Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

The World Is Waking Up To Why It Needs Kava

Ever so slowly…in a relaxed, kava-like way…the world seems to be waking up to why it needs a good supply of kava.

A recent press release by the American Botanical Council announced the ‘adoption’ of kava by Applied Food Sciences National Center on Sleep Disorders Research(AFS), an Austin, Texas-based company.

The Adopt-an-Herb program is an ABC initiative to provide a valuable resource for consumers, students, and members of the herb and dietary supplement community. It links to an online database with comprehensive scientific and clinical research data on over 250 herbs.

South Pacific Elixirs (makers of Taki Mai) have partnered with Applied Food Sciences to start educating people around the world about the need for high-quality kava; and we hope that through this partnership, we can help the world wake up a little more to why it needs kava.

As Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director, says:

“Kava is an herb with a long ethnobotanical history in Polynesia, and it produces clinically-documented anti-anxiety benefits.”

The great work of Applied Food Sciences

AFS specializes in the research and development of functional botanical ingredients for use in foods, beverages, and nutritional supplements.

They recently released KAVOA™ – a kava extract that helps with relaxation, stress relief, and sleep support. As you will know, plenty of evidence exists linking kava to these three beneficial effects, amongst others.

The company’s partnership with the American Botanical Council will help to clarify concerns about the safety of kava and communicate more about its benefits. Chris Fields, vice president of scientific affairs at AFS, said:

“Kava’s long history of use in the South Pacific islands demonstrates that it is a safe, effective, and useful tool with many important health benefits when used in the right form and when the correctly identified cultivars are used,”

“Applied Food Sciences is fully invested in working together with farmers, agronomists, and the research community to provide the entire supply chain with the appropriate tools to bring sustainable, safe, and high-quality kava ingredients to the market.”

The company has been heavily involved in educating farmers about cultivating noble kava cultivars and best practices for harvesting and processing kava.

As you will be aware if you have been reading this blog, this is very much in line with our own direction: advocating the raising of standards of kava quality and producing elite varieties that are disease-free and that produce consistent, predictable, known effects from their kavalactone content.

Addressing safety concerns

There is growing awareness around the world that kava is safe but only because of the efforts of those helping to address concerns.

An article from AFS, which appeared on PS Newswire details how the company has identified five main reasons for safety concerns with kava production. These are:

  • Use of Non-Noble or incorrect chemotype cultivars(s).
  • Unstandardized harvesting practices (yielding byproduct contamination to the kava before processing).
  • Use of the incorrect parts of the plant, namely the peelings and stems (instead of the root and rhizome).
  • Inadequate methods of manufacturing for producing standardized extracts (low quality, unstandardized extracts).
  • Lack of scientifically validated methods for measurement of actives (kavalactones and chalcones).

You will be aware that many initiatives are now in place to address these concerns – from the Kava Bill in Fiji to a regional kava standard that is seeking approval from the WHO and FAO.

Growing demand around the world

The above-mentioned article also highlights how there has never been more of a need for kava in the U.S.

The Director of Marketing for AFS explains:

“Individuals spend their day searching for ways to increase energy trying to get more done during the day …combine that with the ongoing stimulation from technology at night and we are left hardwired, unable to unwind.”

With the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research stating that around 70 million Americans report having sleep problems, and this problem being mirrored in most urbanised populations around the world, news about the relaxation and sleep benefits of kava are making a timely resurgence in the media.

This will undoubtedly help to increase demand around the world – which is great news for everyone concerned.

By Zane Yoshida

What Is The Kava Bill – And How Does It Affect You?

In recent months you probably heard talk of a Kava Bill, if you’ve been following Fijian news at all.

Because of problems in recent years with European bans and in maintaining kava quality, calls have grown louder for measures to be introduced that help protect the key players in the industry, from the farmers through to the exporters.

When Cyclone Winston hit the country in February, the devastating consequences for many kava farmers in Fiji again reminded us of the fragile nature of the industry.

