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By Zane Yoshida

Kava and Kratom: Similarities and Differences

Kava is often compared to, and sometimes confused with, kratom. You also see kava and kratom next to each other on health food stores the world over.

But there are some important differences between the two…

Location of origin

First things first; kava and kratom originate from different geographical locations and cultural backgrounds.

Kava hails from the Western Pacific islands like Fiji, Vanuatu, and Hawaii, where it has been interwoven into the fabric of the culture since the beginning of the region’s recorded history.

Kratom, on the other hand, is found in Southeast Asia. It is native to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia etc., where it has also been used by the native populations for many years.

Plant of origin

Kava (Piper Methysticum) and kratom (Mitragyna speciose) come from different families of plants – and different parts of the plants are used in their preparation.

Whereas the kava plant is part of the pepper family of plants (its name means ‘intoxicating pepper’), kratom comes from a tropical, evergreen plant in the coffee family.

The preparation of kava is from the roots of the plant, whereas kratom is prepared from the leaves of its plant.

Traditional and modern usage

Kava was traditionally used as a beverage in important ceremonies and to greet visitors, as well as for various health purposes. It was used in religious ceremonies where the village chief might contact the ancestors. Nowadays it is drunk in social gatherings to relax and unwind; it is usually taken either in traditional beverage form, as a pill supplement, or mixed with water from a powder.

Kratom leaves are still sometimes chewed but are more commonly taken in their dried and powdered form, mixed into water to create a cold beverage or the leaves are made into a tea.

Effects of taking it

Both kava and kratom can induce a sense of euphoria, and may boost energy levels; however, kava may also induce feelings of sleepiness, depending on the type and dosage of the kava taken.

Kratom is a psychoactive drug that can boost energy and make people more socially active; larger doses may also act as a sedative.

Health benefits

Kava and Kratom both have effects that lead to recreational use and use for health purposes. Both have long been used as medicine in the native populations, with workers using kratom as a stimulant to relieve exhaustion and pain, and kava being taken as a relaxant, sedative, pain reliever, and to aid sleep.

Nowadays, kava is well proven to relieve stress and is an alternative anti-anxiety treatment; other uses include treatment for muscle pain and it may even be used in cancer treatment in the future.

Potential dangers and health risks

Kava is gaining more widespread acceptance around the world as its health benefits are increasingly being shown to outweigh the risks –  especially as an anti-anxiety treatment. Dangers to the liver have been well-publicised but are greatly dependent upon the type and amount of kava taken; the vast majority of people who take high quality kava in moderate doses have no problems.

Kratom, on the other hand, is generally more frowned upon and, in many places, regulations are tightening. In the U.S., there is currently a legal battel over a ban. There is less scientific study on kratom than kava, but it is known that Kratom interacts with the brain differently to kava. It behaves more like an opiate drug, whereas kava works on the GABA receptors; it also stimulates the serotonin and norepinephrine receptors, whereas kava stimulates the dopamine receptors.

This means that kratom can be addictive, unlike kava. It has even been used to wean people off heroine, which may be one of the reasons why it has a more negative reputation than kava.

There you go – kava and kratom in a nutshell! As you can see, there are quite a few similarities, but a couple of important differences to bear in mind.

By Zane Yoshida

Taking Kava With Mental Clarity

One of the greatest things about kava is that it relaxes you without impairing mental clarity. That’s not just a throwaway remark; it’s been shown in a study, which we will talk about below.

The fact that kava is not associated with mental ‘fogginess’ sets it apart from many of the better known substances people take for recreation.

Used in moderation, kava is ideal for a range of situations – not only socially as a replacement for drinking alcohol, but as an aid for performance anxiety for those suffering stage fright; for studying before exams; to aid with fear of flying; as a supplement for yoga and spa treatment enthusiasts; to help soothe aching muscles and bones after a heavy workout; as herbal medicine for a range of conditions; it may even help with your sex life.

These are just a few examples that I’ve covered in previous articles, but here I’d like to delve a little deeper into the science behind kava.

