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By Zane Yoshida

Kava and Damiana: What are the Main Differences?

Kava is sometimes mentioned in the same breath as another natural substance, damiana. They are sometimes sold next to each other in health stores, so it’s important to know the differences between kava and damiana.

Location of origin

Kava and damaiana are found in different parts of the world.

While, kava is native to Western Pacific islands such as Fiji, Vanuatu, and Hawaii, damiana is found in southwest U.S, as well as Central America, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean.

Plant of origin

Kava is the root of the Piper Methysticum plant, which is part of the pepper family of plants. Its name means ‘intoxicating pepper’.

Damiana comes from Turnera diffusa, a small, wild, woody shrub with small, aromatic flowers.

Usage

Kava is prepared from the dried roots of the plant. It has been used for many centuries, originally as a beverage consumed in important ceremonies and social gatherings. Nowadays it is still used at most important occasions on the Pacific islands, but may be drunk socially or taken as a health supplement in pill, powder, or beverage form.

Damiana stem and leaf was used in the preparation of a traditional Mexican liqueur that was sometimes used in place of triple sec in margaritas. Nowadays it is more often seen dried as a supplement in health stores. The dried leaves are still used to make a cordial type of drink or tea. It is sometimes also smoked recreationally or even inhaled for a slight ‘high’.

Health benefits and after-effects

Kava users feel relaxed, stress-free, and it can also induce sleepiness, but it depends on the kava type and dosage taken.

Kava has been used as a medicine in the western Pacific since recorded history began, especially as a muscle relaxant, sedative, pain reliever, and to aid sleep. It was also used to treat urinary tract infections, and nowadays it has gained prominence as an anti-anxiety treatment that is as effective as prescription drugs but without the harmful side effects.

Damiana was traditionally used in Mexico as a remedy for nervous disorders and as an aphrodisiac. It is celebrated for its positive toning effect on the nervous system and sexual organs, and is also used in the treatment of headaches, bedwetting, and depression.

Potential health risks

Both kava and damiana are safe to use in normal doses and when high quality is maintained.

Dangers to the liver with kava are well-publicised but often exaggerated. Liver problems are extremely rare, and this is even more the case with the type of high-quality kava that is usually sent for export. New standards are being created to protect the industry by maintaining this quality, both in Fiji and across the region.

Damiana has occasionally been associated with convulsions and other symptoms similar to rabies or strychnine poisoning, but only when taken in large amounts (200 grams of extract). It may also affect blood sugar levels in diabetes sufferers.

As you can see, there are plenty of differences between kava and damiana – bear them in mind when you next see them together in your health store.

By Zane Yoshida

Even Thought Leaders Take Kava Supplements

We were honoured and humbled to receive a mention recently from a thought leader in healthcare in the U.S. It’s great to read about all the people enjoying our kava supplements across the world!

Tieraona Low Dog, MD has been studying natural medicine for 35 years and served as President of the American Herbalist Guild, before receiving her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Specialising in integrative medicine, dietary supplements, herbal medicine, women’s health and natural medicine, she has regularly worked on national health policy:

  • Appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve on the White House Commission of Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • Member of the Advisory Council for the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

Earlier this year she received the “Herbal Insight Award” from the American Herbal Products Association and is a published National Geographic author, regular public speaker, and a frequent guest on the Dr. Oz show and NPR’s The People’s Pharmacy.

You can find out more about Tieraona Low Dog, MD here.

So what about the kava supplements?

Kava clearly plays an important part in Dr. Low Dog’s life and it was really inspiring to know that it is Fijian kava in particular that holds a special place in her heart.

This was here recent Facebook post:

“I recently finished reading a book on kava by a colleague Chris Killham, a plant I have loved ever since the first time I drank it in 1998 in Fiji. Though Chris wrote about his experience in Vanuatu, kava has played an important role in the lives of many Pacific Island communities socially, religiously, and medicinally. I find it fascinating how kava is so deeply interwoven into the very fabric of their culture. Communities enjoyed it daily (and still do) to bring about an overall sense of happiness and relaxation. Eleven randomized controlled trials have shown it to be highly effective for treating anxiety. While safety concerns were raised around kava usage, it appears they were mostly due to improperly prepared products. I often travel with Yogi Kava Stress Relief teabags, delicious. And when I want a stronger effect, I enjoy Taki Mai guava flavored over ice….. I understand why many islanders are so happy! (Well that, and the beach…)

There you go – further proof of the effectiveness of kava supplements in combating anxiety, from someone very much in the know and at the top of her profession. Thank you Dr. Low Dog!

Kava and Damiana: What are the Main Differences?
Even Thought Leaders Take Kava Supplements