buddha Tea delivers a pure flavor by using only the kava root in its version. Who Can Benefit From This Herbal Tea?

Kava tea is a great choice for healthy adults who experience occasional anxiety or sleeplessness, especially related to stress. The tea’s relaxing properties provide relief within 20 to 30 minutes, and when consumed sparingly, there is less need to worry about possible complications with the liver.

What We Like About This Herbal Tea

We love the rich, well-rounded taste of kava tea, its stress-reducing properties and how quickly you can benefit from its effects. While it can be a challenge to find in the grocery store, it’s a good staple to have in your tea collection for nights when you need a little extra help drifting off to a peaceful night’s sleep.

Did You Know?

The kava plant goes by more than 30 different names, but it’s said to have been named Piper methysticum, which means intoxicating pepper, by Captain Cook when he visited the Pacific Island countries. Kava was traditionally used as a topical remedy for leprosy and canker sores. The kava plant and the drink made from the root also have a long history of cultural significance among the Pacific Islanders and were traditionally used as a way to honor visitors and finalize business deals.


The truth about kava

By Meral Basit
What kava is, what it’s used for, common myths

Kava is a root that has been used ceremonially, medicinally and recreationally for over 2500 years in Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian cultures. Recently, kava bars have been popping up in the United States, and demand for the root is growing steadily.

Travis Lowin and Tyler Blythe are co-owners of The Root of Happiness Kava Bar, which has locations in Davis and Rancho Cordova. When they opened their own kava bar, Lowin and Blythe saw that there was a significant lack of testing in the field.

“Originally, what we noticed with kava is that there really wasn’t a standard of quality,” Lowin said. “Is it being tested for purity microbiologically? Are you [testing] for pure microbes whenever it comes in? Is it being ran through for not only the purity, but also the quality?”

Because of the lack of quantifiable standards in the kava industry, Lowin and Blythe made it a personal mission to test their products before offering them to the public, and they established a system for measuring kava potency and quality.

“Everything we serve here, you can literally pull out the binder and go through,” Lowin said. “From our concentrated powders, to our lemon honey concentrate, to the raw materials in general.”

Kava is largely associated with having calming properties, both for the body and the mind. Glenn Reddy, a second-year economics and computer science major at Vanderbilt University, was recently visiting a friend in Davis when he decided to go to The Root of Happiness.

“Because it was something that was entirely legal, and it was something that you didn’t have to be 21 for […] I really didn’t expect much at all,” Reddy said. “[After a few drinks] I was very content to relax and to sit on the very plush couches. It felt really nice.”

Kava’s relaxing properties can be directly attributed to its chemical composition.

“The active ingredients [in kava] are kavalactones. There’s 18 total identifiable kavalactones, six of which contribute the pharmacological effect,” Blythe said. “It’s not like a standardized, one-chemical deal […] It’s six different chemicals, and each chemical has multiple pharmacological contributions to the whole effect.”

These kavalactones interact with the human body to produce calming effects in multiple ways. In addition to affecting calcium channel blockers, kavalactones interact with the endocannabinoid system, which has a role in the modulation of pain and inflammation.

“The human body already has this fascinating endocannabinoid system and within it, you [have a] very intricate network of cannabinoid receptors that our body naturally knows how to use to process naturally occurring chemicals, let’s say in plants, that interact with that system,” Lowin said. “We found kavalactones, [which] obviously come from kava, but directly interact with a benefit within the endocannabinoid.”

As indicated by the name, the cannabinoid system is also affected by cannabis. However, it also is stimulated by black pepper, rosemary and other plants, according to Blythe.

A curious abnormality of kava usage is the reverse tolerance principle. Kava users find that the more often they consume kava, the less kava they have to take to feel the effects. This idea seems counterintuitive when compared to more commonly consumed substances like alcohol and coffee, whose effects are abated with time. According to Blythe, one possible explanation is the stability of the kavalactones.

“There’s long-term acting chemicals that hang around in kava. Whether [or not] they’re affecting you on a noticeable level, they’re still lingering around, they are long half-life chemicals,” Blythe said. “That’s one explanation for what it is, is that they hang around. Maybe for a day or two, maybe for longer. After you’ve been [consuming the chemicals] day after day after day, it accumulates in your system.”

One of the largest concerns around the root deals with a reported trend between kava usage and liver toxicity. According to Blythe, these concerns can be ameliorated.

“What happened in the early ‘90’s to 2000’s is that a bad batch of kava got made, and due to the poor quality controls, record keeping wasn’t up to spec,” Blythe said. “That [instance] traced back to one pharmaceutical company in Germany, Schwabe Pharmaceuticals, who had made a batch of [bad] kava extract and gotten a bunch of people sick.”

Because the recordkeeping was so poor, Blythe said that there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the purity, quality and extractions methods that Schwabe Pharmaceuticals used. However, even the reported cases of liver toxicity were few and far between, according to Blythe.

“We have 500 million daily doses of kava being distributed within Europe over a 10 year period [and] 37 cases of possible correlation of liver toxicity were reported,” Blythe said. “A group of three German scientists who were in charge of investigating those cases narrowed all of them down to three [legitimate] cases […] So out of 500 million daily doses distributed over a decade in Europe, due to one [bad] batch of kava, we had three cases of liver toxicity and never again.”

In starting Root Of Happiness, Blythe and Lowin are excited to offer kava as an alternative to other substances. Winding down at the end of the day with a bowl of kava as opposed to the traditional cold beer is the more relaxing option, according to Blythe.

“[Kava] soothes all your day to day tension,” Blythe said. “It kinda feels like how you should feel without kava. Just kind of calm, and soothing and easy going.”


Kava Plant May Treat Anxiety

By Bahar Gholipour (Staff Writer)

An extract from the kava plant can treat people with chronic anxiety, a study from Australia finds.

Patients with generalized anxiety disorder who took kava extract tablets for six weeks showed a significant reduction in their symptoms, compared with a control group that took placebo pills, the results showed.

The study confirms previous findings showing the anti-anxiety effects of kava, a psychoactive plant native to the Pacific region.

Kava is culturally important among many Pacific Islanders, and is used in rituals and ceremonies. Consuming kava may induce a mild sedation and euphoria, a numbing effect and enhanced social interaction. It is prepared in various forms, such as grinding the plant or brewing its roots.

It's believed the roots contain chemicals that may treat anxiety. The active ingredients of the plant are compounds called kavalactones. These chemicals have similar effects to medications such as Xanax, which are used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.

In the new study, 75 patients with anxiety disorders were given either kava or placebo pills, and their anxiety levels were regularly assessed over the next six weeks.

Patients who consumed kava tablets showed significant improvements in their symptoms, as measured by a commonly used psychological test.

By the end of the experiment, 26 percent of kava-consuming patients were in remission from their symptoms compared with 6 percent of the placebo group, according to the study, which was published this month in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Kava is less addictive and has a lower risk of side effects compared with conventional anxiety medications, according to the study.

In the study, some people taking kava reported headaches, but no other side effects were seen. Previous studies have suggested the plant may have negative effects on the liver, but liver tests in the study participants showed no problems.

Researchers also found that people’s genetics may affect their response to kava. Genes that code for proteins that transport a brain chemical called GABA may play a role in this, .

“If this finding is replicated, it may pave the way for simple genetic tests to determine which people may be likely to have a beneficial anxiety-reducing effect from taking kava,” said Jerome Sarris, study author from the University of Melbourne.

The new study adds to the evidence of kava's medicinal potential. A 2010 review of 12 controlled trials concluded that kava is likely to be an effective treatment for anxiety, and its short-term use is likely to be safe. The reviewers, however, called for larger studies to bolster these results.

Kava is a major export of the Pacific. It was once banned in some Western countries, primarily out of concern for its alleged effects on the liver. It is now legal in most places and available in various forms, such as in relaxation supplements and “anti-energy” drinks.


What Causes The Weird Effects Of Kava?

By Esther Inglis Arkell

Those who have an eye on the fast-paced world of recreational pharmacology will probably have heard of kava. Kava (or kava-kava) is a plant, long known in the South Pacific, that induces a sense of relaxation. It also induces euphoria. And helps you diet. And acts as an effective anesthetic. How does it manage all this? Find out!

If you are in America and go to a sufficiently hippie-inspired store you will probably find a wall full of “relaxation” teas. Most of those teas are of no more worth, when it comes to relaxation, than a regular cup of hot water. However, one might help you out a little bit. That would be “kava” or “kava-kava” tea. They may not be high quality, but the plant they contain is one of the better-known legal drugs.

Kava is a plant found widely throughout the Pacific islands. Its use varies, from island to island. In some places it is part of a solemn ceremony. In others it’s consumed in the equivalent of bars. Wherever it is consumed, it is pounded, ground up, or chewed, and then soaked in water. People then drink the water by the bowlful over the course of an evening, and, given its effects, it’s not surprising to see why. While kava’s taste is described as both bitter and “dirt-like,” it gives the drinker a sense of calm and relaxation, and sometimes a sense of euphoria. It also has a host of other effects, one of which is bitterly disputed.

Kava, once gulped down, goes to work on the body via about fifteen different compounds, known as kavalactones. These different compounds are present in different amounts, depending on the exact strain of kava, but the ones that are responsible for kava’s popularity are known as kavain and desmethoxyyangonin. Kavain induces a feeling of relaxation, like a sedative. Unlike a sedative, it doesn’t do so by knocking out the brain. Instead it’s a muscle relaxant, physically relaxing the body and letting the brain follow along. This leaves kava drinkers relaxed but alert. Desmethyoxyyangonin, meanwhile, increases dopamine in the brain, giving people a mild euphoric sensation. (Another kavalactone, yangonin, works the same brain channel as THC, and also contributes to the good feelings that people have while on kava.)

Kavain has a less-pleasant effect. It’s a topical anesthetic that numbs on contact. People gargle with kava for tooth aches, but mostly it’s a source of embarrassment for people who haven’t tasted kava before and attempt to talk after their first bowl. With their numbed mouths they like they have just had dental surgery. Kava consumed before a big meal might be a real problem, but few people feel like eating after kava. There’s a reason why most topical anesthetics aren’t swallowed. Kavain keeps numbing as it moves through the body, and people who swallow can experience extreme nausea as the anesthetic goes to work on their stomach. Habitual kava drinkers lose the nausea, eventually, but the numbing agent still works. Kava suppresses the appetite.

With all these effects – euphoria, relaxation, and appetite suppression – one would think that kava use would be much more widespread than it is. There’s a reason no one drinks a kava-n-kale smoothie to slim down. In the early 2000s, heavy kava drinkers in Europe and America started having liver problems. A study linked kava to liver damage and a few fatal poisonings. The drug dropped out of sight most places, and was banned entirely in Germany, Switzerland, and Canada. But does kava destroy the liver?

Like many scientific questions, there isn’t a definitive answer. Over the next few years, some researchers have poked holes in the original paper. Other studies, done on kava drinkers in the south Pacific, have noted that they don’t suffer from liver damage any more than any other population. Some speculate that certain kava exporters weren’t careful to only include the roots of the plant, and were grinding the toxic leaves and stems of the kava plant into their powders to increase the weight.

