Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Kava: A Legal Anxiety Treatment Across Australia

Great news for Australian kava enthusiasts and for the kava industry as a whole: it’s now legal for use as a medical anxiety treatment across the country.

Previously kava was legal as a medical treatment in all states except Western Australia and the Northern Territories. The restriction there was due to concerns of over-use in remote indigenous communities, where it is often used as an alcohol replacement.

This restriction has now been removed, so that kava is now available to treat anxiety across the whole of Australia.

Anxiety in Australia

According to this report from Ten News, at least one in seven Australians suffer from anxiety. Symptoms include a quicker heart rate, tightness in the chest area, and breathing difficulties.

The usual treatments for anxiety are a range of medications, including benzodiazepine-based drugs. These are tranquillisers that are commonly prescribed for panic and anxiety attacks. While they are generally quite effective in treating short-term anxiety, they also carry a long list of possible side effects and can even lead to dependency. Long-term use of such drugs is therefore not advised.

For these reasons, many people have turned to natural remedies for anxiety treatment.

Kava and anxiety

Naturopaths in Australia have used kava to treat anxiety, stress, and insomnia for the past 14 years; while this is a relatively recent practice in Australia, kava has been used for many centuries in the Pacific islands, where the concept of stress and anxiety is almost unheard of.

In Australia, kava has recently been the subject of several clinical studies led by Professor Jerome Sarris. Results from these studies have shown kava to be safe and effective for the treatment of generalized anxiety; though people with a pre-existing liver disorder should take medical advice first.

All this is further good news for the kava industry in general as word spreads about its many health benefits.

By Zane Yoshida

Taking Kava With Mental Clarity

One of the greatest things about kava is that it relaxes you without impairing mental clarity. That’s not just a throwaway remark; it’s been shown in a study, which we will talk about below.

The fact that kava is not associated with mental ‘fogginess’ sets it apart from many of the better known substances people take for recreation.

Used in moderation, kava is ideal for a range of situations – not only socially as a replacement for drinking alcohol, but as an aid for performance anxiety for those suffering stage fright; for studying before exams; to aid with fear of flying; as a supplement for yoga and spa treatment enthusiasts; to help soothe aching muscles and bones after a heavy workout; as herbal medicine for a range of conditions; it may even help with your sex life.

These are just a few examples that I’ve covered in previous articles, but here I’d like to delve a little deeper into the science behind kava.

Australian study on kava and mental clarity

An Australian study on kava and mental clarity from 2002 found that even habitual kava use does not impair cognitive function.

Kava is well known in the north of Australia and is a popular supplement for members of the indigenous populations there. In fact, they are reportedly some of the heaviest kava users in the world, outside of the Pacific islands.

The study authors note that kava induces “muscle relaxation, anasthesia, and has anxiolytic properties” because of “alterations on neuronal excitation”.

Their study focused on over 100 current, ex, and non-kava users amongst these populations and concluded the following:

“We found no impairment in cognitive or saccade function in individuals who were currently heavy kava users (and had been for up to 18 years), nor was there any impairment in individuals who had been heavy kava users in the past but had abstained for longer than 6 months.”

The authors also note previous studies that have found that “small doses of kava can improve attentional function”, which is perhaps why it’s popular amongst students.

While the study focuses only on mental cognition, and of course does not conclusively prove that kava is safe, it is useful to have scientific evidence to back up some of the claims that Pacific islanders have been making for many years: in this case, that people can still think clearly and make good, informed decisions when using kava.

It is worth noting that, in Fiji, kava has been present at all important ceremonies and meetings for millennia; these are not just social gatherings but often in meetings where important decisions need to be made.

So you can enjoy your kava that it’s not harming your brain – in fact it may just be helping it!

By Zane Yoshida

Is Kava a Safe Alternative to Alcohol?

During a recent debate about kava safety in Australia, Zane Yoshida, founder of Taki Mai, said:

“We definitely deserve to have kava as part of our traditional cultural practices, even in Australia…If anything, it has been a positive influence on the Fijian community, even the youth in Australia, as an alternative to alcohol.”

If the subject of kava safety crops up in the media, a debate about whether kava is a safe alternative to alcohol is usually not far away. But is this claim true?

Earlier this year in Australia, there were claims that organised gangs of Tongans were smuggling kava into Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, where alcohol is banned. The federal government was even considering a ban on the kava in Australia, but fortunately this never happened.

The authorities have hopefully woken up to the fact that banning a natural product that does a lot of good in the community wasn’t the way to address the small amount of problems it causes amongst people who use it irresponsibly.  An immediate comparison with the problems that alcohol causes would show the absurdity of banning it.

Nobody would consider banning over-the-counter pain relievers because a few people misuse them and take an overdose, would they?

Imagine if a study was done to compare the relative health effects of kava against alcohol: the pros and the cons. Which do you think would come out on top?

Similarities between kava and alcohol

There are some similarities between the two substances that often lead to the question of whether kava can serve as a good replacement for alcohol.

Firstly they are both social drinks. Whereas many westerners indulge in alcoholic drinks at social gatherings, South Pacific islanders will generally gather around the kava bowl, and share thoughts, have discussions, and make decisions.

Both kava and alcohol are often taken by people who want to relax and unwind – such as after a hard day’s work, or at the weekend; both can lead to improved mood, initial feelings of euphoria, easing of tension, encouragement to “open up”, lose one’s inhibitions or shyness, and be more social.

