If you’re new to kava, you may be wondering what it’s like. How will it make you feel? And what does it taste like? While everyone may have a unique experience, kava gives a general feeling of relaxation while allowing you to stay clear-minded.
Is kava similar to alcohol?
Kava is not alcohol. It’s made from the crushed root of a pepper plant that grows in the South Pacific. For many people, kava us used in place of alcohol, as it’s a social drink and may have an effect on the GABA receptors. The adverse effects of alcohol are well-known and dangerous. With kava, there is no hangover and it doesn’t cloud judgment.
Here are a few classic quotes from various experts:
- Kava produces “‘a pleasant, warm, and cheerful, but lazy feeling, [making people] sociable, though not hilarious or loquacious…” Hocart, AM (1929) Lau Islands, Fiji
- Professor Peter D’Abbs (1995) from the Darwin School of Medicine, confirms that consuming kava will “not lead to violent behavior” as it does with alcohol use, and it does not “befuddle the mind and can be used to stimulate clear-headed discussion.”
- “Reason and consciousness remain unaffected.” Aronson, JK (2008) Meyler’s Side Effects of Herbal Medicines.
- Whereas alcohol has the ability for some drinkers to “release aggressive impulses; if anything kava inhibits or disassociates them. You cannot hate with kava in you.” Lemert, EM (1967) “Secular use of kava in Tonga.” Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol.
- Researchers who studied kava and mental clarity found that kava exerts “no impairment in cognitive or saccade function in individuals who were currently heavy kava users, nor was there any impairment in individuals who had been heavy kava users in the past but had abstained for longer than six months.”
What does kava taste like?
As a general rule, people don’t drink kava for the taste, but for the effects. Many people say kava has a strong “earthy” taste. Kava actually means “bitter” in the Tongan language. Most kava bars have flavors you can add if the earthy flavor is too strong.
Can kava help with addiction?
One study found that kava may be beneficial in helping people overcome addiction.
The authors write, “One important area of research is the chemistry of craving. It is assumed that if the neurological process of craving can be interrupted, then addiction can be successfully treated.”
“The active ingredients found in kava, known as kavapyrones, have been found to bind to many sites in the brain that are associated with addiction and craving.”
In order to determine if kava can reduce the cravings associated with substances of abuse, a craving survey and pilot study were completed where cravings of alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, and heroin were examined.
The early findings suggest that kava may reduce the craving associated with addiction.
In one experiment, the participants reported a reduction in their desire for their drug of choice. In another experiment, a standardized amount of kavapyrones led to an apparent difference in abstinence between the experimental and placebo groups for alcohol.
The authors say that larger studies are needed to confirm the preliminary findings.
How does kava work?
The active compounds in kava are called kavalactones, which account for 3-20% of the root’s dry weight. So far, 18 different kavalactones have been isolated and identified. However, six of them — kavain, dihydrokavain, methysticin, dihydromethysticin, yangonin, and desmethoxyyangonin — have been found to be responsible for about 96% of the plant’s pharmacological activity.
Research has shown that kavalactones may help reduce anxiety and pain and improve insomnia. Kavalactones appear to work by impacting the brain’s neurotransmitters, primarily GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which decreases nerve activity.
Can kava help reduce anxiety?
Many people report that kava helps with anxiety. In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, a research team examined the effects of kava on people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
A total of 75 people participated in a 6-week trial of a kava extract versus placebo. The findings showed a significant reduction in anxiety for the kava group compared with the placebo group.
In a 2002 review of seven clinical trials and 645 people, a kava extract was found to be an “effective symptomatic treatment option for anxiety.” Safety and tolerability were also good, with no drug-related adverse events, according to the authors.
Can kava help with insomnia?
Kava may also help with insomnia, and with fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs or over-the-counter sleep enhancers. It’s believed that a specific type of kavalactone, called kevain, may be behind kava’s sedative effect.
In a pilot study of 24 people living with stress-induced insomnia , researchers examined the effectiveness of kava and valerian separately. Stress was measured in three areas: social, personal and life events. Insomnia was measured in three areas also: time to fall asleep, hours slept and waking mood.
The findings show that total stress severity was significantly relieved by both kava and valerian individually, with no significant differences between them. There was also improvement when the two were combined, particularly in the case of insomnia.
“These results are considered to be extremely promising but further studies may be required to determine the relative roles of the two compounds for such indications,” write the authors.
Preparing Kava at Home
What You’ll Need:
- Ground kava root.
- A strainer bag (A muslin bag, cheesecloth, or even an old T-shirt)
- Warm to hot water (tap hot is perfect)
- Bowl to prepare the kava in.
Directions: Traditional kava preparation involves steeping similar to how you would brew tea. First, measure out the right amount of kava root — 2-4 tablespoons per serving — and put it in your strainer bag.
Tie up the bag and place it in your bowl. Measure out 8-12 ounces of hot water per serving, depending on how strong you want your tea. Next, pour the hot water directly into the bag with the kava powder. Steep for 5-10 minutes.
Finally, knead and squeeze the kava root in the bag, pushing the water out into the bowl. Make sure no kava powder escapes from the bag. After 5-10 minutes of kneading, wring the straining bag tight to remove all liquid. The kava should look similar to chocolate milk.