Kava is an extract made from Piper methysticum, a shrub that is indigenous to Micronesia and Polynesia. Dr Goldman adds, “The root is emulsified to make an intoxicating beverage.” Additionally, it can be dried and taken as a dietary supplement to lower anxiety and tension.
Long used in South Pacific religious ceremonies, it has recently gained popularity in the United States, where “kava bars” now serve it in place of (or alongside) coffee and tea. In the past, it was typically served cold and frequently diluted with water or coconut milk.
What is Kava?
Kava, also known as Piper methysticum, is a plant native to the South Pacific islands. It is primarily cultivated for its root, which is used to prepare a traditional beverage with sedative and relaxing properties.
The root of the plant contains active compounds called kavalactones, which are responsible for its psychoactive effects. These compounds have muscle relaxants, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), and sedative properties.
Kava is typically consumed by grinding or pounding the root into a fine powder, which is then mixed with water to make a thick, muddy beverage. This drink is often consumed in social settings, where it is shared among participants. It is known for its distinct bitter taste and numbing effect on the tongue and mouth.
The effects of it can vary depending on the strain, preparation method, and individual tolerance. It is commonly used to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and induce a sense of calmness. Some users may experience mild euphoria, enhanced sociability, and alleviation of anxiety symptoms. Kava is often used as an alternative to alcohol or as a natural remedy for sleep disorders, anxiety, and muscle tension.
However, it’s important to note that the safety of kava has been a topic of debate. Some studies have raised concerns about potential liver toxicity associated with long-term and excessive consumption of kava.
As a result, several countries have imposed restrictions or bans on its imports or consumption. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before using it, particularly if you have any pre-existing liver conditions or are taking medications that may interact with it.
Is Kava Safe?
The safety of kava has been a topic of debate and research over the years. While kava has a long history of traditional use in Pacific Island cultures without reported severe adverse effects, concerns have been raised regarding potential liver toxicity associated with its use.
Several cases of liver toxicity, including liver failure and hepatitis, have been reported in individuals who consumed kava products.
However, it is important to note that these cases have been relatively rare, and factors such as quality, coexisting liver conditions, and possible interactions with medications or other substances may have contributed to these adverse effects.
To address these concerns, many countries have imposed restrictions or bans on the import, sale, or use of kava. However, it is worth noting that regulations and restrictions can vary between countries.
To mitigate potential risks, several measures can be taken:
Quality and Source
Choose reputable sources and ensure that the kava you consume is derived from the root of the plant, as other parts (such as leaves and stems) may contain higher concentrations of compounds that could contribute to liver toxicity.
Avoid Mixing with Other Substances
Kava should not be consumed in combination with alcohol or drugs that affect the liver, as this may increase the risk of adverse effects.
Dosage and Frequency
Moderate and responsible use is recommended. It is advisable to follow the recommended dosage guidelines provided by reputable sources or consult with a healthcare professional.
Factors such as pre-existing liver conditions, genetic predisposition, and interactions with medications can influence individual susceptibility to potential adverse effects. Consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable, especially if you have any pre-existing liver conditions or are taking medications.
Monitoring and Reporting
If you choose to use it, it is important to monitor your well-being and discontinue use if you experience any symptoms of liver damage, such as jaundice, abdominal pain, or dark urine. Reporting any adverse effects to healthcare professionals or relevant regulatory authorities can contribute to ongoing research and understanding of Kava’s safety profile.
Overall, while it has been traditionally consumed for centuries without issues, it is important to exercise caution, be informed, and consider individual circumstances and potential risks. Consulting with a healthcare professional knowledgeable about kava can provide personalized guidance and help make an informed decision.
Is Kava Safe to Use During Pregnancy?
The use of kava during pregnancy is not recommended. There is limited research available on the effects of kava specifically during pregnancy, and the potential risks to both the mother and the developing fetus are not well understood.
