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By Zane Yoshida

A TV Reporter’s View of Kava

American TV reporter and entertainment correspondent Joey Panek publishes a report each week on the MySunCoast website, which looks at the personalities and passions behind the biggest happenings on Florida’s Suncoast.

Interesting that his What’s Up Joey?  report recently did a feature on kava, though perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Florida is one of the areas of the US with the highest concentration of kava bars and is also where the first US kava bar opened in 2002.

For some reason, wherever there are beaches and sunshine, you’ll find kava!

“Meet the kava root”

Panek’s report entitled “Meet the kava root” is video-based and gives people the lowdown on what they can expect from kava – including quite a bit about its health benefits.

Here are some of the highlights of what he says:

“Staying power”

“Some herbs have staying power and every once in a while, you’ll find one so popular that it even gives way to its own community culture.. It’s time to meet the Kava root.”

“Natural relaxant”

“The root of the Kava plant is ground up into a fine powder, then soaked and strained into a tea. It’s said to be a natural relaxant.”

“Calming, euphoric feeling”

“’Kava is believed to be working on a part of the brain called the Limbic System which is the part that controls emotions,’ says Dr. Bart Price, MD of Manasota Medical Group in Sarasota, FL. ‘It’s giving the similar effects of alcohol where you have the calming, euphoric feeling, but supposedly it doesn’t work on your motor skills or mental acuity.’”

“Alternative to alcohol”

“Kava is often used as a social alternative to alcohol. In fact, it’s advised that the two shouldn’t be mixed.”

“Overall relaxed state of being”

“’It’s just an overall relaxed state of being…some people with anxiety issues come here to partake in it just to chill them out and relax them,’ says Ross Kashtan, owner of Bula on the Beach, a Kava bar in Madeira Beach, FL.”

“It’s a communal thing”

“’Kava isn’t something you just grab and hit the road with,’ says Kashtan. ‘It’s a communal thing. That’s what the tribesmen did on the islands. Everyone here drinks together. The bartender will make sure everyone has a shell of Kava.’ Everyone in the bar raises their bowls together and say “Bula!” as the toast.”

“All walks of life”

“The Kava community is very inclusive and that’s one of its draws. ‘When you’re here, you’ll notice that there’s all walks of life,’ says Kashtan of his patrons. ‘Young, old, black, white, gay, straight, redneck, blue collar, white collar… Everybody joins together, and everybody can just be themselves.’”

It’s great to see kava receiving more positive media coverage and people really capturing the spirit of kava in the US. Joey Panek and his interviewees did a great job of communicating the values of kava culture to Florida.

By Zane Yoshida

A Traveller’s View of Kava

Following on from last week’s blog post about an American herbalist’s view of kava, how does a newcomer to the South Pacific and to kava react to the experience of taking it for the first time?

There was an interesting report at the end of last year in the Fiji Times called Moving to Fiji and letting go of my inhibitions. The story was about a female American Peace Corps volunteer who travelled to Fiji and immersed herself in Fijian life for a year.

Here are some of her most interesting observations about landing in Fiji and, in particular, sampling kava for the first time:

The sevu- sevu arrival ceremony

“After arriving in our respective training villages, the volunteers headed to the community hall to offer kava for a sevu- sevu ceremony, a ritual to welcome us to the village.”

Fijian greeting

“Once the kava was consumed, we were introduced to our host families. My host mother greeted me with a sniff kiss, which is customarily done by the women.”

After dinner

“Once the food was gone, it was back to drinking kava, or ‘grog’ as they call it.”

The taste and effects of traditional kava

“In Fiji, kava is pounded and mixed in with water. When mixed, kava looks like murky water. When consumed, kava tastes like muddy water, and makes your tongue go numb. To feel the sedative properties of kava, you must consume bilo vaka levu (many bowls).”

How kava is served

“The kava is mixed in a bowl called a tanoa and served out of coconut shells. In Fijian culture, you clap once to receive the bowl of grog, drink it in its entirety, then return the bowl and clap three times.”

The men and the women

“During the grog session, the men were in a smaller circle in the back of the community hall playing guitars and ukuleles and singing.”

Breaking down the barriers

“Through dancing and drinking grog, I was able to break down barriers and integrate into my community.”