Australian study on kava and mental clarity

An Australian study on kava and mental clarity from 2002 found that even habitual kava use does not impair cognitive function.

Kava is well known in the north of Australia and is a popular supplement for members of the indigenous populations there. In fact, they are reportedly some of the heaviest kava users in the world, outside of the Pacific islands.

The study authors note that kava induces “muscle relaxation, anasthesia, and has anxiolytic properties” because of “alterations on neuronal excitation”.

Their study focused on over 100 current, ex, and non-kava users amongst these populations and concluded the following:

“We found no impairment in cognitive or saccade function in individuals who were currently heavy kava users (and had been for up to 18 years), nor was there any impairment in individuals who had been heavy kava users in the past but had abstained for longer than 6 months.”

The authors also note previous studies that have found that “small doses of kava can improve attentional function”, which is perhaps why it’s popular amongst students.

While the study focuses only on mental cognition, and of course does not conclusively prove that kava is safe, it is useful to have scientific evidence to back up some of the claims that Pacific islanders have been making for many years: in this case, that people can still think clearly and make good, informed decisions when using kava.

It is worth noting that, in Fiji, kava has been present at all important ceremonies and meetings for millennia; these are not just social gatherings but often in meetings where important decisions need to be made.

So you can enjoy your kava that it’s not harming your brain – in fact it may just be helping it!

By Zane Yoshida

Can Kava Improve Your Sex Life?

Has the bedroom been a bit of a barren desert recently? Things not going ‘bump’ in the night? The answer to sprucing up your sex life may be quite close to home: up the kava!

Aphrodisiacs have been sought ever since Man first walked the earth and met Woman. Many of these have been used and abused, both natural and man-made. But kava is rarely mentioned.

In fact, the whole topic of sexual dysfunction is often treated as taboo; this in a world where we are constantly bombarded with images of sex on TV and in printed media, in advertisements, from online services to movies. It’s enough to make us fall a little inadequate when we are constantly presented with beautiful, sexy people from all angles, yet we can’t even get it on with our partner!

It’s time we had the discussion to see whether kava can, indeed, help.

How can kava help in the bedroom?

There could be many reasons why one’s sex life is not exactly bouncing along –physical, mental, and relational issues abound. That’s what makes us human and interesting. But some believe that kava is the aphrodisiac you need to add some much-needed ‘zip’ to your love life.

Kava WON’T necessarily make things happen instantly, like some well-known pharmaceutical remedies (especially those small blue ones, I’m told). But it WILL calm you down and chill you out, and that may just be the tonic you and your partner need; it’s important to be relaxed, de-stressed and anxiety-free in the bedroom.

Stress and tension are major contributors to loss of libido in both men and women. Eric J. Leech from Planet Green puts it like this:

“The mind is a very powerful tool for improving health, but it can also be a factor in our own self-induced sexual dysfunctions if we let it.”

Kava produces this relaxing effect without the drowsiness or mental ‘fogginess‘ that can come with some sedatives. This could mean that indulging in a little kava before indulging in a little love-making may be beneficial.

Some people use alcohol to relax, remove tension, and to shed inhibitions before getting romantic, and kava could be a great replacement for this – without the negative side effects of alcohol (I think we all know what that can mean, gents – shall we just call it ‘performance anxiety’?)

It’s also worth noting that in South Pacific folk medicine, kava was an important treatment for genito-urinary infections. Because of its antiseptic qualities, it was used to treat a variety of conditions from gall bladder problems to vaginitis and sexually transmitted diseases. So, kava has traditionally been used to help restore sex lives after health problems.

A natural solution to an age-old problem?

Sexual problems are far more common than people admit; whether it’s erectile dysfunction or females failing to reach orgasm, few relationships can honestly claim to be immune to problems in the bedroom.

With kava being 100% natural, there is no risk of unpleasant side effects like some people get with the erectile dysfunction pills. This includes shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, and sudden hearing and vision loss, for instance.

There are also none of the stigmas attached to buying or taking kava, which some people experience with the pills.

