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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

Kava and Chocolate: A Delicious Medicine?

Maybe you like to drink kava in its natural form; but if you’re wondering how to add a new dimension to that instant kava powder you have in the cupboard, then some weird and wonderful ideas are emerging from creative kitchens around the world.

One of the best is mixing kava with chocolate – could it be a wonderful, delicious new medicine?

Kava and chocolate: not so different

While chocolate and kava may sound like a mighty strange blend, they do share some things in common: both are substances that ancient populations used for various purposes.

Chocolate (made from cacao) was used as a drink in pre-Colombian times in Mesoamerica, with traces of cacao cultivation as far back as 1900 BC. Over the other side of the Pacific Ocean, southern islanders were also using kava in traditional beverages. Both had a bitter taste and both were believed to have health-giving properties.

Mixing kava and chocolate today

One reiki healer from Shutesbury in Massachusetts perhaps took inspiration from this. She claims that her unique kava and chocolate mix is a medicine. Mixing a bowl of raw cacao with ground kava at her workshop, she said:

“It’s really good at releasing anxiety, especially social anxiety,”

It’s cooked as a normal chocolate sauce might be cooked, infusing kava into the chocolate and adding a little coconut oil, coconut manna, coconut cream, and honey; it ends up as chocolate-kava fudge that is frozen and served cold.

This seems like a great way for people who don’t like the bitter taste of kava to enjoy its health benefits, as it is made sweeter and more palatable. The relaxation, anti-anxiety, and muscle relief that kava brings is well-established; if these benefits are not lost by ingesting kava as part of a sweet treat then why not?

Taki Mai instant kava is perfect for such an experiment and can be used during the daytime as it doesn’t inhibit mental clarity; but make sure you treat the highest grade Fijian kava root powder to good chocolate- not just any chocolate!

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.


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

How to Lower Blood Pressure the Natural Way

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major health problem in most developed countries, and also in urban populations of many developing countries.

It can lead to heart problems such as stroke and disease, as well as to kidney disease: all leading causes of death in western populations. In the U.S. alone, around 75 million adults have the condition.

This is especially dangerous when coupled with rising rates of obesity, diabetes, as well as poorer diets, and lack of exercise.

With many people over-medicated, the search for natural ways to counter hypertension in place of prescription drugs is becoming more common. Though you should always check with your doctor or other health professional first, here are a few ideas for lowering blood pressure the natural way.


No surprise here; regular exercise has a positive effect on many health problems, especially if you are overweight to begin with. A regular exercise program that includes initially light activities like walking should help you lose weight and get in shape, in the process helping to control blood pressure. As your body gets more accustomed to exercise, try stepping it up and getting a stronger cardio workout.

Chiropractic care

Did you think chiropractic care was just for spinal problems? In fact, it has been associated with improvements in a range of health conditions that surprise many people. If you’re looking for an alternative to ‘conventional’ medicine, try a natural approach that has been proven over many years.

Improve diet

No surprises here that diet is mentioned, but I’m not going to include the standard low-calorie, low fat foods. If you’re active enough, you will burn calories, but try to avoid too much processed food and especially highly refined sugar. Eat a balanced diet with more fresh fruit and vegetables and natural, whole foods, as this will help to boost metabolism.


Detoxing your body can be a great starting point for getting healthier and lowering blood pressure; it makes sense to flush out the toxins that have accumulated before you start to change diet and take up exercise. Find a plan that is focused on long-term health rather than merely short-term weight loss.

Drink more water and freshly-squeezed vegetable juice

If you can get your hands on organic vegetables and a juicer or blender, you have the keys to making delicious and healthy liquid foods. Whether it’s a carrot juice or a concoction of green vegetables you prefer, it can be a great way to supplement meals.  Additionally, drink plenty of water.

Take kava

You knew this one was coming, didn’t you? Kava has been shown in clinical tests to be effective in treating mild anxiety; stress can raise your blood pressure, so a little extra relaxation with some calming kava should have the opposite effect.

As well as kava, you might like to try valerian root; but here on Taki Mai we feel that we probably don’t need it 🙂

By Zane Yoshida

Stress-Induced Insomnia and Treatment With Kava

Insomnia may be caused by a variety of physical and psychological factors but stress-induced insomnia is a particularly common complaint in many industrialised nations.

There is good evidence that kava on its own or in combination with other natural substances may be of use in the treatment of this type of insomnia.

Stress, anxiety, and insomnia

The Sleep Foundation reports that anxiety-induced insomnia affects ‘most adults’ at some point in their lives. But when this becomes a regular pattern, it is more serious and can affect health, performance at work, and ability to carry out everyday tasks.

The types of psychological factors that can interfere with the regular sleep pattern are:

  • Depression
  • Tension
  • Thinking about past events
  • Worrying about future events
  • Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities

These types of factors can cause either trouble falling asleep or waking up during the night and not being able to get back to sleep. Both can deprive you of valuable rest and, if they occur regularly, will likely impact your quality of life.

Kava: a proven insomnia treatment

Though not technically a sedative, kava is well-known to decrease anxiety, which would point to it being of use in treating stress-induced insomnia.

This is not news to people in the Pacific islands, who have been using kava for its soothing, soporific effects for many centuries. In the west, it has been widely reported in respected medical journals that kava may be as effective as benzodiazepines like Valium for treating anxiety.

Then there is a study from 2001 that specifically looked at the use of kava and valerian in the treatment of stress-induced insomnia. In this study, 24 patients with this type of insomnia were treated with kava, then valerian, and finally a compound of both. The following results were very encouraging:

“Total stress severity was significantly relieved by both compounds individually (p < 0.01), with no significant differences between them; and there was also improvement with the combination, significant in the case of insomnia (p < 0.05).”

While it was a small study and further research is needed, kava has no risk of dependence or any major side effects, unlike many of the sedatives and sleeping pills on the market. So, if you’re suffering from stress-induced insomnia, it’s safe to try as a natural, alternative treatment.

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Kava and Kratom: Similarities and Differences
Kava and Chocolate: A Delicious Medicine?
Kava and Damiana: What are the Main Differences?
How to Lower Blood Pressure the Natural Way
Stress-Induced Insomnia and Treatment With Kava