Today, kava seems to be making a comeback. It’s possible that kava drinkers are more careful. It’s possible that the health scare was unsubstantiated. And it’s possible that the idea of getting high without getting the munchies might be more valuable than a liver.


What is kava, is it really a good remedy for anxiety and can you get it in the UK?

By Ellen Scott (for Metro.co.uk)

When you suffer from anxiety, you’ll get excited whenever you hear of a new natural remedy or magical cure.

So when we heard about kava – a root found on the South Pacific islands that apparently calms and soothes stress and anxiety – we were pretty interested.

But it turns out that while kava is proven to be very effective at treating anxiety (hooray), it has some seriously concerning side-effects that mean it’s probably not a wise solution if you’re struggling with stress (oh).

Here’s what you need to know about kava (also known as kava kava).

What is kava?

Kava is a root found on South Pacific islands. It’s been used in medicines on the islands for centuries, and more recently it’s been sold as a natural remedy for anxiety and stress, most commonly in the form of pills, teas, and concentrated extracts.

What does kava do?

Kave has a soothing, calming effect that relaxes muscles and reduces anxiety. Some research suggests that kava may be as effective as benzodiazepenes (the most commonly prescribed type of anti-anxiety drug).

It also supposedly calms menopausal mood swings.

Edzard Ernst, professor at the University of Exeter, told metro.co.uk: ‘Kava is one of the better researched herbal medicines. There is quite good evidence that is an effective symptomatic treatment for anxiety.’

So what’s the issue?

‘Sadly, there is a fly in the soup,’ explained Professor Ernst. ‘It was implicated in causing liver damage, some of it severe.’

Oh.

See, a few years back, kava was implicated in 21 cases of liver damage that were reported in Europe – four of which resulted in transplantation and one of which resulted in death.

In all of these instances, kava was used along with alcohol or other potentially liver-damaging drugs.

So it’s not entirely clear how risky kava really is when taken safely (meaning without any alcohol consumption and never in conjunction with other drugs), but the reports of liver damage were enough to scare professionals away from recommending kava in the treatment of anxiety.

In 2003, the UK government banned the sale of kava entirely.

Today many experts in the field still question whether kava is really dangerous enough to be banned, and if it really does cause liver toxicity when used safely.

But for now people the possible risk is considered too high, and kava can only be purchased online from countries like the U.S., where it remains legal.

What are kava’s other side-effects?

The potential liver damage is a big one, obviously, but the side-effect of dry, scaly skin might put you off too.

Kava can also affect reaction times, making it unsafe to drive or use heavy machinery when you’re using it.

It also becomes less effective the more you use it, meaning that you could end up taking increasingly higher doses to get the same anxiety-soothing effects.

Should you use kava as a remedy for anxiety?

Short answer? No.

While there’s no concrete evidence that kava definitely does cause liver damage, there’s also no concrete evidence that it doesn’t – and the cases of liver toxicity in people taking kava are concerning.

Oh, and it’s still illegal in the UK.

Dr Mike Eslea, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, told us: ‘I would never use kava or recommend it to anyone.

‘While there are studies showing it to have a beneficial effect upon mild or moderate anxiety, there are also significant dangers, especially of damage to the liver serious enough to have led to death in some cases.

‘It is banned in many countries as a result, and it is illegal to sell it in the UK.

‘But some people still insist on using it! If you must, you should do so only under the close supervision of a proper doctor, for very short periods, and NEVER in conjunction with other medicines or herbal treatments.’

In short: Don’t use kava. But if you do, be really bloody careful and never, ever mix it with alcohol, medicine, or other herbal treatments.


Kava Effective In Treating Anxiety Disorders

By Cindy del Rosario

Kava, a plant product prepared from Piper methysticum, has been used for centuries in the South Pacific to relieve anxiety and insomnia. Also sold as a dietary supplement in the U.S., kava has recently been found through a randomized control study as an effective treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Indigenous to places like Fiji, Samoa, and Vanuata, the root has mild sedative and anesthetic properties, and can produce a mild euphoria and sense of relaxation. Traditional medicine specialists from the area have used kava to treat a range of disorders, from asthma, urinary tract infections, to menopausal symptoms, and have also used kava as a topical numbing agent. In the U.S., kava root is sold as an herbal supplement in tablet form, or as dried and ground root powder that can be made into a tea-like beverage.

Led by Jerome Sarris, researcher from the Department of Psychiatry in the University of Melbourne, the research team had previously established that kava was effective in treating chronic generalized anxiety in a short term study. This new research builds upon this evidence by restricting participants to a clinically-defined group with no other comorbid depression.

General anxiety disorder is characterized by constant worry that is so difficult to control that it interferes with everyday life. The disorder is marked by headaches, trouble falling asleep, and difficulty concentrating. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 5.7 percent of Americans will experience GAD at some point in their lifetime.

Usually, GAD is treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medications. Types of prescriptions include antidepressants, such as paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft), or benzodiazepines, like diazepam (Valium) or alprazolam (Xanax).

However, these medications come with potentially serious side effects and at times produce only a modest clinical effect. Nausea and insomnia were each reported by over one in five users of Paxil and Zoloft. Benzodiazepines may cause poor muscle coordination and drowsiness. Kava is hoped to be a promising alternative, because it is not as sedating or mentally impairing as some of these drugs.

Researchers recruited 75 participants ages 18-65 with a confirmed diagnosis of GAD. Over the course of 8 weeks, participants took either placebo or 120-240 mg per day of the psychoactive compounds in kava, called kavalactones. Both researchers and participants were blind to who took what.

Participants were evaluated periodically using the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, a short questionnaire about symptoms and feelings related to anxiety, and measured for biomarkers of anxiety response.

At the end of the experiment, there was a significant reduction in anxiety for the kava group compared with the placebo group, and the effect was larger in those who have moderate to severe GAD. Furthermore, 26 percent of the kava group were considered relieved of their anxiety.

Overall, kava did not work for everyone, and only 37 percent of patients in the kava group and 23 percent in the placebo group responded to the intervention. Study researchers write that this modest response rate is a testament to the difficulty of treating GAD, a disorder that has been elusive to treat with pharmaceuticals.

People in the kava group reported more headaches, but the two groups had no other significant differences for adverse effects.

Researchers also measured liver function tests in both groups, and found no differences. Liver function was evaluated because the U.S. Federal Drug Administration issued a warning in 2002 about a possible association between severe liver injury and kava use. Currently, the FDA does not fund any research investigating the potential benefits of kava.

Cases of liver injury — including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure, have been rare, but serious. A handful of cases required a liver transplant. Some speculate that the risk originates from improperly prepared kava that incorporates leaves and stems.

Kavalactones, the psychoactive ingredient in kava, have been studied in vivo and in vitro. It has many suspected mechanisms of action, some of which are shared with anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications. A suspected action mechanism is that kavalactones induce ligand binding to GABA type A receptors, the molecular target of benzodiazepines, or possibly kavalactones inhibit the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine, which is how some drugs for treating clinical depression work.

Sarris's work contributes to a growing body of evidence that points to kava's potential in treating anxiety. A review of 11 studies on kava as a treatment for anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness, either alone or in conjunction with other drugs, shows that seven of the studies indicated that kava had a positive effect. The remaining four found no difference between kava and placebo.


Kava may reduce anxiety but experts urge caution

(The Conversation)

A new study has found that kava, a plant-based relaxant used in the Pacific, is moderately effective at reducing anxiety symptoms in people with diagnosed Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

However, while the authors of the study say their finding builds upon previous studies showing kava was effective in reducing short-term anxiety, experts have called for a cautious interpretation of the new study’s findings.

Ingesting kava, made from the root of the pepper plant Piper methysticum, can cause reactions ranging from relaxation and euphoria to loss of muscle control if used in larger amounts.

The new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, involved a group of 75 people diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

The researchers excluded from the study people with co-occurring depression, a record of substance abuse, regular kava users, people with psychotic or bipolar disorder illnesses, or those currently on other medicines commonly prescribed to treat mental illness.

Over the course of the six week study, half the group were given kava and half took a placebo. Due to further exclusions and drop-outs, results from 58 people were analysed.

A questionnaire called the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale was used to assess their level of anxiety as the trial progressed.

At the conclusion of the trial, the researchers found that 37% of the kava group reported reduced anxiety symptoms compared with 23% of the placebo group.

A quarter of the kava group reported complete remission in their anxiety symptoms at the end of the trial, compared to 6% of the placebo group, said lead researcher, Dr Jerome Sarris from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Psychiatry.

“We are not saying we are looking at kava as a replacement for conventional care but we see it as an additional option,” he said.

“While the results of this study are encouraging, we really need a final National Health and Medical Research Council-funded larger replication study to confirm this as a first-line treatment.”

The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and Integria Healthcare, a complementary medicine firm that manufactures MediHerb and Thompson’s Kava products, but Dr Sarris said the company was not involved in the design of the study or analysis and publication of the results.

The researchers noted that their study did not examine the long term health effects of kava use and the drug may not be appropriate for those using other psychotropic medication.

“Because our advertising detailed the study of a ‘herbal treatment’ for anxiety, this may have encouraged participation of biased individuals,” the study authors said in their paper. Caution required

Dr Alex Wodak, Emeritus Consultant for the St Vincent’s Hospital Alcohol and Drug Service and a Visiting Fellow at the University of NSW’s Kirby Institute said that a single study, especially where the number of subjects was not very large, should be treated with caution.

“Studies funded partly or fully by a pharmaceutical company are more likely to conclude that the agent is effective or safe than studies funded from another source,” said Dr Wodak, who was not involved in the study.

Dr Wodak said the new study should not influence clinical practice at this stage.

“This study should lead to more and larger studies, preferably comparing this agent to other medications (considered the best available) and non-pharmaceutical methods of treating this condition.”

Kava used in the Pacific within cultural constraints caused few problems, he said, but could lead to liver inflammation, behavioural problems and skin disease when used as an intoxicant beyond any cultural constraints.

“Missionaries introduced kava to the Northern Territory in the hope that it would partly substitute for alcohol and cannabis. Instead, it seemed to complement them,” he said.

Dr Ken Harvey, an adjunct Associate Professor at La Trobe University’s School of Public Health, described the new research as “a well-conducted scientific study showing a modest effect of kava on some patients.”

“Given the limitations of the study, variable results obtained by others and ongoing concern about possible side-effects, I would be reluctant to use these findings to recommend this product,” said Dr Harvey, who was not involved in the study.

“It is appropriate to study kava scientifically. However, this study did not compare kava with current treatment and thus is of little use in influencing clinical practice.” Alternative treatments

Dr Nick Haslam, Professor of Psychology at University of Melbourne, welcomed the new research findings.

“It’s a well-conducted study which shows that kava can be an effective treatment for generalised anxiety disorder, a condition that can be very disabling. It adds weight to a number of previous studies that had come to the same conclusion,” said Dr Haslam, who was not involved in the study.

“Kava could be prescribed as an alternative to other medical treatments or as a supplement to psychotherapy. Some concerns about kava’s possible effects on liver function and its potential recreational abuse would have to be kept in mind.”