The bottom line? The effects of kava may work as an aphrodisiac for some; but there is really only one way of knowing…

By Zane Yoshida

Kava And ‘Reverse Tolerance’

One of the questions we get asked most frequently at Taki Mai is:

“How long does it take kava to work?”

And another is:

“How much kava do I have to take to experience its relaxing effects?”

The answer to both of these questions is: “It depends…

But it’s not just dependent upon the nature of the kava; or even on its kavalactone content, its preparation, or your personal body chemistry.

It also depends on how long you’ve been taking kava. This is due to a phenomenon known as ‘reverse tolerance’.

What is reverse tolerance?

In the case of many substances with active ingredients – like alcohol, for instance – people tend to build up a tolerance; so the more they drink, the more they become immune to its effects over time.

With kava, the reverse is true. When you first start taking kava, it may take more time to feel the effects than for someone who has been taking it for years. It’s like you need to become ‘sensitised’ to kava before it starts working – a type of ‘break-in’ period.

It’s not known exactly why this is, but it is theorised that some people need a certain level of kavalactone build-up in the body to feel the full effects of kava.

If you start with a small amount, as most people understandably do, then the relaxing effects of kava may not register. In fact you may feel very little the first few times you take it.

If you are patient, and gradually take more over time, you will get more benefit out of your kava. You are likely to experience the effects sooner after taking it and, while you will be more familiar with the taste and the effects, this means you will need less to trigger the pleasurable relaxing effects.

Ultimately, you will only know how much kava you need to experience the desired effects after taking it for a while.

Typical guidelines

That said, some general guidelines would probably be useful?

Moderately potent kava will usually produce an effect within 20–30 minutes and should last for 2-3 hours.

That’s about it for generalisations though – you really need to find your own ‘level’ with kava. Reverse tolerance may take a couple of weeks to a month or more to overcome.

Persevere with it – and space out your kava servings until you are familiar with its effects. That way you can take a shot of kava and get the predictable, relaxing benefits at the time of day when it suits you best.

By Zane Yoshida

Kava Shots: Perfect For Teetotalers

Kava shots are at home in many places. They can be study aids, anti-anxiety supplements, a way to rejuvenate muscles after exercising, a way to relax before flying, or yoga supplements, to name a few.

Kava shots may also be the perfect solution for teetotalers, who like the social side of sharing a drink, but prefer to avoid pubs, bars, and clubs.

Teetotalism

Kava is drunk by millions of people throughout the South Pacific on a daily basis. Increasingly it is also being used in the west, where it is finding ways to assimilate into our culture.

One of the potential challenges for kava is that alcohol has already cemented its place as the great ‘social drink’ in the west. But this neglects the large amounts of people who are teetotal for one reason or another.

Not everyone who drinks kava shots is teetotal, of course. But kava can fill a ‘gap’ for some people who abstain from alcohol. There are many reasons for doing so, including:

  • Health reasons
  • Religious reasons
  • Because they are on medication
  • To save money
  • To lose weight
  • To avoid hangovers
  • To avoid depression
  • To sleep better
  • To stay in control
  • To avoid alcohol-fueled problems
  • To avoid aggression
  • To avoid alcoholism
  • They don’t like the taste

…plus many others! You can probably think of a few more…

The different effects of kava

Kava is a social drink that avoids many of the problems associated with alcohol – especially in terms of health and negative behavior.

Also, there is no conflict with most religions. For instance, tea, coffee and alcohol are prohibited for Mormons, but there are no restrictions on kava!

With kava there is no hangover, you stay in control, it is easy on the liver (if you select the right noble kava), and it has quite the reverse effect to making you aggressive; it will generally relax you and make you rather passive.

If you’re a teetotaler you can seek one of the many kava bars that are springing up around the world – maybe there’s one in your local area?

Or, if you prefer to have a more portable version, try the Taki Mai shots mixed with natural fruit juices  – not only do they possess all those great kava relaxation benefits; they taste great too!

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Kava and Kratom: Similarities and Differences
Taking Kava With Mental Clarity
Can Kava Improve Your Sex Life?
Kava And ‘Reverse Tolerance’
Kava Shots: Perfect For Teetotalers