Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Opportunities For Kava In A ‘Modern, Globalised World’

What are the opportunites for kava  in a world barely constrained by geography and distance? Where you can choose freshly-caught Indian Ocean tuna from supermarket shelves in Europe; or enjoy French cheese and wine on a remote island in the South Pacific?

The ‘globalised world’ certainly makes many things possible for kava – and that is perhaps what is behind the recent activities to start regulating and protecting the kava industry in the South Pacific region.

A few years ago kava was barely known outside of the region. Now people are experiencing the benefits of kava in the kava bars and health food stores of the U.S. and Europe.

But this is only the start. If things are managed well, there should be a bright new dawn for kava farmers and exporters everywhere. This point was made in a recent Aljazeera report from New Zealand, which talks of kava’s assured place in a ‘modern, globalised world’.

Constraints and challenges

Unfortunately, there are plenty of constraints and challenges for the kava industry to overcome first. Some of these include:

  • Kava is a slow growing crop – taking up to six years to fully mature and be ready for harvest.
  • It is susceptible to disease and natural disasters – which can devastate crops and reduce supplies, such as experienced after Cyclone Winston earlier this year.
  • Kava strength and effects can vary – different kava varieties produce different kavalactone concentrations and different ‘chemotypes’, which produce different effects.
  • Quality can vary – without strict regulations, manufacturers do not have clear standards to abide by.
  • Western government regulations are often heavily weighted against developing countries, making it difficult for kava to break-through into international markets.

The opportunities for kava

However, with these challenges comes great opportunity.

Kava’s relaxing properties are quite well understood but the true limits of its medicinal properties are really just being explored. Whilst Fijians and other Pacific islanders have been extolling the health benefits of kava on the islands for centuries, proving these to the rest of the world is another matter.

But huge potential exists in this area. People are becoming less trusting of pharmaceuticals and interest in alternative medicine is growing.

The Aljazeera video above mentions how exponents of Chinese medicine are becoming increasingly interested in the properties of kava. If this catches on, then it’s a question of how supply can meet soaring demand from China and elsewhere.

We have only just scratched the surface when it comes to investigating the properties of kava as an alternative treatment for insomnia, stress, depression, and other ailments.

In-depth clinical studies are expensive, and beyond the budgets of most interested parties. But there is potential if groups join forces for funding. And, given the potential gains, it could be a worthwhile investment, as kava continues to repair its reputation after the now-overturned European bans.

Meanwhile, we at South Pacific Elixirs will continue to do our bit to establish elite, disease-free varieties of kava that produce predictable and consistent effects; and to support the push for kava standards to be developed for the region, as this can only be good for the future of kava.

By Zane Yoshida

Kava: ‘An Alternative Therapy That Works’

It’s not often that kava (or any other alternative therapy, for that matter) gets a truly ‘fair’ write up in the mainstream press.

The focus is usually on the safety concerns of sub-standard kava raised in recent years, rather than the centuries of trouble-free usage, and the proven positive effects of kava on the body and mind.

While medications with some serious side effects often get off without even a reference to their dangers, kava and other ‘alternative therapies’ often get hammered as ‘unproven’, ‘proven not to work’, or possibly dangerous to the health.

This is par for the course – and another example was found in a recent article in the UK’s Spectator magazine.

Kava: an alternative therapy for relaxation

It’s worth summarising the article and including a few quotes here.

It takes what it considers to be a balanced view about ‘alternative medicine’ and begins by highlighting how certain quips about alternative medicine not working may be unfair. The author selects three in particular that can claim to work: tai chi, garlic, and our beloved kava.

The article puts forward positive points about each of these therapies. For instance, it points out that tai chi reduces the risk of falling, and hence could be an important therapy for old people. However, it also points out that more conventional treatments might be “more suitable, cheaper or more available.”

In the case of kava, the author introduces it as “a herbal medicine that, about 10 years ago, used to be very popular for managing anxiety.”