Professor Haslam said some anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines can be addictive and no medication is effective for all people who suffer from generalised anxiety.

“It’s important to have several alternative treatments available given that different people will respond best to different treatments, and researchers will always be striving to discover new effective treatments and improve existing ones.”


11 Amazing Benefits Of Kava For Skin, Hair, And Health

By Nithya Shrikant

Kava or Kava Kava, as it is more commonly known, is known across the world as a stress relieving agent. Used in the form of roots, this plant, hailing from the Pacific region, has been used in traditional medicine for more than 3000 years. The natural calming properties of this plant have made it very popular in the food supplement market. Available in the form of liquids, capsules, soft gels, tablets, and tinctures, Kava is also known for its analgesic and anesthetic properties.

What Is Kava Exactly?

Grown in the Western Pacific regions, Kava is also known as yaqona, awa, as well as sakau. Its scientific name is Piper methysticum. Kava is a root that in Greek means intoxicating! If you are into botany, then the following information might be of interest to you! Health Benefits Of Kava

In ancient Greece, the roots of Kava were used widely for preparing a drink that was sedative in nature. Loaded with kavalactones, this product today is also known to provide various health benefits when consumed within the advised conditions. Read through to catch a glimpse of the health benefits kava has in store.

1. Anesthetic

Being blessed with anesthetic properties, use of this root is known to result in losing body sensations for a temporary period.

2. Analgesic

Rich with innate analgesic properties, Kava root can be used to ease the pain experienced due to arthritis as well as muscle spasms. The chronic pain experienced due to fibromyalgia can also be relieved to a certain extent with the regular use of this root.

3. Antispasmodic

Muscle spasms are common in various medical conditions, including menstruation. Studies conducted on this root suggest that using Kava under such conditions can help provide relief from intense spasms.

4. Ideal for Treating Stress

A well-accepted natural sedative, Kava-kava can be used for treating people who are prone to chronic stress and depression. A natural tranquilizer, it helps in relieving the various symptoms associated with depression, including anxiety, restlessness, dizziness, and even nervousness. Studies have proven that the kava-kava root can provide relief to people subjected to palpitations triggered by panic attacks.

5. Helps Overcoming Addiction Challenges

Be it tobacco, drugs, or alcohol, overcoming any addiction is unarguably a mountainous task. Along with hastening the cessation process, the sedative and tranquilizing properties of Kava root also help in overcoming the withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction in a much better way.

6. Aids In The Treatment Of Urogenital Problems

Thanks to the antifungal, antispasmodic, and diuretic properties of Kava, the root of this plant has been used since time immemorial for the treatment of various infections affecting urinary bladder and urinary tract.

7. Aids In Faster Recovery From Stroke

Kava is well-known for its ability to restrict the brain area affected by stroke and ischemia. It indirectly ensures that the brain is not damaged extensively, paving the way for a faster and better recovery.

8. Natural Antidote For Insomnia

The tranquilizing and sedative properties of this root have been put to use by traditional physicians to help people suffering from sleep disorders. Those who are suffering from insomnia can make use of kava roots, within advisory conditions, for a better night’s sleep.

9. Helps In Treating Menopause

Menopause is one of the toughest stages in a woman’s life. She faces quite a lot of issues, physically and psychologically. This root is bestowed with antispasmodic, anesthetic, alterative, and sedative properties. The combined effect of all these helps women tide over menopause in a better way.

10. Potential Cure For Cancer

Studies conducted on this root have shed light on its potential role in treating leukemia as well as ovarian cancer. Kava root, being a natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent, can be used along with nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, to ease the pain experienced during such conditions. Plus, the sedative properties of this root also induces sleep and a partial numbing effect, thus helping the suffering ones cope with the condition in a better way.

11. Helps Overcome Addiction Challenges

Giving up any form of addiction is quite challenging. In addition to helping a person quit his addiction, the tranquilizing and sedative properties of Kava tea help combat withdrawal symptoms associated with the de-addiction process in a better way.

Interesting Facts About Kava Tea Preparation

1. A Soothing Cup Of Tea

Kava Kava, a native plant to Polynesia, is used in parts, specifically the roots, to make a relaxing and calming tea. Kava kava relaxes muscles, thereby ensuring better sleep besides reducing stress and making people more sociable. Surprisingly, Kava tea is also usually offered during important government meetings and weddings. It also is offered during other stressful events, such as demise in the family, to produce a calming effect on the nerves and thus reducing the chances of conflict.

2. A Cold Cup Of Kava Tea

The active and main ingredients of Kava Kava are usually destroyed at a high temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, when making Kava tea, it is recommended to use a thermometer, so as to make sure the temperature of the brew doesn’t cross 120 degrees F. This would help to keep the benefits of kava intact and unharmed.

One good option is to prepare large amounts of the tea. This can be done by putting the root powder or the roots in a crock pot with a liquid of your choice and then turning it on to a temperature of 120 degrees F or even less. Let the powder steep for about an hour. The cool tea can be consumed to enjoy its benefits.

3. Cream For The Tea

While learning to prepare Kava tea, you might discover that the use of a fatty liquid base, like soy milk, coconut milk, or cow’s milk, can increase the extraction rate as well as the strength of the tea. It has also been found that these liquid bases also improve the texture as well as the taste of the tea. Using water can increase the amount of time required to steep the tea.

4. Create The Perfect Brew

Once you have decided to heat the liquid base, add Kava root powder to the heated liquid and cover it with a lid. If you are preparing your tea in milk, steep the tea for about 30 minutes; or else you can steep in water for about 45 minutes. Once the tea has reached the required strength, avoid reheating. However, it is important to ensure the temperature of the liquid does not exceed 120 degrees F.

If you are making cold Kava tea, put the powder in a cold liquid and put it in the refrigerator overnight for an improved taste and effective results. Remember, it is very important to grind Kava root finely to extract all its benefits. Also, make sure you use a fine strainer, like muslin or coffee filter, to extract the powder from the liquid. This should be done prior to drinking the tea.

How To Make Kava Tea?

Every individual has a different recipe to prepare Kava tea. The common methods to prepare this tea include:

Method I – The Kava Tea Powder

Generally, Kava tea powder is easily available at local health food stores. There are many different types of Kava available under different brand names. Look for a good brand through trial and error.

The next step is to mix the powder in water. However, remember to remove the root powder before drinking. This can be done through a large teabag or by filtering the drink later. However, for those who like some extra fiber can leave the tea unstrained.

Finally, the amount of Kava powder is added to the drink according to your taste. More amount of powder means a more potent drink.

Method II – The Strainer Method

The initial step in the preparation of the tea by the strainer method begins with adding the Kava powder directly into the water and mixing it thoroughly. If needed, you can opt to use a blender for large quantities or use a spoon for preparing one cup.

Allow the Kava and water to mix for at least 10 minutes. During this time, allow the blender to have a couple of breaks. The next step is to filter the Kava using a strainer. It can be a wire mesh or cheesecloth. It is worth noting that coffee filters don’t work well for filtering Kava tea.

Method III – The Kneading Method

For this method, take a shallow bowl. Fill it with the desired quantity of water. Three cups or more is an appropriate quantity. Follow by placing a square cloth inside the bowl. Fill the clean cloth with the desired quantity of Kava powder. Then knead this Kava in the water. Make sure the powder doesn’t escape into the bowl. As the process is completed, pull the straining cloth out and squeeze out as much liquid as possible from it.

Method IV – Kava Teabags

Besides the powder, Kava tea bags are a great option to prepare tasty and effective Kava tea. It also is easy and saves time. Kava tea bags form the real crux of any Kava supplement. However, if you are not using whole kava root and a powder mix, capsule, or powder tea, try making sure the chosen supplement contains Kava extract and not just the dried and powdered root. This is because, without extraction of any form, plain powdered root might not be active physiologically.

Here is how you can brew Kava tea using Kava tea bags:

• Pour boiling water over 1-2 tea bags.
• Allow the bags to steep for about 5-10 minutes.
• It is highly recommended to use cool water, as water heated at more than 140 degrees Fahrenheit might degrade kavalactones, thus reducing the effectiveness of the brew.
Who Should Not Use Kava?

Pregnant women, alcoholics, as well as those who are on medication are advised not to use Kava. Please check with your physician if you are under medications before you use this.

Side Effects Of Using Kava

Kava should NOT be used for a prolonged period of time. The sale and use of kava-kava are regulated in several countries because kava-kava can prove toxic in some cases and can result in chronic liver problems, scaly, yellow-hued skin, facial swelling, as well as shortness of the breath.


Medicinal Benefits of Kava Kava (Piper methysticum)

(Sasha,Vox Nature)

Kava kava (medicinal name piper methysticum) is a root that is utilized in natural and holistic medical approaches. This root has been used for over 3,000 years to address various physical ailments, as well as conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Health Benefits of Kava Kava

Let’s explore the incredible medicinal benefits of this root. When looking for kava kava to incorporate into your life, be sure that it is of high quality (highest quality has a label of “WS 1490”), whether you use it in tincture, tea, capsule, or powdered form.

1. Anti-anxiety

Kava kava has powerful relaxing and soothing abilities, which helps to combat stress as well as feelings of anxiety and depression. One particular study has shown that test subjects had a measurable improvement in levels of anxiety after taking kava kava for just one week. The root is also taken by those that are prone to panic attacks as well as those that suffer from depression.

2. Pain Reducer

Kava kava is effective in relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. It is also used to treat pain associated with fibromyalgia as it soothes soreness and tenderness in the joints and muscles.

3. Urinary Tract Health

Kava kava has long been taken to both prevent and treat urinary tract infections. This root is a natural diuretic, which contributes to its effectiveness in preventing UTIs.

4. Improve Sleep

Not only is kava kava effectively used for treating insomnia, but it also improves the quality of one’s sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep at night and lay awake thinking about the problems of the day, utilize some kava to help quiet your mind and relax the body so you can drift off to sleep quickly.

5. Great for Weight-lifters

Kava kava helps the muscles repair themselves, which is crucial for heavy weightlifters. As mentioned above, it also helps soothe sore, achy muscles, ensuring that your body does not need excessive recovery time.

6. Improve Stroke Recovery

Strokes are serious business, and if you fall victim to one, it is important to do everything in your power to minimize the lasting damage. Kava kava can help with this, thanks to its ability to limit brain damage as well as its anticonvulsive properties.

7. Menopause Aid

One study tested the effect of kava kava on menopausal women and showed considerable improvement in symptoms. After just eight weeks of consuming kava kava on a regular basis, these women noticed a significant reduction in the occurrence and severity of hot flashes as well as mood swings.

If you’re wanting to try kava kava, be sure that whatever form you opt for, it is of the highest quality. You should only purchase items that contain at a minimum 30% of the active ingredient Kavalactones.

How to Use Kava kava

There are many ways to prepare this herb. The most common way to ingest it is through beverages that are pressed from fresh picked kava root, or drinks that are mixed from shredded, ground, or powdered root. Kava is available in capsules, tincture, and tea form as well, and may be taken in different strengths.