There are also a few basic safety measures that need applying when people drink kava or alcohol. In the case of kava, the average dose found in a kava shot or supplement will not impact mental clarity or judgment; it will just make you feel relaxed. But there have been cases where driving under the influence of large doses of kava has been a safety risk. It is therefore recommended not to drive or operate heavy machinery when indulging in a lengthy kava session.

Drinking BOTH kava and alcohol and then driving is a definite no-no – as this report from New Zealand points out.

Of course, we should all know by now the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol – and the problem around the world is not merely with ‘isolated cases’; it is a major killer.

Both alcohol and kava metabolise in the liver, meaning that it should not be drunk together for fear of putting too much strain on the liver; but unless you drink a large quantity of kava, or take supplements that mix other chemicals or parts of the kava plant other than the root, the liver should be able to handle it just fine.

With alcohol too, in most healthy people the liver is extremely efficient in dealing with alcohol; but serious health problems can result from excessive consumption.

Key differences between kava and alcohol

It is said that “hate cannot exist where kava is”. While this is, of course, an idyllic view, there is a definite peaceful air around the kava bowl. That is why kava is still brought out in the South Pacific to help solve feuds between two “warring” parties. It is a peace offering and the feelings it generates are ones of relaxation, serenity, and calmness.

When drank in the traditional way, kava produces a mild calming and relaxing effect that helps bonding in social situations and family get-togethers, without affecting mental clarity.

Compare that with an average Saturday night in your local pub, bar, or club. It’s many things, but I’d bet that it’s neither serene nor calm. We have probably all seen how alcohol can lead to potentially aggressive situations as people become bolder when they have had a few drinks.

That’s not to say that the excessive kava use doesn’t lead to problems (associated relationship and family problems can result) but these are much rarer than with alcohol-associated problems.

The physical effects of taking alcohol include a reduced attention span and reaction times and, in more extreme cases, a loss of memory or comprehension, vomiting, and a loss of balance. A few reports suggest that red wine used in moderation can be beneficial for health, but in truth there is little literature extolling the health benefits of alcohol.

Also, alcohol-related diseases such as hepatitis and cirrhosis account for high numbers of deaths globally. According to the Lancet medical journal, alcohol is more dangerous than heroin or crack. The WHO’s Global status report on alcohol and health 2014 states the following:

“Globally, harmful use of alcohol causes approximately 3.3 million deaths every year (or 5.9% of all deaths), and 5.1% of the global burden of disease is attributable to alcohol consumption.

With kava, numbness of the lips and tongue results after drinking it and, when consumed in large amounts, pupil dilation, bloodshot eyes, and loss of appetite can result; but it is unlikely you will ever drink enough kava to produce this effect.

The kavalactones present in kava root are a confirmed short-term reliever of stress and anxiety and kava is frequently used in alternative medicine.

Another area of difference between alcohol and kava is in the after-effects. Alcohol “hangovers” caused by dehydration can be severe; headache, fever, vomiting and other stomach upsets are quite common. Prolonged usage of kava may make you feel a bit “hazy” the next day but it does not result in any of the severe symptoms of an alcohol hangover.

Insurance companies starting to endorse kava again

Yourlifesolution.com, a US-based insurance agency last year endorsed kava as a safe alternative to alcohol. With insurance companies tending to steer clear of kava, following the European ban a while back, this is another welcome step to bring the kava industry back to its rightful place.

It’s best to judge for yourself whether kava is a good substitute for alcohol; try it and see if you like the flavours and the effects –it can be an acquired taste, but do you remember your first taste of alcohol?


By Zane Yoshida

Fijian Kava Shots Available in Australian Stores

Great news for kava lovers in Australia –Fijian kava shots will soon be on the shelves.

As reported recently by FBC News in Fiji, Taki Mai is soon to release two new kava products in Australia after many months of hard work meeting the strict standards imposed on imports by the local regulators.

Taki Mai, which is manufactured from 100% Fijian kava grown and processed on the island of Ovalau, will be the first flavoured, ready-to-drink kava in a bottle available in the country; the supplements were released in the USA last year and founder Zane Yoshida (himself born on the island) expects it to be met with equal success in the land he now calls ‘home’.

“The products that we are launching in addition to the flavored kava shots are the kava capsules. We are also very excited about this one – our new instant kava powder. So, you don’t need to do the traditional lose with the ‘sulu’ but rather put in a few tablespoon into your tanoa and drink away.

Taki Mai launch Days in Australia

Taki Mai is due for official launch in Australia today – 3rd October – which just so happens to coincide with Fiji Day celebrations in Brisbane; the kava shots and powder will then be launched in Sydney on Fiji Day celebrations on 10th October and will also be featured at a number of sevens rugby tournaments.

The products will also be available online from this website and there are plans to launch in New Zealand and Hong Kong next year.

Having recently received status as a therapeutic good in Australia, kava can be classed as a medicine. We have been saying this for a while in our blog posts though: kava is one of the best natural stress relievers on the planet!

Kava: A Legal Anxiety Treatment Across Australia
Taking Kava With Mental Clarity
Is Kava a Safe Alternative to Alcohol?
Fijian Kava Shots Available in Australian Stores