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By Zane Yoshida

Kava and Global Wellness

Kava is increasingly getting a positive name in the global wellness community as a supplement that can bring a variety of health benefits.

More positive mentions of kava in the first few weeks of 2017 have backed up strong interest in kava last year; all the indications are that the kava industry is on the upturn.

Workshops on kava

The New Zealand press recently reported that a workshop will be set up at the University of Waikato to investigate how kava culture is growing in the country. Interestingly, it is growing not just among the many Pacific islanders who have migrated to New Zealand, but also among other ethnic groups and “non Pasifika groups”.

Over 20,000 people enjoy kava every weekend in New Zealand and so the workshop will look at how kava is being used “as an alcohol substitute, stress reliever or sleep aid.”

Let’s look at each of those a little closer.

Kava as an alcohol substitute

If the number of kava bars opening in the US is anything to go by, then more people are turning to kava as a substitute for alcohol.

In fact, the Business Mirror reported recently in its story 2017 Trends: Wellness in the New Year:

 “As people move away from alcohol in 2017, a new social lubricator is taking its place. Kava root originates in the South Pacific and is still an important social ritual in many traditional cultures. The root powder is made into a beverage, and promotes mild feelings of euphoria, relaxation and happiness. Kava bars, although common in other areas of the world are starting to become trendy in North America, popping up in New York, Los Angeles, Miami just to name a few cities.”

It goes on to say:

“Because Kava’s effects are mild, and the hangover non-existent, it fits with the other trends in 2017 of move more towards an overall healthier lifestyle. It also is a good social lubricator and stress reliever, another plus when we consider the new trends moving towards less alcohol and more sobriety.”

Kava as a stress reliever

Clinical studies have shown that kava is a safe and effective treatment for mild and ‘generalized’ anxiety and more tests are currently underway.

For instance, a study led by Jerome Sarris in Australia, in 2011, found:

“The current weight of evidence supports the use of kava in treatment of anxiety with a significant result occurring in four out of six studies reviewed.”

These results are especially interesting given the harsh possible side effects of some commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medication.

Elsewhere, there are plenty of observational reports about the calming effects of kava. This one was included in a recent article entitled Buzzy Beverages: 3 Ancient Libations To Take The Edge Off Modern Times:

“kava lactones give this de-stress beverage its anti-anxiety, muscle relaxing and analgesic qualities. After my second cup of kava, my mouth felt tingly, I had warm, relaxed sensations in my body and was extremely content in the present moment.”

Kava as a sleep aid

Because of its relaxing effects on the body and the mind, kava is often equated with helping people sleep. There was good example of this recently in an article called 3 Natural Sleep Aids that Work:

“The plant’s roots have traditionally been known for their sedative and anaesthetic properties. The plant’s active ingredients are called kavalactones. Studies have shown kava to be effective in the treatment of tension and anxiety. If you take to bed with you the stresses of the day, kava can act as a welcome addition to your pre-bed rituals.”

Kava has an important part to play in global wellness. More positive articles appearing in the press about kava are an indication that the message is finally getting through…

By Zane Yoshida

Who Should Avoid Kava?

Most of you reading with this will enjoy the occasional Taki Mai shot or even regular kava sessions with friends, without having to worry about safety or whether you need to avoid kava.

But there are still the ‘naysayers’ out there who continue to focus on the isolated negative incidents involved with kava rather than the millennia of safe kava use in the South Pacific.

Now kava is becoming more global and is taking its place alongside other herbal supplements and beverages in health stores and supermarkets across the world, it is inevitable that kava is coming under more scrutiny.

This is a good thing – let’s consider it a way for kava to clear its name.

But there are some people who certainly should avoid kava. Below we briefly consider who should NOT be sitting by the kava bowl.

Avoid kava if you…

Let’s first make it clear that kava is non-addictive, has proven ability to relax and de-stress you, and has been used safely for millennia to treat a wide range of ailments and at social gatherings and ceremonies in the South Pacific.