When you are brewing kava or making a drink with kava, be advised to use cold or lukewarm liquids. Never use hot liquids because the higher temperatures destroyed the main active ingredients in cava, known as kavalactones. These are the psychoactive components of the herb that provide the relaxing properties.

The most basic recipe is to add 2 to 4 tablespoons of kava powder to 1 cup of water. Add the kava and water mixture to a blender, and blend this on high for 3 to 4 minutes. Then, pour the mixture through a strainer like a cheesecloth or muslin bag and squeeze the liquid into a bowl or glass. Discard the pulp and enjoy the freshly made kava tea. Caution

If using this root long term, it may cause nausea, stupor, reduced muscle control, difficulty in breathing, appetite loss, reddened eyes, and weight loss. Since kava affects the central nervous system, you should not take it if you are scheduled for surgery in the near future. This will aggravate effects of medications and anesthetics.

If you are taking medication for liver damage, avoid taking kava kava because long term consumption may result in liver diseases like hepatitis and cirrhosis. It may also affect the uterus, which makes it unsafe to be consumed by pregnant women.


Kava's Health Benefits

(The Herb Companion staff)

A calming herb from the South Pacific

By many accounts, kava-kava—or simply kava—is an herb on the brink of Western stardom. Manufacturers of herbal products report strong public interest in kava preparations, and articles appearing in the popular press have described kava use and its effects, both good and bad. While many Americans are becoming increasingly aware of kava’s ability to relax tension, increase sociability, and promote sleep, their discovery of kava’s tranquilizing, calming effects comes relatively late, given that kava has been part of the cultural tradition of the South Pacific for thousands of years.

Tradition Bound

From Hawaii to New Guinea, natives of the South Pacific islands serve a special drink made from kava rootstock at weddings, coming-out-of-mourning celebrations, and other special occasions; visiting heads of state have indulged in kava during welcoming ceremonies. Considered an important part of the islanders’ social and religious lives, kava’s cultural role in the Pacific has been compared with that of wine in southern Europe.

In former times, the islanders prepared the ceremonial kava beverage by first scraping the root, then chewing pieces of it and spitting them into a bowl to which coconut milk or water was added. Next, they stirred the mixture until it took on a muddy, opaque appearance, then strained it into another bowl. During ceremonies, a cup of the beverage was first presented to a special guest, who was expected to down the contents without stopping. Then others attending the ceremony imbibed.

Today, the root is usually prepared by grating, not chewing. Initially, many islanders opposed giving up the chewing method because they believed that it produced a stronger drink. Some researchers, in fact, concur with this belief. Chewing apparently releases more kavalactones—compounds found in kava that relax muscles—than grating, because saliva contains an enzyme that breaks down the starchy components of kava pulp.

Islanders (as well as many new kava drinkers) take moderate amounts of the beverage to achieve a state of tranquility, happiness, and contentment (some describe it as a holistic sense of “being”), but without the unpleasant side effects of alcohol, such as hangovers or boisterous behavior. Over­indulging can lead to loss of muscle control and a strong urge to sleep.

The islanders have also used kava as medicine for centuries, brewing decoctions made from its rootstock to treat gonorrhea, urinary infections, menstrual problems, migraine head­aches, insomnia, and other conditions.

To The West

Captain James Cook is credited with introducing kava to the West after a voyage through the South Pacific from 1768 through 1771. Later, it was given its botanical name, Piper methysticum, reflecting both its close relationship to the familiar spice black pepper (P. nigrum) and its intoxicating effects (methys is Greek for “drunken”). Kava is a shrub that thrives in humid, tropical climates with evenly distributed rainfall and stony soil at elevations of 500 to 1,000 feet above sea level. Plants can reach heights of 20 feet, and their sprawling rhizomes may reach lengths of 9 feet, alternately disappearing below and surfacing above the soil. The islanders harvest kava when the shrubs mature in two to three years, either to use themselves or sell as a cash crop.

Kava first piqued scientific interest during the mid-1800s, when researchers traced kava’s relaxing properties to kavalactones, which relax muscles without blocking nerve signals that keep the muscles tense. This may explain how kava can relax muscles without numbing the thinking process. But kava’s mind-altering action has largely been ignored in modern times due to the development of synthetic psychopharmaceuticals, including antidepressants. Recently, however, kava and other plant therapies have received more attention because undesirable side effects, including addiction, can make some synthetic drugs unsuitable for long-term treatment.

What Science Says About Kava

Kavalactones have been shown to relieve anxiety and pain and relax muscles in laboratory animals. In humans, they have been shown to change brain activity (as measured by an electroencephalogram) without sedation. A recent study showed that people taking measured doses of a kava extract fared better in word-recognition tests than those taking a synthetic tranquilizer (benzodiazepine), and a 1993 report in the British Journal of Phytotherapy referred to kava as one of few herbs that can safely relax skeletal muscle. The report’s author recommended it for treating nervous tension and conditions associated with skeletal muscle spasms, such as headaches caused by a tense neck.

In 1996, a randomized, placebo-­controlled, double-blind study showed that kava significantly reduced anxiety in humans. Two groups of twenty-nine people with normal anxiety were ­treated for four weeks with three daily doses of 100 mg of kava rhizome extract or a placebo. After one week of treatment, members of the kava group had significantly lower anxiety levels compared with that of the placebo group, and the difference between the two groups increased during the course of the study. No adverse reactions to the kava extract were noted during the study.

A 1995 report, however, described four patients who experienced unpleasant side effects from using various kava preparations. A twenty-eight-year-old man, who had been taking pharmaceuticals for treatment of anxiety, had sharp spasms in the muscles of his neck and eyes that began about ninety minutes after taking 100 mg of kava extract and lasted about forty minutes. A twenty-two-year-old woman experienced a similar reaction to the same product but denied taking any other medication, as did a sixty-three-year-old woman who had taken 150 mg of kava extract three times daily for four days to treat anxiety. Finally, a seventy-six-year-old woman with early signs of Parkinson’s disease (a disorder of the nervous system) reported a pronounced increase in the duration and number of episodes of impaired movement after switching from pharmaceuticals to 150 mg of kava extract, which she took twice a day. The study’s authors suggested that kava products be used cautiously, espe­cially by elderly patients.

Kava-kava (Piper methysticum)
•Symptoms: Anxiety, insomnia, stress
•Dose: Standardized extracts used in clinical studies have a dosage of 100 mg per day ­divided into three portions. Otherwise, follow the instructions on the product label or those of your health-care provider.
•Preparations: Kava-root tab­lets, capsules, tinctures, kava-leaf products, and dried root are available in American health-food stores. Standardized European products contain 70 percent kavalactones.
•Cautions: Do not use kava during pregnancy, nursing, bouts of depression, or while driving or operating machinery.
Kava Cautions

When used as directed, standardized kava products are considered nonaddictive, nonhypnotic, and safe to use, except during pregnancy, lactation, or bouts of depression. The German government’s Commission E warns against using kava with alcohol, barbiturates, antidepressants, and other substances that may act on the central nervous system. Because it apparently acts like a sedative, kava shouldn’t be taken when driving or operating machinery. No side effects have been associated with using small amounts of kava products, but long-term, heavy use can cause temporary yellowing of the skin, hair, and nails, as well as itching, sores, and vision disturbances. In Germany, where the dried rhizome and its preparations are sold commercially, the government allows kava preparations to be labeled as treatments for nervous anxiety, stress, and unrest.

Overindulgence in kava, like any other drug, poses dangerous health risks. It is best to follow the guidelines offered on the label of the product you are using or the instructions of your health-care provider.


First Colorado Springs kava bar promises relaxing, happy time

By Jen Mulson

"Bula!" said Matthew Clark as we bellied up to the Ohana Kava Bar and clinked plastic coconut shells filled with kava.

"Bula!" I said, echoing back the Fijian word for "cheers," before we slammed 4 ounces of the herbal liquid that resembled dirty dishwater. And by slammed, I mean he drank it like a whiskey shot while I took a couple of gulps, thereby breaking tradition in the beverage's long history.

The concoction made from water and kava root from the Polynesian Islands wasn't delicious, but it wasn't terrible either. It surely didn't make me say, "Please, sir, may I have another?," but I suspect it could be an acquired taste. I was vaguely reminded of my favorite dandelion tea - earthy and strangely healthy-tasting.

And then my tongue went the tiniest bit numb.

Clark, owner of Ohana at 112 E. Boulder St., assured me it was a normal reaction due to the source of kava - the crushed roots of a plant in the pepper family called piper methysticum.

As I deciphered my tongue's new texture, a slight buzzy sensation of contentedness settled over me. Again, a normal reaction, Clark said. And also? The coveted sensation. It's why people drink kava.

Well, not the only reason. The potent potable has also played a vital role in the traditional ceremonies of Pacific Islanders for about 3,000 years. Beyond that, people say kava helps relieve anxiety, insomnia and pain and relaxes muscles. It's due to the kavalactones in the roots, compounds that help to sedate and numb the nervous system.

"Relaxation and happiness are the immediate benefits," Clark said. "The initial effects last an hour or three and residual effects last for several hours."

Clark discovered the beverage in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he went to nursing school. He's been a nurse for a decade and an emergency room nurse with Penrose-St. Francis Health Services since 2008. "I didn't want to drink alcohol," he said. "Alcohol makes me angry. This makes me happy. It turns that frown upside down."

Clark brews up a fresh batch of kava every day or two and sticks it in the refrigerator. Though it's traditionally served at room temperature, he believes it's more palatable when cold.

After our first round of kava ($5 single, $9 double), I cleansed my palate with a swig of hibiscus mint and ginger kombucha (he also keeps two flavors of Denver's Happy Leaf Kombucha on tap), and let half a fingernail-sized serving of lemon honey kava paste ("It's good for when you're stuck in traffic - calms you down," Clark said) melt in my mouth. And then there were two flavored shots with 30 percent kava extract.

Had Ohana been a typical bar, I'd have been half in the bag at that point. But I sallied forth, intrigued by the idea of leaving enveloped in an aura of peace, love and harmony.

The Intoxicated Pepper shot sizzled on the way down with its sweet heat and pineapple flavor and the Lemon Drop was nothing like what you'd find at a summer lemonade stand (one shot is $4, three for $10).

And then there's the Kraken - 4 ounces of kava with 30 percent kava extract and whatever flavor of Torani syrup your taste buds prefer. The $12 drink is equal to three traditional servings of kava.

"I've been in nursing for 10 years," Clark said. "This is good medicine and gives me an avenue to help those around me and make them feel good. I've created my happy place."

BUT IS IT SAFE?

More than a decade ago kava was in the news and not in a good way. The herb was deemed toxic to the liver and folks were encouraged to steer clear.

The tide has turned in the ensuing years, however, and new research suggests kava isn't destructive after all, though drinkers are still warned to monitor consumption and avoid combining it with alcohol, which could lead to liver damage.

Kava bars are popping up all over the country, including Kavasutra Kava Bar in Denver and storefronts in Portland, Ore., Austin, Texas, and New York.

Martha Rosenau, a registered dietitian and owner of Peak Nutrition, is pro kava.