“Getting out of my comfort zone, out of my head, and embracing the embarrassment, laughter, and ridiculousness of it all allowed me to learn how to connect and live in Fiji.”

Sounds like she enjoyed herself!

Another recent report in the Huffington Post Travel section also shared a few thoughts about Fijian culture and kava drinking for tourists planning to head there:

“Guests at the resorts spend lots of time flaked out on the properties’ powdery white beaches when they’re not wandering around spouting off newly learned Fijian words like bula (boola, meaning hello or welcome) to anyone within earshot.  Other popular attractions at the resorts are ceremonies in which guests down bowls of kava (a mild narcotic drink tasting much like mud) against a background of traditional hand-clapping and shouts of — you guessed it – bula.”

Thinking of travelling to Fiji? You probably won’t be able to avoid a kava ceremony of some sort. Even if you don’t plan on going to Fiji, you can enjoy the relaxing and calming benefits of kava in your own home – through Taki Mai kava shots, kava powder, and kava capsules. None of which taste like “mud” or “muddy water” you’ll be pleased to hear!

By Zane Yoshida

A Herbalist’s View of Kava

It’s always interesting to read opinions and attitudes towards kava. Speak to most South Pacific islanders and they will almost certainly have a positive view of it; but we are also starting to see plenty of positive write ups on kava from people in the west who have studied its properties, and perhaps enjoy an occasional tipple (or chew) themselves.

Michigan-based herbalist Jim McDonald includes a long write up on kava on his herbcraft website, with some interesting observations that cover most of the reasons why we in the South Pacific have been taking it for centuries.

Read the full post for his complete view, but some of his observations are included below.

“Nature’s most exquisite gift”

“Kava falls into a class uniquely its own. I know of no other herb like it (nothing I’ve ever come across could even remotely qualify as a “substitute” for kava), and consider it one of the nature’s most exquisite gifts.”

“Best enjoyed intentionally”

“I’ve always felt kava is best enjoyed intentionally, and not as just a part of a daily supplement routine.”

“Primarily suited to treating acute stress”

“Kava is, in my opinion, primarily suited to treating acute stress that settles into the musculature of the body. It is most effective when your mind is overwhelmed and your body is tightly strung from a crazy hectic day and that’s what’s making you unable to relax.”

“Lying on a sunny beach with nothing pressing to do”

“The best way I can describe the effects of kava kava is to compare it to lying on a sunny beach with nothing pressing to do or think about and being so laid back it feels as if you’ve sunk halfway into the sand.  Kava puts you there.”

“Mental acuity remains”

“What is so distinct about kava kava is that it’s so promptly and significantly relaxant; mental stress subsides as a result of relaxation, not sedation.  In fact, while the body lets go, mental acuity remains…you can definitely take kava and still be cognitively functional.”

“After-work drink”

“It is a perfect replacement for (and a much better option to) the archetypal “after work drink”.

“Induce a peaceful spirit”

“Studying island traditions surrounding the plant reinforces the notion of kava’s ability to induce a peaceful spirit.”

“Hate cannot exist in the presence of kava

“It is said that “hate cannot exist in the presence of kava”. While this may be an ideological overstatement, kava is clearly a plant of friendship and camaraderie.”

“A little goes a long way”

“Be responsible, start at low doses and get a feel for how you react to it… some people seem to be especially sensitive to kava and so a little goes a long way.”

McDonald also comments on the “adverse event reports” about kava from a few years ago, which led to the European ban. He provides a great breakdown of the reasons for the complications with the kava in question:

“It now appears that the cause was threefold:

“First (and this is perhaps the main cause), kava leaves and stems were used instead of or in addition to the root, and these parts of the plant contain a liver toxic alkaloid, pipermethystine, not present in the root….Second, there may be a problem with the highly concentrated Kava extracts being marketed nowadays…Third, European extracts use toxic solvents like hexane and acetone.

He adds, pointedly:

“You can’t make claims about the safe historical usage of a plant and apply it to weird, modern, solvent laden extractions that have never been used before.”

McDonald also includes a run-down of some of the ways he and other herbalists use kava in herbal medicine and ways in which it is prepared.