Then the evidence for it working is presented:

“Does kava work for anxiety? The answer is yes. In 2003, we published a Cochrane review of all rigorous studies testing the efficacy of kava as a treatment of anxiety. We were able to include 11 randomised, placebo-controlled trials and concluded that ‘compared with placebo, kava extract appears to be an effective symptomatic treatment option for anxiety. The data available from the reviewed studies suggest that kava is relatively safe for short-term treatment (one to 24 weeks), although more information is required.”

Waiting for the mention of the ‘dangers’…

While reading, you just know the ‘catch’ is coming. And sure enough…

“For a while, many of us thought that kava was safe and effective. When the first reports of side effects emerged, we were not particularly worried — which medication is totally free of them? But then a flurry of reports was published suggestive of severe liver damage after kava intake. At this stage, many national regulators became seriously concerned and started to investigate. The results seemed to indicate that the commercial kava preparations on the market were indeed liver-toxic. Consequently, kava was banned in many countries.”

That’s it. No mention of the overturn of the kava bans; no mention of the likelihood of inferior quality kava being the likely cause. All kava is tarred with the same brush again!

And, what’s more, there is no mention of the serious side effects of some other anti-anxiety drugs like the benzodiazepines (tranquilisers). These can cause addiction when taken long-term and come with a wide range of other side effect warnings, including dizziness, trembling, and confusion.

The author’s conclusion is that he agrees with the quip that ‘alternative treatments are therapies that either have not been proven to work or have been proven not to work’. This, despite specifically stating that kava was an ‘alternative therapy that works’…

What started as a promising article strangely turned on its head and effectively became another ‘hit piece’ on kava in the end!

As stated, this really is par for the course for kava in mainstream media.

By Zane Yoshida

Even Thought Leaders Take Kava Supplements

We were honoured and humbled to receive a mention recently from a thought leader in healthcare in the U.S. It’s great to read about all the people enjoying our kava supplements across the world!

Tieraona Low Dog, MD has been studying natural medicine for 35 years and served as President of the American Herbalist Guild, before receiving her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Specialising in integrative medicine, dietary supplements, herbal medicine, women’s health and natural medicine, she has regularly worked on national health policy:

  • Appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve on the White House Commission of Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • Member of the Advisory Council for the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

Earlier this year she received the “Herbal Insight Award” from the American Herbal Products Association and is a published National Geographic author, regular public speaker, and a frequent guest on the Dr. Oz show and NPR’s The People’s Pharmacy.

You can find out more about Tieraona Low Dog, MD here.

So what about the kava supplements?

Kava clearly plays an important part in Dr. Low Dog’s life and it was really inspiring to know that it is Fijian kava in particular that holds a special place in her heart.

This was here recent Facebook post:

“I recently finished reading a book on kava by a colleague Chris Killham, a plant I have loved ever since the first time I drank it in 1998 in Fiji. Though Chris wrote about his experience in Vanuatu, kava has played an important role in the lives of many Pacific Island communities socially, religiously, and medicinally. I find it fascinating how kava is so deeply interwoven into the very fabric of their culture. Communities enjoyed it daily (and still do) to bring about an overall sense of happiness and relaxation. Eleven randomized controlled trials have shown it to be highly effective for treating anxiety. While safety concerns were raised around kava usage, it appears they were mostly due to improperly prepared products. I often travel with Yogi Kava Stress Relief teabags, delicious. And when I want a stronger effect, I enjoy Taki Mai guava flavored over ice….. I understand why many islanders are so happy! (Well that, and the beach…)

There you go – further proof of the effectiveness of kava supplements in combating anxiety, from someone very much in the know and at the top of her profession. Thank you Dr. Low Dog!

Opportunities For Kava In A ‘Modern, Globalised World’
Kava: ‘An Alternative Therapy That Works’
Even Thought Leaders Take Kava Supplements