The Kava Bill is the Fijian government’s response to past problems and future opportunities. It had its first reading in the Fijian Parliament on 27th April 2016, and we take a closer look at it below.

What’s in the Kava Bill?

First and foremost the Kava Bill aims to:

establish the Fiji Kava Council for the purpose of the regulation and the management of the Kava Industry and its related matters.”

The Bill contains information about the functions and powers of the Fiji Kava Council, and details:

“a proper legal framework to establish the Council which will manage, administer and assist the growth of the kava industry”.

And it aims to:

“ensure that the trading of kava at domestic level and exported or imported at international level, will be done according to appropriate standards and procedures.”

Perhaps for the first time, this formally recognises kava as a key contributor to the Fijian economy and which requires adequate protection, as domestic and international demand increases. It also provides a formal platform for local kava farmers and exporters to voice problems and concerns.

While Fiji is a member of the International Kava Executive Council (IKEC), there is no legislation currently in place to manage the kava industry in the country; this understandably has many people in Fiji nervously looking over their shoulders.

A word from the president…

When the prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, opened the South Pacific Elixir factory on Ovalau island, he noted the following:

“Kava is one of our nation’s most cherished crops and Ovalau has long been known as one of Fiji’s premier kava-producing regions. Despite this, however, we have struggled over the years with exporting kava to overseas markets. Many of you will remember a few years ago when Europe’s demand for kava created a boom in the industry. Unfortunately, in the rush to take advantage of this windfall, little consideration was given to quality control. Leaves and stems were mixed with the roots and look what happened. There was no quality control. Governments must engender quality control and standards.”

So the Kava Bill is partly a response to this recognition that the Fijian kava industry is in a precarious position while it remains completely without regulation; it is very much a case of learning from past mistakes on that front.

Protection through quality

The future of the Fijian kava industry relies on protecting the high quality of its product. That’s behind the local Kava Bill and it’s also a regional consideration.

Recently, the WHO’s Regional Codex Committee met in Vanuatu to discuss the introduction of a kava standard, aimed at maintaining quality and preventing future damage to the reputation of kava.

This is an important step regionally; and the Kava Bill tackles the problem locally, by helping the industry focus on producing high quality, elite kava. This is the way forward, as it will protect everybody from the farmer to the consumer. That’s perhaps why nobody is seriously opposing the Kava Bill – except maybe a few of the ‘middlemen’ who currently profit from their monopolies over the farmers.

How are we involved?

South Pacific Elixirs is committed to working with local farmers on Ovalau, growing elite varieties of kava in our nurseries, and exporting the highest quality of kava overseas to new markets in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.

Our cultivation methods help to ensure disease-free, elite kava that delivers predictable and consistent properties. We hope that, by doing this, customers of Taki Mai always feel confident about the kava in their hands, and the reputation of Fiji’s kava farmers is also enhanced.

The Kava Bill will help us on all these fronts!

By Zane Yoshida

How to Select Safe, Healthy, and Relaxing Kava

Kava comes in many forms. It can be confusing for newcomers to find the relaxing kava supplement they are looking for, and to feel confident about taking it.

It’s not just that you can buy kava in liquid, powder, or pill form; the quality of the kava used can vary, depending on the origins of the kava itself, how it has been processed, and where you buy it.

So how do you select the safest, healthiest, most relaxing kava to soothe and relax your body and mind after a hard day?

Below are some pointers…

  • Do your background checks

Firstly – and most importantly – check who you are buying from. If it comes from reputable health stores, established supermarkets, or mainstream convenience stores in the US, Australia, New Zealand, or other western country, then it will usually have gone through rigorous checks before it reaches the shelves.

Buying kava online can be more risky unless you are purchasing from a reputable and established supplier – so check out who they are before sending your money!

  • Research what to expect

There is a wealth of information about kava online – read a few articles on here and other places that describe what you can expect from kava, so that you know what you are getting yourself into  – what it tastes like and the effects you will experience. Then there will be no surprises.