"It's absolutely OK to have a couple of shots," she said. "I doubt anybody will drink enough of it for it to be a problem."

She does, however, caution against using too much of the kava paste.

"As a responsible practitioner let's not keep drinking more and more of the paste, please," she said. "There is some evidence of liver damage at high dosages."

While most people in America often seek over-caffeination, Rosenau believes the tide is turning. She sees it in the proliferation of anti- energy drinks at supermarkets and natural health food stores that promote a more mellow affect, including Marley's Mellow Mood by Ziggy Marley. While companies aren't using kava yet, she thinks it's only a matter of time.

"Even with one shot of kava people feel calm, settled and peaceful," Rosenau said. "People report they notice a mood lift. They feel happy and content. I think they should try it."


Benefits of kava catching on in NZ and beyond

(Radio NZ)

A New Zealand-based academic who has researched the usage and effects of kava says more people are picking up on the various healing qualities of the narcotic.

Dr Apo Aporosa is a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Waikato says the likes of New Zealand's Health reasearch Council are starting to take kava seriously.

Made from the root of the piper methysticum plant, kava's appeal is growing in New Zealand with Dr Aporosa saying it's estimated there's over 20-thousand weekly drinkers in this country.

He spoke to Johnny Blades who asked how easy it is to get hold of kava these days in New Zealand

APO APOROSA: Actually just more recently since we've had the issues in Vanuatu and then the cyclone in Fiji, it has become a lot more difficult. A few months ago we were paying around NZ$14 a kilogram for kava, we are now paying $80 up to $100. So it is becoming a lot more difficult which is a big concern for us in the Pasifika community.

JOHNNY BLADES: Just in general with those sorts of challenges in some parts. How has that had an impact on kava producing and consuming communities across the region?

AA: When we talk about consuming communities we're even seeing impacts on the Pasifika communities and their kava consumption due to a lack of kava availability. The big concern for us is from a socio-cultural perspective. You know, as Pasifika, we consider kava to be a cultural keystone species for us, and you know that includes links to our cultural practices and expressions of our practice and our identity and there's a traditional medicine and that. So what we've got is that when we don't have what we see as this potent icon of identity it takes away an aspect of who we are. But on top of that there's also this concern for us in that people and Pasifika are moving towards alcohol as kava is reduced.

JB: The healing sort of qualities to it, the way that it can bring people together, I'm almost amazed it hasn't become more of a kind of a product that people have access to. Do you think it will grow as an industry, or does it need to?

AA: We've really seen a growth of it here in New Zealand in amongst Palagi and Māori communities and I think you nailed it when you said that there's something healing about it from the perspective of bringing people together and community and that. But for us Pasifika, if we want to look at the traditional healing properties of it, there are a lot and we can show you lists of it, including the fact we believe that kava contains mana - or spiritual power - so when you look at the likes of Waisake Naholo, the Highlanders Super Rugby champ who broke his leg and went to Fiji and then there was all this discussion about how he went through this traditional healing process, kava was part of that, you know, and we see that the mana of kava brings about this healing. Now if you want to turn that around and look at that from a pharmacological perspective there is also strong evidence from the sciences. The British Medical Journal, ten or so years ago described kava as being a viable non-addictive alternative to anti-anxiety medications. And then you've got some great kava research going on in relation to some specific cancers, namely bladder, ovarian and leukaemia, with the University of Minnesota just recently publishing an article on the use of kava as a preventative in the manifestation of cancerous lung tumours in mice.


Kava Chameleon

By Abby Reisner

Why all-natural, sedating kava might just be better than alcohol

This April, join us as we take a deep dive into the future of food. Here's where now meets next.

Overheard at a kava bar in Lower Manhattan: "People don't come here for its taste."

The 50-something maker of this claim has just come from the Russian baths across the street, long hair still slicked to his face as he sits chatting with two first-timer friends. If this is true, then why is every one of the bar's 13 seats—plus the spare real estate along the back wall—occupied?

Judd Rench owns Bula Kava House, a five-year-old spot in Portland, Oregon, and even he likens the taste of the ancient South Pacific root to a "bitter mud puddle." But when you combine a powdered version of that root with liquid, it makes a muscle-relaxing, antidepressant drink. It won't get you drunk, and perhaps more enticingly, there's no nasty hangover. "You won't drunk-dial an ex after too much kava. Instead, you'd probably just sink into a comfortable chair or sofa. It relaxes the mind and body," Rench says.

It's as if alcohol, marijuana and coffee had one wild night and created the sedating, antidepressant drink. The relaxation mimics the disinhibition brought about by alcohol, and anxiety is relieved à la a few hits of weed. The biggest difference is that it doesn't alter your mental clarity. You could go back to work and be just as productive as before—if not more—which is why it's sort of like coffee, too.

Perhaps that's why it's on the rise: Kavasutra in New York's East Village is one of only three kava bars in a city with hundreds of Duane Reades and a coffee shop on every corner. The sign placed outside for its summer 2015 opening reads "alcohol is so 2014," and it's still proudly there in 2016. "I wouldn't be surprised if 20 [kava bars] have popped up since I opened five years ago," Rench says. He attributes this partially to the rich culture and traditions behind kava, and also to its novelty. "People want something new," he says. "Kava provides a safe alternative to alcohol and drugs."

San Francisco just welcomed Kava Lounge SF, and branches of Kavasutra can be found from Palm Springs to Denver. Brooklyn got its first kava bar in Bushwick, from two guys who used to sell a bottled version of the drink at Whole Foods under the name King Kava, and now House of Kava is joining them as well. The New Yorker addresses kava's place as a socializing alternative in our health-obsessed world, and Kava Lounge SF calls it the "chill pill of the new wave of global communications." And demand only seems to be rising: "On a Friday or Saturday, if you're not here by 7 p.m., you're not going to get in," the Kavasutra bartender tells me.

Not that they're all new. South Florida's Purple Lotus Kava Bar has been around for 11 years. Many of the earlier kava bars revolve around words like spirituality and ambiance, and some offer yoga practices. One of these is Mystic Water Wellness Center, which has locations in Ithaca and San Diego and, this month, is opening a revamped edition of the Hollywood, Florida, spot. It embraces the ever-present "be your best self" health trend that's a national obsession, as well as embodying the cultural aspect of the Hawaiian kava scene. "The kava bar is the center of the community," the bartender explains. It's the watering hole-meets-rec center: You'd go there to see friends, drink a few rounds and even get your mail.

The East Village Kavasutra, for one, is both thoroughly a standard bar and the farthest thing from it. The bartender shakes concoctions like he's making a mojito, but there's no alcohol in sight. (You're advised against mixing the two, since both are processed in the liver.) Instead of nuts, a snack bowl is filled with jelly beans. You can thank Aloha John, a regular customer who brings goodies whenever he comes by, for those. And, yes, he grows his own kava out in Hawaii.

Aloha John is one of many regulars—the bartender approximates 65 percent of clientele to be return customers. This is partly due to the combination of losing inhibition while retaining mental lucidity, a good recipe for spurring conversation between strangers (when I went on a recent Wednesday night, people were greeted by name; someone brought the bartender a pizza). It's a bar where it's not only acceptable to go to by yourself, it might be the preferred method. It's easy to make friends with your neighbors, something that people in South Pacific villages have been doing for more than 3,000 years.

"At the risk of sounding all 'woo-woo,' kava is a special and sacred plant," Rench explains. "You can take the plant out of the culture, but you can't take the culture out of the plant." Some spots have extravagant happy hours that are proof of a focus on community over profit. At 1 p.m. and a.m., single bowls at Kavasutra are just one dollar for one minute. Everyone gathers, gravitating to the culture, then goes back to their workday.

The vibe at Kavasutra, as expected, is decidedly chill. Despite the soft reggae and non-jarring rap, I feel like I'm waiting for the Alt-J who never played. The bartender gives two collared-shirt-wearing first-timers a spiel, explaining kava's reverse tolerance. It's almost more of a formality, the disclaimer you read before you strap on new rollerblades, and every first-timer gets it. But then the bartender loosens up, so much so that he confesses he thinks kava tastes like dirty potato.

At all times, a large TV screen streams a Netflix nature documentary, and being told to "sit back and watch the seals" is part of the first-timers' introductory speech. "I've seen Planet Earth at least 27 times," the bartender says. Hidden Kingdoms is another favorite. "There's a point where there's going to be a walrus fight. We have a cue, and we skip it, because it kills the vibe fast."

The only time the good vibes vanished is when he mentions that my mouth will go numb from drinking the room-temperature kava. It doesn't happen though, or if it does, the numbness goes unnoticed. He pours my cup and teaches me the traditional toast, bula, which means "to life." Then I let the whole thing slide down my throat and chase it with a pineapple wedge. They go through five pineapples a night—they have a guy—and even more on the weekends.

Despite any temporary worry caused by the bartender's warning, kava appears to be safe. It's only outwardly banned in Poland and is cited to have some medicinal uses as well. Without getting too scientific (let MeloMelo, the Bay Area's first kava bar, do the chemistry), kava works due to an active ingredient called kavalactones. There are different strains, based off the permutation of the six kavalactones, just as there are different strains of marijuana. And as to whether or not you're harming your liver: We're not doctors, but the Pacific people seem to be doing just fine. "Kava has been proven safe by thousands of years of traditional use," Rench says. And as long as bar owners do their part in maintaining a clean product, he doesn't foresee much trouble.

There is some worry, however, that this deeply rooted cultural tradition is being appropriated by the new wave of kava bars, but owners are doing their part to prove their good intentions and respect of the culture. Kavasutra serves the drink in traditional bowls that nod to the use of a half coconut shell, or bilo, rather than standard glasses. The bartender notes, "This is gonna sound hippie, but kava is traditional for a lot of people. As much as we want to sell something good, we don't want to dirty that."

Despite the drink's sudden growth, most large cities are yet to play host to a kava bar. You can buy kava to make it at home and feel the effects, though nothing can truly replace the experience and community of the kava bar itself. "It's still kind of an untapped and underserved market," Rench says, but he's hopeful for kava's future. "There's room for growth. New kava bars are just filling in the blanks."

On the TV screen, a seal suddenly emerges from the water, victorious. The long-haired man starts chanting with elation. "That's why we're here!" he shouts, egging on the two-dimensional sea creature, as everyone cheers enthusiastically. And he might just be right.


Health beat: U study shows kava may prevent smoking-induced lung cancer

By Dan Browning (Star Tribune)

A plant grown in the South Pacific and consumed by islanders for its mild sedative effects appears to prevent smoking-induced lung cancer, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota.

Their findings, published last week in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, suggest that an extract made from kava root suppresses the growth of tumors in mice. They’ve applied for a patent on a blend of the active ingredients that they believe is the preventive agent.

Lung cancer results in about 150,000 deaths and 160,000 new cases a year in the United States. The five-year survival rate is just under 17 percent. Smoking greatly increases the chance of developing lung cancer. Yet studies in such islands as Fiji and Western Somoa have found very low lung cancer rates despite relatively heavy tobacco use.