Kava is well-known for its treatment of mild anxiety but those with severe depression should avoid taking it.

While it is worth noting that no study has ever proven a link between liver toxicity and kava, rare cases of liver problems have been reported, as you are probably aware from the so-called ‘European kava ban’ from previous years. Kava is best avoided totally if you have pre-existing liver problems.  It is not known precisely why the cases of liver toxicity in Europe occurred, but it is suspected that sub-standard kava was used.

Putting this problem into context, the amount of people with liver problems as a result of kava usage would be a dot on the landscape of those who suffer liver problems from alcohol usage.

…which brings us to another category of people who should avoid kava. It’s best never to mix kava with alcohol, benzodiazepine, or SSRI usage. It’s also best avoided if you are taking prescription monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

Pregnant or nursing women are also advised to avoid kava altogether, as are children under the age of 18 and anyone who is due to have surgery.

Kava is sometimes associated with dry, yellowish, scaly skin, but this is usually only in users who take large amount of kava, or indulge in particularly strong, low-grade strains of kava.

A few shots of elite Taki Mai kava are very unlikely to cause any problems. So enjoy!

By Zane Yoshida

Kava For Performance Anxiety

The value of kava in treating anxiety, lowering stress, and helping people feel more relaxed is well established.

But think what this might do not only for your health – but for your performance in other areas of life.

A few weeks ago we covered the topic of kava as a study aid for students. Key to this is that kava, unlike alcohol, does not impair mental clarity; in fact, many users say that it enhances their ability to focus, which is an obvious help for students revising for exams.

This could also help in another area…

Performance anxiety

‘Stage fright’ or ‘performance anxiety’ is usually experienced when standing up in front of a large group of people in public. This could be to make a speech, deliver a presentation, answer questions, or anything else that demands public speaking.

Many of us feel nerves before a ‘performance’ of some kind; in most cases this is healthy adrenalin racing around – and it will help us deliver. However, for some people, it can be a real problem, and impairs their performance, because they become too stressed.

There are three solutions:

  1. Cancel all engagements
  2. Battle on, shaking like a leaf
  3. Do something about it!

Trying kava falls firmly into the third category.

How can kava help?

The key lies in getting more experience on stage in these situations to gain confidence. Kava may help you do that in a natural way, without taking medication.

Nicholas Ross Smith is a lecturer at the University of Auckland and the Auckland University of Technology. He is also one of the founding members of the Kava Society in New Zealand, one of the foremost authorities on kava culture in the country. He has experience of using kava to battle performance anxiety, and says:

“After using kava in a social setting for a few months, I became aware of its anti-anxiety properties. Given that I work in academia and I am required to regularly teach as well as give conference talks and seminars in front of large audiences, all of which tends to leave me rather anxious, I started experimenting with taking kava before these activities.

“The results of this have been remarkable. Not only do I feel taking kava prior to public speaking allows me to perform better, the routine I have developed has allowed me to be anxiety-free the night before an important lecture, something which impeded my sleep greatly and in turn affected my performance.

“Therefore, I recommend to any people that suffer from performance-anxiety in their professional lives to consider the usefulness of small intakes of kava as a way of managing this anxiety.”

(Source: The Kava Society blog)

Interesting that he mentions the ability to get a better night’s sleep before a gig. We wrote about kava’s sedative qualities and its potential for getting better sleep here.

So, it seems that the ability to help with performance anxiety is another ‘tick’ to add to the growing list of kava benefits. Maybe give a kava shot a try before you are next in front of the microphone.

By Zane Yoshida

Kava: Stress and Anxiety Relief the Natural Way

Stress is seen as a contributor to many of the major causes of death in the US – notably heart disease, stroke, some cancers and chronic lower respiratory diseases.

This post looks at how kava may be able to help in stress and anxiety relief – and therefore in the fight against such illnesses.

  Read more

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Kava and Global Wellness
Who Should Avoid Kava?
Kava For Performance Anxiety
Anxiety Relief in the Skies with Kava
Kava: Stress and Anxiety Relief the Natural Way