  • Choose noble kava

When researching products, try to establish whether or not they use ‘noble’ kava. This is an elite kava variety that produces safe, healthy, and predictable effects. If it is not ‘noble’ kava, the quality may be inferior. The so-called ‘two-day’ or ‘tudei’ kava may produce unpredictable side effects, such as lethargy and nausea.

Kava bought from reputable dealers and retailers will generally be ‘noble’ kava. But, depending on where you are in the world and where you plan to buy your kava, watch out for less scrupulous dealers. They may sell cheaper, ‘tudei’ varieties that are resistant to pests and stronger than noble varieties. Some of these are responsible for damaging the reputation of kava globally.

Needless to say, Taki Mai kava shots, powder, and capsules, are all made from elite, noble kava – using root grown in our nurseries on the island of Ovalau in Fiji, known for its high quality kava.

  • Know why you are taking kava

It’s important to understand why you want to take kava supplements; this will help you find the most suitable form of supplement.

Many people just want to relax with a good-tasting shot of kava. So the kava shots mixed with juices or other natural flavours may be a good option; others will take it for medical reasons or to aid sleep – and the powder or capsule form may be more appropriate. Perhaps you need a type that you can take ‘on the go’- so, rather than the fresh or dried root (which you need to strain first) or the instant powder form that you need to mix with water, the pill form may be more convenient.

The form of kava you take largely depends on your reasons for trying it and the demands of your lifestyle.

  • You may need to pay a little more

We are not all lucky enough to have family members who grow their own kava. Most of us have to buy it and it’s worth bearing in mind that you generally get what you pay for. Paying a bit more for noble kava that has been processed correctly will ensure that it is safe, healthy, and provides all the relaxation benefits that you are expecting. You may find that, not only does the cheap stuff taste inferior, you need more of it to produce the desired effect – and, as mentioned, it’s often less predictable in its effects.

Hopefully the above helps you select the right kava for your needs. Take time to research what’s available, and how the various brands differ in taste, quality, and effects.

By Zane Yoshida

The Way Forward For Fijian Kava

After the trials faced by the Fijian kava industry in recent months, it was great to see one of our ‘elite’ kava saplings emerge from the lab this week.

Our previous post focused on the present kava shortages. The Fijian kava industry has been hit hard by the devastating cyclone back in March.

This one is all about the way forward for kava, and its bright future.

Rehabilitating the kava industry: an opportunity

As the Fijian kava industry rebuilds, there is an opportunity to establish itself firmly as the world leader in the production of high quality or ‘elite’ kava.

Already known for its high quality amongst Pacific kava-producing nations, steps are being taken to up the ante in quality in Fiji.

As reported in a previous post, South pacific Elixirs has been working with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) on an ‘elite kava’ project that has been co-funded by the Australian Government.

The project, called Development of a mass propagation system for elite varieties of Piper methysticum (kava), is now starting to bear fruit. The photo above, taken in the lab at the University of the South Pacific, is evidence of this.

The project set out to establish a rapid propagation system for clean planting material. Its over-arching aim was to provide world-leading kava quality and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Fiji.

New kava propagation methods

Traditionally, kava propagation uses the stem of the plant to make cuttings. This may increase the risk of disease being passed on from plant to plant.

The production of a disease-free, high quality kava is seen as vital to protecting the future of the kava industry. As exports rise and world attention increasingly focuses on kava as bans are lifted, the need to maintain the highest quality possible is in everybody’s interests.

The stated goal our project is:

“…to develop an efficient and effective propagation system for ensuring a sustained and uniform supply of quality planting material of the selected variety.”

High quality kava cultivars help to eliminate the problem of ‘Kava dieback’. This is a rapidly spreading black soft rot of the stem tissue. Symptoms appear on the leaves a few weeks before the visible rot starts, and it is a problem around the entire Pacific area.

Back in 2005, around 40% of the Fijian kava crop was wiped out. When problems arise, it’s a long way back for the kava industry, because kava does not produce seeds and it takes several years to grow.

When the problems are as severe as those experienced in the wake of Cyclone Winston, a lack of high quality stems available for propagation exacerbates the situation.