Earlier studies found an inverse correlation between the amount of kava consumed and the cancer rate among smokers, indicating that the earthy beverage might be blocking tumor growth. But kava was banned in Europe, where it had been used to treat anxiety, after reports suggesting it causes liver damage. The U’s researchers found those reports questionable and say their own kava extract did not harm the liver. However, further study is needed to establish its safety in human clinical settings, they said.

The American Botanical Council said in a statement that while it generally does not comment on studies conducted on mice and other animals, the U’s kava research warrants attention. It quoted Rick Kingston, a U pharmacy professor and president of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs at SafetyCall International in Minneapolis, as saying the research is “unprecedented in its potential impact.”

An editorial accompanying the study said that “although the ultimate success of kava will depend on the outcomes of further … studies, this herb exemplifies the principle of ‘nature to bench to bedside’ and supports the identification and … testing of natural agents for cancer chemoprevention.”


10 beer alternatives to drink this summer

By Josh Lew

Think of these options as beer's lighter, often gluten-free cousins.

Beer might be the alcoholic drink of choice for many American adults, but it can do a number on your waistline. And it’s not a friend of the gluten-free lifestyle, either. So as the temperatures rise, why not reach for a different chilled beverage from the beer family?

There's an excitement that comes from trying something exotic — something totally different from the draft you usually order. These 10 alternatives to traditional beer come from all over the world. Some are well-known suds substitutes, while others are relatively unknown to drinkers in North America.

Raise a glass to these beer alternatives!

Kvass

Kvass has been popular in Russia for centuries. It’s made by soaking bread (often rye) in water and adding yeast and sugar to start the fermentation process, and additions like honey, raisins or mint can be added for flavor, NPR reports. Kvass ferments for only a few days, and the resulting beverage has an alcohol content between one and three percent. In Russia, it’s often considered a non-alcoholic drink. During the summer in kvass-drinking Eastern Europe, the beverage is often served on the street out of a large barrel on wheels.

Kvass has a distinctly sour taste. The acid produced by the fermentation and the low pH are supposed to be good for your health because they encourage good bacteria to grow while killing bad bacteria. Mass-produced kvass does not have this bacterial makeup, but some artisans are trying to revive traditional brewing methods which allow them to create a drink closer to one produced in Eastern Europe for centuries.

Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea that, like kvass, has probiotics that may be good for your gut health, as The Washington Post explains. The drink, which can be made from either black or green tea, was traditionally prepared at home, but commercially produced varieties are now available in North America and Europe (often in health food stores). The first uses of kombucha go back several centuries to China, Eastern Europe, Russia and Japan. Now, however, it is consumed throughout the world.

It’s often called “mushroom tea” because a mushroom-like mass forms during the fermentation process. The term kombucha is believed to come from the Japanese, although it could be a mistranslation because the closest Japanese word, konbucha, is a kind of seaweed tea. Like kvass, kombucha has an alcohol content lower than beer, though some homemade and small batch varieties can approach the strength of beer. Varieties that are sold off the shelf as health tonics must have an alcohol content of less than 0.5 percent to avoid being designated as alcoholic beverages in the United States.

Mead

Mead is a distinctive beverage made from honey. Unlike kvass and kombucha, it is usually stronger than beer, with an alcohol content more similar to wine (between 6 and 20 percent). Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages — there are mentions of honey wines in both Ancient Greek and Ancient Indian literature. A chemical analysis of pottery dating back 8,000 years showed traces of mead-like substances.

Despite never gaining the popularity of wine, mead is enjoyed in Eastern and Northern Europe, and a more-traditional variety of honey-based alcohol is popular in East Africa. In North America, small artisan mead producers have been somewhat successful in bringing the ancient drink back into the public consciousness and giving people an alternative to both beer and grape-based wines.

Kava

The kava plant is easily recognizable because of its heart-shaped leaves. To kava drinkers, however, the most important part of the plant is its root. Unlike all the other beer substitutes on our list, this one does not contain alcohol. Traditionally, kava is drunk in the South Pacific regions of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. When prepared correctly, a tea-like beverage containing the root produces a sedative-like effect. In Polynesian tradition, it is thought to give this relaxed feeling without lessening mental clarity. Because of this, kava is sometimes given religious or ceremonial significance.

Though kava is banned by some countries, it is often used by Western herbalists to treat anxiety. There is currently no ban on the root in the United States, and kava bars are popping up around the country in places with large Polynesian populations and even in hip New York City neighborhoods, as the New York Daily News reports.

Cider

Cider, which is often referred to as “hard cider” to differentiate it from the jugs of juice you buy at apple orchards in the fall, is most popular in the U.K., Ireland and parts of continental Europe, but it has fans in the United States and Canada, too. Cider is arguably the most popular beer alternative because it has a similar alcohol content, but is gluten-free and often has fewer carbs and calories.

The process of making cider traditionally starts by mashing the apples in a press before fermenting the juice in barrels or vats for at least three months. Some varieties are fermented for much longer, resulting in a higher alcohol content and a different flavor than younger ciders. Like beer, many artisan cider makers produce smaller batches of high quality product, paying special attention to creating unique “trademark” flavors. Mass-produced varieties like Strongbow, from the U.K., and Magners, from Ireland, are exported worldwide.

Ginger beer

There are two varieties of ginger beer. One is non-alcoholic and carbonated with carbon dioxide. The other, often branded as “alcoholic ginger beer” to distinguish it from the soft drink, is a fermented beverage originally popularized in the U.K. but is now sold all over the world.

Crabbie’s Ginger Beer, first produced in Edinburgh, is exported to North America. At 4.8 percent alcohol by volume, it has a strength similar to beer. The product distributed in the U.K. is completely gluten-free, but the U.S. version in not. In the Caribbean, non-alcoholic versions of ginger beer are spiked with dark Caribbean rum to make a cocktail called the Dark and Stormy, which has become a signature drink on Bermuda, Jamaica and many other islands.

Sorghum beer

Today, many gluten-free beer brands are made using sorghum as the main ingredient. Sorghum was first used to make alcohol in China. Even today, distilled Chinese liquor like maotai is made using the grain. In Africa, sorghum beer has long been very popular. It is known by different names in different parts of the continent. It is called pombe in East Africa and burukutu in Nigeria. Sorghum beer is widely served in South Africa as well. It is usually made in large metal pots (traditionally over an open fire) and “soured” during the fermentation process. This step, which is not used in beer production, gives African sorghum beer a very distinct taste.

American brewers have started using sorghum to make gluten-free beer. Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery was one of the first to do this with its New Grist brand. Other companies, such as Bard’s Tale, also have sorghum beer offerings that are widely distributed in the United States.

Palm wine

Palm wine is a naturally fermented drink popular in Asia and Africa. It’s known by different names depending on where it’s made, but the method of collecting palm tree sap and fermenting it is very similar everywhere. The process of making palm wine starts when sap is extracted from a palm tree (coconut palm, date palm and other varieties are used). This sometimes requires the tapper to climb high up into the tree.

The sap starts fermenting after it is taken from the tree, and after two or three hours, the liquid has an alcohol content of three to four percent. It is usually consumed at this point because it is at its sweetest. If fermentation continues, the taste becomes more sour, but the drink gets stronger (up to 10 to 12 percent alcohol). If the liquid is allowed to ferment for more than a day, it becomes like vinegar and is undrinkable. Some tappers and sap collectors add local yeasts to increase the potency. Palm wine isn’t widely available in the U.S. because of the process by which it is made and the fact that it should be enjoyed while fresh.

Pulque

Mexico is famous for its tequila. However, another lesser-known (and less potent) drink is made from the same plant family used to produce both tequila and its worm-wearing cousin, mezcal. Pulque is made from the sap of certain species of agave. After the sap is collected, it is fermented using special bacteria. The process of fermentation is continuous, so pulque must be consumed soon after it is removed from the fermentation vats. The process usually lasts one to two weeks.

Pulque is drunk by some locals in agave-growing areas, and there are efforts to revive interest among tourists by adding pulque to tequila tours or offering it as a less potent, more traditional alternative to the harder liquor.

Sake

Sake is a well-known Japanese alcoholic beverage. It is usually categorized as a wine or a spirit, but the brewing process is actually much closer to beer than wine or distilled liquor. Sake is made from rice, and, like beer, the starch is converted to sugar before it is fermented. Unlike beer, which has separate brewing steps, the conversion of starch to sugar to alcohol occurs in a single step.

Sake has an alcohol content of 15 to 20 percent. Both transparent filtered and cloudy unfiltered versions are available. A type of mold is actually sprinkled on the rice to start the fermentation process (the same mold is used to ferment soybeans that will be used to make soy sauce). The sake-making process takes about one month, though it can vary depending on the variety being produced.


Two New Kava Bars Chill out the Bay Area With a Calming, Natural Concoction

By A. K. Carroll

The Polynesian term for cheers — Bula!— isn't commonly heard in San Francisco's restaurant scene, where toasting over a glass of Champagne or even a mug of coffee is the norm. But head down University Avenue in Berkeley, and you'll hear the salutation shouted with gusto over kava-filled coconut mugs inside MeloMelo Kava Bar.

MeloMelo Kava Bar is the first booze and coffee-free bar to hit the Bay Area serving only kava—a murky gray, mood-altering beverage made from the 10-foot roots of the piper methysticum (“intoxicating pepper”) plant native to the South Pacific. Thousands of years before alcohol or coffee dominated society, kava was the beverage of choice for every occasion, and in the South Pacific it's often drunk throughout the day, in large quantities.

Kava culture first crept into the mainland via southern Florida in the early 2000s, but is only now making its way to the West Coast. It's natural benefits are widespread, and the root has been used as everything from a muscle relaxant and pain reliever to a sleep aid and cure for anxiety.

An alternative to the traditional bar scene, MeloMelo offers a trippy, tranquil vibe and calming soporific drinks that promise the opposite of caffeinated jitters or day-after hangovers, but is still open until 12am every night.

“We make our kava significantly stronger [than what you would have in the South Pacific] or people wouldn’t feel the effects of it,” says Nicholas (Nico) Rivard, co-owner of MeloMelo. He and partner Rami Kayali source their kava from the Fiji, Konga and Vanuata islands, grinding the root themselves to ensure its quality.

In its first year, MeloMelo has already garnered a cult-like following of locals who come to sit, chat, and bask in the drug-like effects of the natural concoction. Kava is traditionally served in coconut shells called bilos, and MeloMelo offers two options: “low tide” and “high tide,” similar to a single and double shot.

“Traditionally we just knock it back,” says Rivard. “Admittedly, it’s not the tastiest of beverages.”

Within minutes of shooting back a shell, you may feel your tongue and lips go numb courtesy of the active kavalactones in the drink. These initial effects are temporary, but the mellowing result can last much longer.

“It’s not for everyone,” says Rivard, “But I think people appreciate the atmosphere. [It’s] very different from a coffee shop where the energy is really ramped up. Here people are really interacting with each other.”

That organic social interaction is what former barowner Alva Caple also aims to foster at her forthcoming Kava Lounge SF, set to open on Divisadero and McAllister by the end of the month.