It has been associated with liver toxicity in some cases, and pregnancy already places additional strain on the liver. Using substances that may further burden the liver, such as kava, could potentially increase the risk of liver damage or other complications.
It has sedative properties, and its effects on the developing fetus are not known. It is important to prioritize the health and safety of both the mother and the baby during pregnancy, and it is generally advised to err on the side of caution and avoid substances with potential risks.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and have any concerns or questions about the use of it or any other substances, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice. They will be able to provide guidance based on your specific situation and help you make informed decisions regarding your health and the health of your baby.
How to Best Handle Kava’s Strong Flavour?
Well, it’s bitter and numb like the micronized kava powder itself. Kava powder may taste slightly less bitter after a spray from the kettle, but hot water won’t be able to mask the extract’s strong bitter flavours on its own. So you might think about adding your favourite tea bag to your cup to perk things up. It works well to counteract the tongue-tingling acridness of it with herbal and fruity variants.
Your tongue can still relax if tea isn’t your thing or you’d prefer to completely avoid the bitter taste of it. There are plenty of additional scrumptious ways to include kava in your diet and way of life.
A kava bar is a fantastic place to taste kava. Similar to a regular bar, kava bars specialize in serving kava-based drinks. Make sure to find out the kava bar’s age restriction before visiting one. Since there is no standard age restriction for kava bars, each one has a different policy.
Kava Can Be Consumed in Which Form?
It can be consumed as a tea, pill, powder, or liquid.
These products, except kava tea, are created from a concentrated mixture that is created by extracting kavalactones from the plant’s root using ethanol or acetone.
Due to its accessibility, tea is the most popular way to consume it for anxiety. It is made with hot water and marketed either alone or with additional herbs that are said to help with relaxation. Look for its teas that list the amount of kavalactone among their other constituents. Steer clear of teas whose contents are listed as “proprietary blends.” You won’t know how much kava you’re getting with these goods.
Kava Liquid or Tincture
This is in a liquid form, packaged in little bottles with a capacity of 2 to 6 ounces (59 to 177 ml). To mask its whiskey-like flavor, you can either take it with a dropper or mix it into juice or another beverage.
As the kavalactones are concentrated, making kava tincture and kava liquid more potent than other forms, it’s crucial to consume only a tiny quantity.
It can be taken in capsule form if you don’t like the taste of it.
Look for goods that list the kavalactone content, just like with kava tea. One capsule, for instance, might contain 100 mg of standardized kava root extract, which contains 30% kavalactones.
Kratom vs. Kava Root, What is the Difference?
It has taught us a lot, but kratom is a related herb that has many of the same effects. Since both kava and kratom promote feelings of relaxation, the two are frequently contrasted.
However, kava is more well-known for its intoxicating, euphoric effects, while kratom is better known for boosting energy or soothing the mind.
Both plants are native to Southeast Asia, and whereas it is derived from the plant’s root, kratom is derived from its leaves. Both substances are sometimes combined to make kava tea or kratom tea.
Here is how the two compare:
The kava root
- slight intoxication
- enhances sociability, elevates mood, and reduces anxiety
- effects on GABA receptors
- increases dopamine receptor stimulation
Kratom plant’s roots
- works as a sedative in big dosages and a stimulant in small quantities.
- Calming Effects Stimulation of the Mu and Delta Opioid Receptors
- influences the norepinephrine and serotonin receptors
- comes from the plant’s leaves.
In conclusion, it is a plant native to the South Pacific islands, known for its root, which is used to prepare a traditional beverage with sedative and relaxing properties. It contains active compounds called kavalactones that have muscle relaxant, anxiolytic, and sedative effects.
While kava has a long history of traditional use without severe adverse effects, concerns have been raised regarding potential liver toxicity associated with its consumption.
Cases of liver damage have been reported, although they are relatively rare and may be influenced by factors such as the quality of kava, coexisting liver conditions, and interactions with medications.