“Personally, chewing small pieces of the root has come to be my favorite way to use it, though admittedly some don’t share my appreciation for its flavor.  There are also some rather strong fibers in the root that require spitting out.”

We like to save you from having to spit anything out! You can enjoy pure, high quality kava in Taki Mai shot, powder, or capsule form.

By Zane Yoshida

Kava Supplements for a Boost in Sports Performance

You may take kava supplements for a variety of reasons: to relax, to reduce stress, to socialize, or just because you like the taste. But did you know that kava can also help with muscle recovery? So it is a great option for sports and exercise enthusiasts out there…

Challenging the traditional view of kava

Whether kava and sports/exercise mix has been a subject that has been kicked around (excuse the pun) quite a few forums ever since kava started becoming more popular in the west.

The standard image people have of kava is of lying on a beach or in a kava bar sipping from a coconut shell. But that’s rapidly changing with the advent of kava shots, capsules, and powder. Kava is increasingly being taken as a supplement rather than just a social beverage.

Taking kava for sports might seem surprising for many people. But a previous Taki Mai blog post entitled Pre-Match Kava Rituals for Top Sportsmen reported how the Kiwi rugby team drinks kava at training and before a match, with one of the players saying:

“It helps with bumps and bruises, hydration and relaxation, especially after a long trip.”

It turns out that it may help with even more than that and can actually help muscles recover and repair…

Kava supplements and muscle recovery

Kava root is listed amongst the LiveStrong ‘muscle recovery herbs’ along with burdock root and other herbal mixtures.

Muscle recovery is the process by which muscles regain strength and it’s important for anyone who exercises regularly, as well as for more elite athletes. Minor muscle injuries such as strains are common, leading to inflammation and pain.

The website goes on to say:

“According to Xterra Training, kava root supplements are commonly used to alleviate tight muscles after a hard workout. Kava root helps to block harmful acids from forming; this increases the speed of muscle recovery. Kava root has also been used to prevent muscle cramps that are caused by a buildup of lactic acid.”

A number of bodybuilding sites are also starting to notice the benefits of taking kava supplements in the “cool down” post-exercise period. The relaxation benefits of kava help to repair tired muscles that need rest to be able to grow and stay healthy. They also help bodybuilders and other sportspeople deal with muscle tension and post-exercise soreness.

Bodybuilding.com says that the root “acts as a natural tranquillizer, steadying nerves and inducing a feeling of well-being”. More specifically:

“For bodybuilders … Kava might help to negate the symptoms of overtraining and enhance muscle growth via muscle relaxation.”

The same site lists the properties of kava as follows:

  • Alterative: tending to cure or restore to health
  • Analgesic: capable of relieving pain
  • Anesthetic: causes temporary loss of bodily sensations
  • Antifungal: capable of destroying fungi
  • Antiseptic: free of or destructive to disease-causing organisms
  • Antispasmodic: a drug used to relieve or prevent spasms
  • Aphrodisiac: a drug or other agent that stimulates sexual desire
  • Diuretic: any substance that tends to increase the flow of urine
  • Sedative: tending to soothe or tranquilize

Quite a list!

A few words of caution

Be careful with the quality of the kava you choose, the quantity you take, and when you take it, and you will benefit from its effects.

LiveStrong notes that “MedlinePlus.com…recommends that you do not take kava”, presumably based on the reports of liver damage that led to the kava ban in Germany, which was overturned last year. It is thought that these reports refer to an impure form of kava which included parts of the plant other than the pure root, which is what is used in the best kava supplements.

Our recently-announced partnership with Douglas Pharmaceuticals ensures that your Taki Mai kava supplements all use medicinal-grade kava.

Some scaremongers may also refer to an incident a few years back when a New York man collapsed while biking to work, after drinking kava tea.  However, it was found that he was suffering from rabdomyolosis, a kidney condition.

Kava can produce a similar diuretic reaction to coffee or tea, which may cause dehydration and exacerbate kidney problems, so avoid it of you have liver or kidney problems and note that it’s usually better taken after exercise rather than before.

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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A TV Reporter’s View of Kava
A Traveller’s View of Kava
A Herbalist’s View of Kava
Kava Supplements for a Boost in Sports Performance
Kava: Stress and Anxiety Relief the Natural Way