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By Zane Yoshida

Kava and Tea: Closer Than Kava and Beer?

Following on from our recent post about whether kava is a safe alternative to alcohol, we ask the question whether it would be more accurate to compare kava to a cup of tea than a beer or a glass of wine?

The similarities and differences between alcohol and kava were discussed at length in that article. So you know by now that kava is often drunk by people who want to relax or wind down, that there are health-giving properties attached to it, that there are very few after-effects of drinking it, and that it is associated with calm behaviour.

Couldn’t that equally be applied to tea drinking? Or perhaps a cup of coffee? More so than drinking alcohol, which can have the opposite effect and certainly has few health benefits?

An SBS report on kava culture in Australia referred to kava as ‘much like a cup of tea or coffee’ in Pacific Islander culture.

“Kava comes from the root of a pepper plant. It has a distinctive taste and a relaxing and slightly numbing effect. Pacific islanders enjoy sharing kava, much like a cup of tea or coffee in other cultures, but it is drunk in much larger quantities for the effect.”

Tea and coffee culture

As you can see from the image above, a traditional tea ceremony in China or Japan has many similarities to a traditional kava ceremony.

There is much emphasis on ceremony and community, with a specific way of sitting, pouring the tea, and drinking it. Cupping the bowl with both hands is just how Fijians cup the coconut shell full of kava.

You can still see the communal element of tea drinking today in much of Asia, with India, China, and Japan having large numbers of tea drinkers, as well as in the Middle East and in countries like Turkey.

In the west, the English are known for their insatiable tea-drinking appetite. Again it is a very social and hospitable drink, with the offer of a “nice cup of tea” never too far away in an English home. A family will sit around sipping tea with guests and chatting.

A coffee culture also exists in many places around the world, such as Italy, France, Brazil, parts of south-east Asia and Africa, and Australia. Again, coffee-drinking is frequently a communal experience, with a chat over a coffee a common way for people to catch up with each other.

There must be something about the mildly narcotic effects of caffeine and kavalactones that gets people talking and being more sociable!

Safety and health benefits of kava and tea/coffee

The above-mentioned SBS article refers to kava as a “health supplement for export”. The health benefits of kava are briefly discussed in the article, where our very own Zane Yoshida (founder of Taki Mai) has this to say:

“I’ve developed a kava supplement that I currently sell in the United States and Fiji through the natural food channels. This produce here is a kava supplement for taking the edge off, for relaxing,”

“As we progress with clinical trials here in Australia, we’d like to make structure function claims for relieving stress and anxiety.”

The health benefits of tea and coffee, on the other hand, are discussed in this Harvard Medical School article:

“Tea, especially green tea, is often said to be good for your health. Tea contains substances linked to a lower risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes“

“The main health-promoting substances in tea are polyphenols, in particular catechins and epicatechins. Lab and animal studies say these molecules have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Harvard-led studies of large groups of people over time have found that tea or coffee drinkers are at lower risk for diabetes and possibly cardiovascular disease. Coffee also contains polyphenols.”

Kava, tea and coffee could all be classed as minor narcotics for the compounds they contain. But all are widely drunk in different parts of the world as part of a communal experience; and not only are they considered safe, many consider them health-enhancing.

That is why, if you want to draw comparisons between kava and another common drink, then coffee or tea may be a more likely candidate than beer, whisky or wine.

By Zane Yoshida

Choose Your Relaxation Elixir

Perhaps it’s a measure of the stressful lives that many people lead nowadays, that there is such a demand for relaxation beverages, come the evening time.

Work and social lives means many of us are running around with barely enough time to throw a meal together, so it’s no wonder that stress levels are through the roof and diet-related health conditions are on the up. What’s the answer?

  Read more

By Zane Yoshida

Relaxation Supplements – Are They All The Same?

One natural ingredient, grown organically in one place, harvested and freeze-dried there and then shipped around the world…that’s what makes Taki Mai kava relaxation supplements.

The kava in our shots is grown, harvested and prepared for export in Ovalau, Fiji. But what about other relaxation supplements on the market?

Are they all made with one natural ingredient that remains consistent and predictable in its taste and effect?

