Taki MaiTaki Mai

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

Kava and New Zealand: A Blossoming Relationship

Kava and New Zealand have always had a close relationship – but it is now beginning to ‘blossom’.

We reported recently about the New Zealand prime minister, John Key, arriving in Fiji to a traditional kava ceremony. But it goes well beyond this.

With the proximity of New Zealand to the island nations of the South Pacific, such as Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, and Tonga, it is no surprise that a large number of ‘islanders’ have chosen New Zealand as their home.

In fact, around 7.5 percent of the country’s 4.6 million people identify with South Pacific ethnic groups. This makes it one of the ‘kava centres’ of the world.

Importance of kava in New Zealand

If you know any Pacific islanders you will also know that, wherever they go, their kava follows them closely behind! Its calming, relaxing properties are seen as a vital cultural connection with the power to put people back in touch with their island homes; and drinking kava is as much of a social routine for many NZ-based islanders as it is when they are back in their ‘spiritual home’.

The kava bowl is never very far away yet, in New Zealand, like in most western countries, its use has traditionally been restricted largely to the migrant communities.

Not anymore. Kava is making inroads into other communities, crossing cultural divides, just like in the US, Australia, and elsewhere. Misconceptions still exist about kava and its effects, as well as with the importance of quality, though.

Raising the profile of kava in New Zealand

The recent Fine Food New Zealand trade expo in Auckland included kava-based products, in recognition that it has become more ‘mainstream’. This is part of an attempt to promote more Pacific-grown products in the local and global markets. Exposure at this international food trade show also helps to educate the market about the noble kava varieties available.

Amongst many other Pacific products, Taki Mai flavoured kava supplements were showcased and, we are delighted to say, they went down a storm!

Joe Fuavao, of Pacific Trade & Invest and the Produce Company, noted that the kava shots had become a ‘crowd favourite’:

“It’s been a real a winner. I think a lot of people have been quite curious about the effects of Kava. They’re used to seeing it in powder form so now seeing the product packaged and well presented is certainly generating the interest amongst a lot of the cafes and bars.

“A lot of the cafe owners, the restaurateurs that have come across our stand – they’ve seen the word Pacific and started to have a look at what we have on offer,”

So, you may be seeing Taki Mai kava shots in more cafes and bars around New Zealand in the very near future.

By Zane Yoshida

Kava and Yoga – Partners in Relaxation

One of the places where Taki Mai kava shots and other supplements can be enjoyed is in yoga studios around the world.

Kava and yoga seem to belong together and, though they originate from different parts of the world, both have relaxation and stress-relief benefits that work excellently in tandem.

What is yoga?

Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice that originated in India. There are many different varieties or “schools” of yoga (such as Kundalini Yoga, Vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga) but most focus on achieving moksha (liberation). It is a very disciplined practice that has clear goals, though these vary from school to school. Generally its techniques teach control of the body and the mind, and relaxation.

When practicing yoga, many people speak of clarity of mind, purity of thought and relaxation of the body. The exact origins of yoga are not known but are speculated to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions. They are known to have already developed around the sixth and fifth centuries BCE.

Given the above, it is perhaps easy to understand why the ancient tradition of yoga sits alongside the ancient tradition of kava drinking, despite originating on other sides of the world.

Kava and yoga – a modern-day marriage?

Life seems to get more stressful. With all the technology around and the “always on” environments we live in, there seems to be fewer and fewer opportunities to unplug, wind down, and take things easy.

Kava and yoga provide two ways to do that. Perhaps that’s why we are seeing more kava bars and yoga studios set up in the US and elsewhere.

It’s becoming more common to see yoga schools set up that provide a more complete relaxation experience for their clients. For instance the Mystic Water Kava Bar and Wellness Centre, which has centres in Florida, New York, and California. Then there is the Rooted Kava Bar & Yoga Studio in San Diego California.

Kava and yoga are true partners in relaxation – expect to see more of these happy marriages in locations near you soon.

By Zane Yoshida

EU Announces New Kava Study

Following the lifting of the German ban on kava in February last year, the European Union recently announced that it would carry out a new kava study.

This should comes as welcome news to kava fans everywhere, who have seen the reputation of their beloved root dragged through the mud in the past decade or so; until recently a ban in Germany, and restrictions placed in Europe, the US, and Australia, have hampered exports of our prized crop.

What is the proposed kava study for?

Radio New Zealand reported that the Vanuatu Ambassador, Roy Mickey Joy, announced that the European Union has agreed to carry out a study into kava with the aid of a legal firm, and that it will “consider a submission to the Technical Barriers to Trade programme”.

A two-day conference is planned in Brussels involving all the key stakeholders in the Pacific who are leaders in kava, and its outcome will be shared with the firm conducting the kava investigation.

The 7-month investigation will look at the “legal, scientific and trade aspects of kava” and lead to a ministerial conference in order to discuss a roadmap that would address the issue of the kava ban.

Depending on the results of this study, more export markets may be opened up globally for kava, so it is an important event for the economies of the South Pacific island nations.

The importance of raising the quality of kava

An important initiative for the future of kava in the South Pacific is raising its quality.

The Samoan government was recently urged to help support a plan for controlling the quality of exported kava by a German scientist and European kava expert. He was visiting kava-producing countries in the region as part of a study, encouraging them to focus on producing “noble” kava, which is of a very high quality.

Zane Yoshida and South Pacific Elixirs, makers of Taki Mai kava supplements, have been involved in several kava quality initiatives recently:

Let’s hope that the EU study finds what we all know already – that kava is not only safe, but has many relaxation and anti-anxiety benefits too.

Perhaps the name of kava will be cleared once and for all. Its health benefits have already been proven in many studies and the isolated cases of adverse effects of kava are dwarfed millions of times over by those of alcohol: a commonly-accepted substance on sale almost everywhere around the world.

1 2 3 4
Kava and Damiana: What are the Main Differences?
Kava and New Zealand: A Blossoming Relationship
Kava and Yoga – Partners in Relaxation
Anxiety Relief in the Skies with Kava
EU Announces New Kava Study