“I hope this is going to be a real social place,” says Caple. “An herbal cocktail lounge with a full range of what used to be called elixirs.”

Caple’s kava bar is a bit more spacious than MeloMelo, with a window nook, expansive bar, and elevated lounge. The atmosphere is lush with jungle green walls and a scattering of plants.

Caple believes that Kava Lounge SF will appeal to a broad range of people, including the curious, the health-conscious, and the straight up kava lovers. “Kava is just absolutely wonderful,” he touts. “This [place] is going to be the shit.”


New York’s first kava bar, Kavasutra, opens in the East Village serving sedative beverages

By Jeanette Settembre (NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

This is your brain on kava.

Take a sip of the mind-altering beverages at Kavasutra in the East Village and you’ll get a brew made from a root with sedative and anesthetic properties to promote mind and body relaxation.

“I’m dazed, but not confused,” said Tyler Blue McPerson, 29, of East Williamsburg, who downed two cups at the city’s first kava bar. “It’s interesting to be at a bar without alcohol. With wine or beer there’s a desire for another, but with kava you’re content.”

His friend Dane Graham said his body went to a state that was “strangely mellow for New York.”

“I feel chill,” said the 29-year-old Greenpoint resident, reacting to the effect of kavalactones, the root’s active ingredients.

Kavasutra is a bar like most others in the neighborhood, a dimly lit hangout with a 10-seat counter and an after-work mix of 20-something hipsters, couples and loners.

The difference? As the sign outside reads, “Alcohol is so 2014.” So in lieu of booze, bartenders offer up bowls of murky water garnished with a slice of pineapple. The sweet fruit helps get the bitter brown muck down the rabbit hole.

If you can stomach it, you will relax, thanks to kava’s influence on the part of the brain that control emotions. Better news? Kava doesn’t affect motor skills or judgment like alcohol.

The first sensation is a tingling in the lips and some numbness in the throat. What follows is a light euphoria and a feeling of calm and clarity. A second cup really boosts the muscle-relaxing effect.

The trick is getting the brew of emulsified kava roots down the gullet. Go ask Alice.

“You’re going to want to chug it,” a bartender replied.

Some do, but novices make the mistake of sipping it slowly with a straw, but that just makes it taste like dirty water.

Tipplers will also want to avoid overindulging in the new fad feelgood, especially over the long term.

The Food and Drug Administration has tracked periodic outbreaks of kava-related toxicity, most recently in 2002 when dozens of Americans suffered liver damage — and three died — from pill versions of kava.

As a result, Canada and several countries in Europe and Asia banned kava products, and U.S. authorities issued a warning. However, more recently, the root bounced back. Last year, Germany overturned its own ban, citing kava’s low risk. But nutritionists are not convinced. The herb metabolizes through the liver like alcohol, so combining the two is not recommended.

“It has drug-like properties. That’s really where the scary situation lies,” says Dr. Lisa Young, who recommends camomile tea instead of kava, for anxiety and stress relief. “Everyone is going to get a different reaction. My worry is that if someone has several cups and they drive and fall asleep.”

The kava plant is found in the South Pacific and is regularly consumed in Fiji, Hawaii and Polynesia. The drink goes back about 3,000 years, when it was traditionally prepared by cutting the root into small pieces, chewed by several people and spat into a bowl before it's mixed with coconut milk. It was believed that saliva promoted the extraction of the active ingredients and provided a tastier drink.

Today, the root is ground or grated. Before receiving the drink, Polynesians would clap their hands once, then drink it like a shot and, after finishing, clap three more times. Patrons at Kavasutra engaged in a similar ritual before cheers-ing the concoction with strangers.

Kava bars started opening in the U.S. in the early 2000s in Hawaii, California and Florida. There are five other Kavasutras nationwide: four in Florida and one in Denver.

“It’s not my favorite cup of tea,” says Pure Green juice bar founder Ross Franklin of the herb’s bitter taste.

“It needs to be mixed with sweeter ingredients for it to be palatable for most people,” he adds.

If you don’t like the earthy taste of kava tea, Kavasutra also offers fruity shots made with powdered kava, coconut water, coconut syrup, lemon and served with lime.

You won’t find any alcohol at this bar, but there is a happy hour. Half-off cups of kava (normally priced at $6 per cup) are served every day from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Sip responsibly.

Kavasutra, 261 E. 10th St. between First Ave. and Ave. A. Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.


Is Kava the Cure for Anxiety?

By Brian Krans (Medically Reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE)

While many people with anxiety may turn to a glass of wine or a few fingers of Scotch to ease their shaky nerves, kava may have some added benefits that Johnny Walker can’t provide.

Kava, also known as kava-kava, has been used by Pacific Island cultures for centuries for its relaxing properties. It’s also used for various religious rites and ceremonies.

The root of the Piper methysticum plant is chewed, ground, or pulverized to make drinks or teas that can ease a person’s mind while maintaining clarity. It’s used for temporary relief from anxiety, stress, and insomnia.

Kavalactones are the active chemical ingredients of the kava root. Research shows that they can affect brain chemistry in ways similar to prescription antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.

Kava is prepared in tinctures, teas, and also comes in pill and powder forms. For those looking to be social about their treatments, kava bars — where patrons can sample and sip kava just like they would a microbrew IPA — are slowly popping up across the United States.

What Does It Do?

Studies show that kava can be effective at elevating mood related to anxiety and depression.

One major benefit of using kava to treat anxiety is that it doesn’t appear to have much of an effect on your reaction time. For example, while common anti-anxiety medications like oxazepam can slow your reaction time when you’re driving, a 2012 study suggests that a 180 milligrams (mg) dose of medicinal kava doesn’t impair a person’s driving ability.

There appear to be few other side effects, especially compared to other anti-anxiety medications. One study showed that daily doses of kava extract ranging from 120 to 240 mg significantly reduced participants’ anxiety without causing any damage to the liver. The most common side effect experience by the 75 study participants was headache.

Additionally, while a decreased sex drive is one adverse effect of depression, research shows that kava can significantly boost sex drive in women.

But kava is no miracle cure. Like alcohol, use of kava has been linked to problems with the liver. Health Concerns in Using Kava

The use of kava is tightly regulated in some countries due to concerns over toxicity, specifically its damaging effects to the liver. Kava is banned in the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, and France because of liver toxicity concerns.

Kava is legal for sale in the U.S. when marketed as a nutritional supplement. There have been cases of liver damage and even some deaths reported with kava use. For this reason, you should be sure to talk to your doctor about kava and discuss the appropriate dose recommended before you take this herb.

Recently, Germany has repealed the ban due to the claim that the ban was “unlawful and inappropriate.” German health authorities are currently appealing the ban.

The long-term and historic use of kava in Pacific cultures — under strict ritual preparation — have also shown it to be safe.

Still, the scientific and regulatory communities agree that further research is needed to determine whether or not the root itself is toxic to the liver, or if it is the processing methods that affect toxicity.

The FDA warns that people with liver disease or liver problems should consult their doctor before taking supplements containing kava.


Waikato study examines kava's effects on driving

By AARON LEAMAN

During his years on the police force, Dr Apo Aporosa​ saw first-hand the tragic consequences of road smashes.

The carnage confirmed his strong anti-drink driving views and instilled in him a desire to keep people safe behind the wheel.

In December last year, Aporosa, a research fellow at Waikato University, was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship to study the effects of kava on driver ability and road safety.

​Kava is a traditional Pacific Island drink and is renowned for its relaxant effects.

The two-year fellowship, worth $230,000, is being funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC).

Aporosa, who has Fijian ancestry, said his study is not anti-kava but is intended to inform the community and kava-users.

He also hopes to dispel popular misconceptions about kava.

"This fellowship is a huge blessing for me because it allows me to investigate a passion, which is kava and culture," Aporosa said.

"When I was in the police during the late 1980s and early '90s, there was this huge focus on alcohol and driving but not so much on drugs and driving. And I would attend these ugly messes on the side of the road and know that alcohol wasn't involved but possibly something else was. So this study allows me to take this interest from the past, and take something that's important to me, and pull them together."

Aporosa is working through ethics approval for his study which will involve computer-based psychometric testing of kava users.

A group will be tested over a six-hour kava session, measuring their driving vigilance, alertness and divided attention at hourly intervals.

The results will be compared with a control group of non-kava drinkers.

Kava clubs will also be surveyed to glean members' views of their driving.

There is currently no roadside test to detect or measure the level of kava in a driver's body.

Aporosa said it is up to individuals to decide whether they felt fit to drive after consuming kava.

Kava has 18 active ingredients, including six dominant ones.

The study's findings will be shared with road transport agencies across the South Pacific.

"Whether a person should drive after drinking kava comes down to considering road safety in totality. Do they feel fit to drive?" Aporosa said.

"The study at the end of the day is being funded by the HRC to consider the potential of kava in motor vehicle accidents. But at the same time, when you're dealing with kava you can't overlook its cultural importance. Culture is part of who we are. We just happen to now be living in a mobile society and driving is something we do. That doesn't make kava a negative thing."

Aporosa is currently involved in lobbying the Australian Government to lift restrictions on the importation of kava.

Kava use was banned in Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory, in August 2007.

"Kava is representative of something that is indigenous and there's this undercurrent belief that indigenous is native, it's not progressive. They might look down on us because we mix kava with our hands and all drink from the same cup. Yet it's okay to drink alcohol out of a bottle and go leer it up downtown and punch people."

Rakesh Singh, who owns Essential Spice in Hamilton East, said kava was growing in popularity, especially among non-Pasifika people.

The beverage is favoured for its medicinal properties and is seen as a "good social, relaxing drink".

His shop sells kava for $5 per 100 grams.

"There are different grades of kava and we sell only the premium grade. Before the recent cyclone hit Fiji, kava was selling for $40 a kilogram but that has gone up to $50 a kg," Singh said. Kava misconceptions

• Myth 1: Kava contains alcohol or causes hallucinations

Kava contains active compounds called kavalactones, making it mildly psychoactive but is is neither alcoholic or hallucinogenic.

• Myth 2: Kava is unhealthy

Kava does not have any significant adverse health effects. The most common side-effect from excessive kava drinking is a dryness of the skin. Kava has been used as a traditional medicine in Pacific societies for centuries.

• Myth 3: All kava is the same

There are hundreds of different kava cultivars displaying varying flavours and degrees of potency.

• Myth 4: Kava tastes like muddy water

Kava's flavour can range from bitter and earthy to slightly peppery. It is not normally drunk for its flavour. People often eat sweets or fruit while drinking kava.

• Myth 5: Kava is addictive

Kava is not considered an addictive substance and does not lead to physical dependency.


Can kava cure cancer?

(UCI News)

UC Irvine study of plant compound’s effectiveness against bladder malignancies has yielded promising results

A plant grown in the South Pacific and consumed by islanders for its mild sedative effects is grabbing the attention of cancer researchers around the world, include one in UC Irvine’s Department of Urology.

Traditionally, the root extract of the kava plant is blended into a bitter tea that’s believed to relax muscles, aid sleep, reduce y and even make people more sociable. In native cultures, kava tea is often shared before important government meetings, weddings and other sometimes stressful events to calm the nerves and reduce the chances of conflict.