The relaxation supplement boom

There is a boom in the relaxation supplement market – around 70% annual growth in the last five years according to CNBC’s recent ‘Hot Start Ups’ report ; an IBIS World report also says it’s one of the best markets to be a start up in.

With this comes a growing number of companies keen to grab a bit of the pie for themselves and jump on the bandwagon, much the same as energy drinks manufacturers did a few years back.

In fact the growing popularity of relaxation beverages is perhaps a backlash to the energy drink boom.

In any case, this means that with all these new drinks coming on to the shelves, you have more choice. But it will pay to read the labels.

What’s actually in your relaxation supplement?

It’s becoming more and more important to read and understand the labels on the food and drinks we consume.

In some cases you can read a label and still not understand what’s in it…that’s usually a bad sign as who really understands what E-numbers or the complex chemical compounds that are put in some food and drinks really are?

Relaxation drinks are not FDA regulated, but are promoted as healthy, so one would hope there are no artificial colors, flavorings or preservatives for a start. Again – check the label.

What else is added to these drinks?

Well, according to a Wall Street Journal article from 2010:

Some have sugar, but others use low-calorie sweeteners.”

“Many of the drinks contain herbal, plant or hormonal therapies which have been shown in at least some studies to be effective—but also may have side effects, scientists say.”

Use of melatonin in beverages

Some relaxation supplements contain melatonin – a hormone which can help bring on sleep and fight insomnia.

Aparajitha Verma, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston says:

“Taking those should be a last resort only—and if you do, it should be under the supervision of a physician.”

We believe that the use of melatonin is not necessary – kava brings the same properties in a perfectly safe way.

Other common additions

As well as melatonin, other natural substances such as valerian and L-theanine are common additions to relaxation drinks.

But manufacturers don’t have to tell you how much of each ingredient goes into their drinks, so there is no way of knowing just how strong the active ingredients are. One batch often differs to the next so they may be virtually non-existent in some bottles/cans and high in others – consistency becomes a problem.

In the case of valerian it is best if it is minimal because it can cause dependency, according to some doctors.

Some of the active ingredients that are advertised on the bottle, like certain amino acids such as 5-HTP, actually break down in water, so while they may be present when a substance is added to the liquid, they soon dissolve away.

The amount of research on how these different substances interact with each other is also very limited, which is another concern.

Taki Mai kava supplements

We believe that it’s key for an ingredient like kava, which has relaxation and de-stress effects on the body, to be consistent. That’s why we use only kava we are familiar with from the birthplace of Taki Mai’s founder, in Fiji, to make our shots.

The kava is organically grown in optimum soil and climate conditions and we think it’s the best kava in the world….naturally!

Nothing else goes into Taki Mai kava supplements other than single source kava, water, organic cane sugar and natural flavors.

We like to keep it that way because we know the kava itself will give you the de-stressing benefits you’re after, without having to add anything else.

And what does the Wall street Journal say about kava?

“Kava root…..obtains an unusual grade of “A” for treatment of anxiety from Natural Standard Research Collaboration, a Cambridge, Mass., scientist-owned group that evaluates natural therapies. The grade means there is strong scientific evidence for effectiveness…”

Previous health concerns about kava have been proven to be unfounded and Fijians and other Pacific Islanders have been using it safely for many centuries without any related health problems…and plenty of benefits.

We would add that not all kava is equal and few, if any, other relaxation beverage companies use the root from a single source, as Taki Mai supplements do.

In conclusion

Read the labels and be aware that just because the drinks say “all natural” it doesn’t mean they have been heavily tested to find how all the ingredients interact. Also, check what else is in them – sugar, sweeteners, chemicals? Try to find out before buying them.

Taki Mai, on the other hand, is a dietary supplement with one active organic ingredient mixed with only water and natural flavors.

Just like our ancestors did, we like to keep life simple.

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Kava and Tea: Closer Than Kava and Beer?
Choose Your Relaxation Elixir
Effects of Kava vs. Effects of Alcohol
Relaxation Supplements – Are They All The Same?
Kava Supplements vs Valium Pills