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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

What Fijian Foods Can You Eat With Kava?

Got any favourite Fijian foods, dishes, snacks, or nibbles that you like to tuck into when you have a kava session?

Some people like to take their kava on an empty stomach and eat afterwards; others prefer to eat first.

Either way, it helps to know what the locals eat when the kava comes out, because they’ve been using kava for centuries and have learnt plenty about its digestive effects and which foods best precede, follow, or accompany a coconut shell full of kava (or a Taki Mai kava shot).

Traditional Fijian foods

The cuisine in Fiji is a fine blend of the various ethnicities that make up the population: predominantly the indigenous Fijians and the Indians, with a hint of Chinese influence.

Since the main consumers of kava have always been the indigenous Fijians, it makes sense to look at their traditional foods as accompaniments to the brew.

One of the traditional ways of cooking in Fiji is on hot stones underground. Similar to the Maori way of cooking, this is called a ‘Lovo’, which is essentially an underground oven with white-hot stones that are used to cook meat, seafood, and various root vegetables wrapped in banana leaf. This slow-cook method is well-loved in Fiji and there’s plenty of time to enjoy the kava while the food cooks underground.

Another traditional Fijian dish is the Kokoda. This is raw fish marinated in coconut milk and lemon juice and then prepared in a salad with coriander, celery, onion, tomato, and spring onion. There might also be a splash of chilli.

Added to the these typically Fijian touches is a wide variety of fish and seafood prepared in many different ways. Grouper and coral cod are particularly popular.

In terms of vegetables, a special mention must go to root crops like cassava, sweet potato, and taro, which are used in a variety of dishes and are a staple of Fijian cooking.

Then there are the Indian-inspired and rich-tasting curries that are a feature of virtually all Fijian kitchens.

Fijian fruits

In kava bars in the west, you often see kava served with a ring or half a ring of pineapple. The sweet and sour lushness of the fruit complements the earthiness and bitterness of the taste of the kava.

Other seasonal fruits might also accompany kava. In Fiji, this could be watermelon, bananas, papaya, mango, guava, mandarin, and coconuts, some of which are available all year round.

What’s your preference with kava? Feel free to add a comment about any favourite goods that we’ve missed from the list.

By Zane Yoshida

Five Great Times To Enjoy Kava

When do you enjoy kava the most?

After a long day’s work in the comfort of your own home, alone with your thoughts? Or out in a kava bar surrounded by friends, family, or work colleagues, chatting about the events of the day and all the latest news?

Kava has become very versatile. No longer is lengthy preparation necessary. It’s available in shot, capsule, or powder form, so it can be taken anywhere you go, enjoyed in many different places, and at many different times.

Below are five times to enjoy kava, but we’re sure you can think of a few more…

Before studying

Kava relaxes you without affecting mental clarity. You can take it before a bout of studying, or while revising for exams, to relax you and soothe the mind, so that it can take more in. It may also calm your nerves before an exam, if you suffer from pre-exam stress.

After a workout

Aching muscles after a long workout or a big game? Kava is known to aid muscle recovery, and is used by people after exercise and even by some elite sportsmen after a game. Try it and see if it helps relieve your tight muscles.

Before flying

Many people are affected by flight-anxiety. Try taking kava before a flight, shortly after arriving at the airport, so that it calms your nerves and prepares you for the journey ahead. You should enjoy your flight – not be stressed by it!

Before yoga or massage

With their ability to provide mental and physical relief from tension, taking kava supplements before a massage or a yoga session is a great way to unwind and prepare you. Whether you have a weekly yoga class or an occasional massage at your local spa, kava shots or capsules tuck nicely into your bag.

Before bed

Kava will not make you immediately drowsy, but it is known to help with getting off to sleep and providing deeper sleep for people who take it an hour or two before bedtime. Unlike some sleeping pills, it does not make you feel drowsy the following day, so it’s a good natural alternative.

When else do you take kava? We’d be interested to know. Leave a comment…

By Zane Yoshida

Kava Life: The Taki Mai Experience On Video

I’ve used many words over the years to try to explain the kava experience…and, in particular, what it means to be part of the Taki Mai project. But sometimes words are not enough; you need a little help from pictures and, better still, video.

This post looks back at a few of the Taki Mai videos that help explain what it means to be involved in the kava industry in Fiji…and to be sending our Taki Mai kava around the world.

This first one simply takes in the stunning view from one of the Taki Mai trucks, as it goes on one of its delivery journeys from the processing plant on the island of Ovalau, in Fiji – where all our kava originates…


There are more images of Ovalau, including the Taki Mai nurseries, some of our kava root drying, and a few different views of kava plants growing in other kava farms on the island, in this video:


What does Taki Mai instant kava powder look like when it’s mixed with water and finds its home in the kava bowl (tanoa)? Well, this should give you a fair idea…


And what does it mean to taste Taki Mai? Well, you probably know already…but maybe we should verify that with Rohan Marley, son of the legendary Bob Marley, who sampled Taki Mai at Expo West a few years back:


Wherever you are in the world enjoying Taki Mai, isn’t it great to find out where the kava came from in the first place?

These videos hopefully give you an idea of what it means for Fijians to be involved in growing and making the kava that helps people relax and enjoy life around the world.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to ask us below.

By Zane Yoshida

Kava Helping Australia To Relax

The first kava bars are just opening in Australia, indicating that the word about kava’s relaxing and medicinal qualities is spreading.

Kava and Australia are no strangers. The root has been in widespread use in indigenous Australian communities for many years, often as a substitute for alcohol. But there is little doubt that attitudes towards kava are changing and it is becoming more ‘mainstream’…

Kava bars opening their doors

The news that kava bars are starting to be a feature of the Australian ‘bar scene’ is interesting. Australia is known as a bar-loving country, but strictly the alcohol variety. Aussies love their beer!

Kava bars are already a feature of the beach communities in the U.S. and more are opening in major urban centres there. But in Australia, they are still something of a rarity. The Kava Hut Bar in Adelaide is one of the first – and it’s not very big.

Kava bars generally serve only kava and are completely alcohol-free, meaning that there are no hangovers to contend with the next day and the mental clarity of customers is not impaired. The atmosphere, like the beverage, is best described as ‘relaxed’. Compare that with a Friday night in a typical bar in urban Australia!

Kava: available in some parts of Australia

Kava has been available in Australia as a supplement sold in health stores for some time. However, only in some areas. It is now banned in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, where there have been problems when combined with alcohol; kava tends to heighten the effects of alcohol and the two should never be taken together.

But kava taken on its own and in its purest form is a known treatment for anxiety, though many Australians are still unaware that there is a natural and scientifically proven remedy for mild anxiety.

Stress is a common health problem in Australia, as it is in most urbanised populations around the world, so spreading the word about kava should be a big help to many anxiety sufferers around the country.

You should feel quite confident in kava’s general safety as the government lists it on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). You can read more about that here.

Note that, in the states where kava is legal, there are usage and importation restrictions.

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Kava and Kratom: Similarities and Differences
What Fijian Foods Can You Eat With Kava?
Five Great Times To Enjoy Kava
Kava Life: The Taki Mai Experience On Video
Kava Helping Australia To Relax