But Dr. Xiaolin Zi, a UC Irvine associate professor of urology, is discovering that kava compounds called flavokawains stop bladder tumor growth in cell cultures and animal studies, and he believes they might stave off bladder cancer in humans.

At the root of Zi’s research is a seemingly paradoxical fact: South Pacific islanders enjoy low cancer rates despite being heavy smokers.

“Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of bladder cancer, but in the Pacific islands, where kava is plentiful, the incidence of cancer is low despite high smoking rates,” he says. “What I’ve been investigating is how kava compounds can prevent bladder cancer in smokers.”

Since joining UC Irvine in 2002, Zi has studied bioactive agents that come from such plants as the tomato and kava for their chemopreventive impact on prostate and bladder cancer.

Currently, he’s focused on the kava-derived flavokawain A. With funding from the National Cancer Institute, Zi’s team is using mouse models of bladder cancer to demonstrate its efficacy in protecting against the carcinogenic influence of tobacco.

They’ve found that flavokawain A encourages apoptosis, or cell death, in precancerous cells by overcoming the effects of the mutated p53 protein. Known as “the guardian of the genome,” this protein plays a critical role in keeping cells from becoming cancerous, but it’s defective in about half of all human cancers.

(Earlier this year, University of Minnesota researchers published study results in which flavokawain A treatments blocked the proliferation of breast cancer cells.)

Zi’s group has set out to show that mice fed high doses of flavokawain A experience a corresponding slowing of tumor growth. Initial data have been very promising. All three bladder cancer mouse models have responded to the treatment.

To date, Zi has seen no evidence of toxicity from the flavokawain A compound. He notes that this is critical to the compound’s potential as a therapy for human bladder cancer patients.

“The majority of bladder cancer occurs after age 65. Any agents that can delay the onset of cancer are highly beneficial,” says Zi, who’s also a member of UC Irvine Health’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. “For older people, being cancer-free for years longer dramatically improves quality of life.”

More than 70,000 new cases of bladder cancer are reported annually in the U.S. The per-patient cost to the nation’s healthcare system of bladder cancer is among the highest of all cancers ($96,000 to $187,000).

Although there are numerous options for the treatment of bladder cancer and success rates are high compared with many other solid-tumor malignancies, the American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 15,000 Americans will die from bladder cancer this year. Many of the current chemotherapeutic treatment regimens for bladder cancer also carry significant side effects and toxicities.

Treatments derived from natural sources, Zi says, may provide a solution. He hopes to conduct clinical trials on human patients in the near future.

“Although there are not yet a lot of studies showing the cancer-fighting effectiveness of natural treatments, many cancer patients are using them,” he adds. “More studies are needed to find out if these natural supplements work and in what circumstances people should use them. There’s a lot of exciting potential in this area of research.”


Kava: The anti-anxiety herb is making a comeback

By Chris Kilham

Kava, an herb from the Pacific islands whose roots yield relaxing compounds, has been sold in the U.S. for a long time. In 1900 kava extract appeared in the Sears Roebuck catalog as a “temperance wine,” an alternative to demon drink. Buyers who purchased the extract received a free tea set. Up until the 1950s kava products were registered in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia, the official compilation of approved medicines, for the treatment of both gonorrhea and nervousness.

Captain Cook may have been the first non-native to be offered kava, and he was put off by it. The root of the plant is traditionally ground by native people and mixed with a little water. The mixture is squeezed and strained into a coconut shell and drunk. The feeling of relaxation is immediate and pleasant. Compounds in kava relax tense muscles and work in the amygdala, the anxiety centers of the brain. For Captain Cook, the relaxing native drink looked un-appealing.

“Kava time” in late afternoon is a regular feature of Pacific island native cultural life, and the use of kava among the people of Oceania goes back at least 3000 years. Non-alcoholic and the color of muddy water, kava is an agent of peace and tranquility. “Kava time” is a daily period of kinship and community, when native people get together, drink kava, and share what has happened in their day. Other visitors to the Pacific islands have taken a more positive approach to kava than Captain Cook and have enjoyed kava time. Pope John Paul drank kava in Fiji, as have British royals and innumerable politicians and diplomats.

In 1996, a kava boom, fueled by features in various news outlets, sent kava sales soaring in both the U.S. and Europe. I wrote a book about kava entitled Kava, Medicine Hunting in Paradise, and hundreds of companies put out kava-based products. Bolstered by several European human clinical studies demonstrating anti-anxiety effects, kava became huge. Sales of kava – “the natural Xanax” – went exponential, and for the first time, many South Pacific island cultures flourished economically due to brisk kava sales.

In 2001, Duke University Medical Center conducted two studies on kava extract. One study showed that kava is safe for the liver, causing no noticeable problems. The other study revealed that kava extract is as effective for the treatment of anxiety as the benzodiazepine class of drugs (Xanax, Valium), without the hazards caused by those medicines.


The Relaxing Power of Kava

(FoxNews.com)

The vitamin and supplement market is full of remedies that claim to help with anxiety and stress. Medicine Hunter Chris Kilham visited the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx to share a potent and natural remedy, which relieves stress and enhances overall well-being.

The kava plant isn’t common to most people’s gardens, but Michael Balick, vice president for botanical science and philecology curator of the Institute of Economic Botany at the New York Botanical Garden, told FoxNews.com that people in the South Pacific have been using it for thousands of years as an anti-anxiety tonic.

“The roots are pounded, mixed with hibiscus, and made into a sort of slimy beverage that immediately reduces your anxiety, makes you want to talk to everybody in the room. It's an anxiolytic, similar to Valium, and so you lose your inhibitions; everybody's your friend, you're chatting away, and they use it to resolve conflict,” Balick said.

Kilham, who calls the plant one of his favorites, has also experienced the effects of kava. “It's really an agent of kinship and community. You know people get together in the afternoon, they drink kava, they talk. It really seems to be an agent of community cohesion every bit as much as it's a medicinal plant,” Kilham said.

Balick explained how kava helps hold culture together in the South Pacific. While families in the U.S. may spend time with their children and spouses around the television in the evenings, on the island of Vonuatu, families sit around a stone, pound kava and drink it. It is a time for storytelling and to resolve problems.

Kilham said the effects of kava are immediate, and Balick warned that the plant should be used with caution.

“You wouldn't want to drive a car under the influence of kava, because everything would just seem funny and happy,” Balick said.


Health beat: U study shows kava may prevent smoking-induced lung cancer

By Dan Browning (Star Tribune)

A plant grown in the South Pacific and consumed by islanders for its mild sedative effects appears to prevent smoking-induced lung cancer, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota.

Their findings, published last week in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, suggest that an extract made from kava root suppresses the growth of tumors in mice. They’ve applied for a patent on a blend of the active ingredients that they believe is the preventive agent.

Lung cancer results in about 150,000 deaths and 160,000 new cases a year in the United States. The five-year survival rate is just under 17 percent. Smoking greatly increases the chance of developing lung cancer. Yet studies in such islands as Fiji and Western Somoa have found very low lung cancer rates despite relatively heavy tobacco use.

Earlier studies found an inverse correlation between the amount of kava consumed and the cancer rate among smokers, indicating that the earthy beverage might be blocking tumor growth. But kava was banned in Europe, where it had been used to treat anxiety, after reports suggesting it causes liver damage. The U’s researchers found those reports questionable and say their own kava extract did not harm the liver. However, further study is needed to establish its safety in human clinical settings, they said.

The American Botanical Council said in a statement that while it generally does not comment on studies conducted on mice and other animals, the U’s kava research warrants attention. It quoted Rick Kingston, a U pharmacy professor and president of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs at SafetyCall International in Minneapolis, as saying the research is “unprecedented in its potential impact.”

An editorial accompanying the study said that “although the ultimate success of kava will depend on the outcomes of further … studies, this herb exemplifies the principle of ‘nature to bench to bedside’ and supports the identification and … testing of natural agents for cancer chemoprevention.”


The Kava Craze: Is Kava the Next Big Thing?

By Taylor Villucci

Experiencing varying levels of intoxication during your college years seems to be an understood fact. With wild parties, lots of bars and clubs, and even being able to consume alcohol on campus (looking at you, Chili’s), the ability to consume alcohol or other illicit substances isn’t hard when a part of a large college area like Florida State and Tallahassee. While getting rid of alcohol and other substances within a college community might be near impossible, there are other legal alternatives people are pursuing to be able to relax and wind down after a stressful week.

According to The Alcohol Prevention Team at Florida State, about 33% of women and 59% of men consumed five or more drinks at one sitting. This excessive drinking cannot be attributed to any specific reason— instead, it can be chalked up to a multitude of factors such as students feeling like they need to “escape” from their troubles, pressure from friends to keep drinking, or just the carelessness of being drunk and not counting the amount of drinks they are consuming. The feeling of being intoxicated appeals to many students due to them being more free to socialize, lower inhibitions, and feeling carefree throughout the night. While some drink to excess like this, others are just looking for a way to unwind after a hectic week with some close friends. Kava might be the option for that.

Kava is the root of a plant that is generally consumed via the mouth in drink form. Produced and consumed in the pacific region, as in places like Fiji, Vanuatu, and Hawaii, Kava has started to make its’ way to the continental United States. While Kava by itself doesn’t have the greatest taste, it can be mixed with other ingredients to create a better drinking experience (like a mixed drink can mask the taste of strong alcohol). Other ways to consume the root are in capsule form, which can be mixed with tea or taken orally.

The benefits of drinking Kava range from medical to social. Kava can be used to reduce anxiety in the short term— some people use capsules to mix with their tea when feeling like their anxiety is becoming more prominent. The kava relaxes them and reduces their anxiety to manageable, or nearly untraceable, levels. Kava can also be used as a sleep aid. In a more social aspect, kava relaxes the user and helps them become more sociable once the effects are felt. These effects are part of the reason why kava is marketed as a substitute for alcohol. Without the worry of getting a hangover like with alcohol consumption, the user can feel more relaxed and sociable within a group setting. It can also be compared to alcohol with the relation to being able to drink it fast, like with shots, or mixing it with flavors to create a “mixed drink.”

While being lectured on the dangerous aspects of alcohol, such as becoming impaired and driving, liver damage, or making reckless/poor decisions while under the influence, kava might seem like a better choice for people who are still looking to sit back and relax with friends. However, like most things in life, there can be some negative side effects with consumption. While it is not completely verifiable, there are cases where Kava may have caused liver damage or failure. While not common, it is a side effect that could potentially plague those who decide to consume it. Also, if too much is taken at one time, it may cause an upset stomach. It should also be noted that operating machinery after drinking kava is not recommended.

With kava bars popping up around the country, and even one near Florida State’s campus, kava is becoming more popular within the states and it’s residents. While some people might use it as a somewhat safer alternative to drinking, others may use it as just a way to unwind and calm down for a few hours before bed. Everyone’s kava use might differ, but the usage is definitely going to increase with kava becoming more popular in the states, and in Tallahassee. Everyone should make their own informed decisions before partaking in it, as with anything.

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