Our solution creates tissue cultures that maintain a constant supply of high quality, disease-free new kava plants:

“Once ‘clean’ kava plants are established in the nursery, the growth of axillary buds can be accelerated to produce material from which tissue cultures can be established.”

Since Winston then, the program has taken on new meaning as a way forward for the Fijian kava industry as a whole. We are in the process of training others in these propagation methods so that they can be used more in commercial nurseries.

It’s onwards and upwards for the Fijian kava industry from here- and we are proud to be part of the solution.

By Zane Yoshida

Kava in 2016: Higher Demand, Higher Quality

Kava looks set for a happy 2016, if recent trends continue.

With more kava bars opening in the US, European markets opening up, kava becoming available in more health stores and supermarkets worldwide, and more awareness of its relaxation and health benefits, the profile of kava is on the rise.

We can look forward to increasing demand and increasing quality in the year ahead.

Higher demand for kava in 2016?

The Fijian Secretary for Agriculture visited the US towards the end of last year and, on his return, challenged farmers around the country to work hard to meet the increasing demand for kava.

Clearly recognising a big opportunity from what he saw, he said:

“We should be thankful because this are opportunities for our farmers here in Fiji on how we can meet this particular demand in the US markets so the bottom line is farmers to get organized and produce the product that is required in whichever markets”

Fiji News recently reported that we should “expect a boom in kava exports” noting that “kava exports are expected to increase significantly with the European Market opening up from 2016.”

The Ministry of Agriculture is now preparing the first draft of a Kava Bill that will guide the sale of kava in Fiji, incorporating suggestions for how Fiji will be best placed to meet the increased demand.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Sun recently reported on plans for a proposed, new $25 million project on the island of Vanua Levu. The two-storey factory will employ the entire ground floor for kava and spice processing.

Higher quality of kava in 2016?

Of course, while Taki Mai uses exclusively Fijian kava, famed for its high quality, kava is grown and used all around the Pacific area. Vanuatu is one of the biggest producers and there has been plenty of positive comment about the expected growth in kava exports there too.

In the past, however, there have been concerns about the quality of kava produced there – including potent strains known as ‘wild kava’ and ‘two day’ kava because the effects last up to 48 hours (which is produced even though it is banned). Only around 10 out of 80 strains grown there have been declared suitable for export.

Calls are growing for more responsibility among farmers there to comply with regulations and plant only ‘noble’ varieties of kava that are processed correctly before export.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation in Vanuatu has been trying to raise awareness of these issues with recent training initiatives:

“Kava is an important commodity both locally and to the external market. It is important that the farmers know more about their own kava because now we have a kava act, and the kava act actually pushes the nobles and that is where the quality standards must be reflected in the kind of product that goes to the market.”

In tandem with this, the European Union-Africa Caribbean Pacific (EU/ACP) project was initiated last year by the Vanuatu Embassy in Brussels to produce a definition of regional quality standards for kava.

This is good news in light of the past problems kava has had with regional bans, and will help to uphold the reputation of kava internationally.

Ambassador Roy Mickey Joy commented:

“Evidence shows that some products marketed as kava cannot be considered as such in light of the traditional experience. Accordingly, the decision to accelerate the ongoing definition of quality standards by kava-producing countries could not have come at a better time.”

A regional boost in 2016?

The export of quality kava is essential not only to the Vanuatu government, but to farmers around the whole Pacific region.

Fiji and Vanuatu are the two largest producing countries, with approximately 25,000 ha cultivated, producing an estimated 10,000 tonnes of kava – with around 1,100 tonnes exported every year.

A damaged kava reputation harms the economies of all producing countries and badly affects rural communities, no matter where the kava originates. The focus on guarding the quality is well-founded.

In Fiji, South Pacific Elixirs are doing our bit for quality.

At our kava nurseries in Ovalau, we cultivate only ‘elite’ kava cultivars that produce the finest quality root ready for export. These are guaranteed disease-free strains that produce consistent and predictable varieties of kava, ideal for making our shots, powders, and capsules for the export market.

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The World Is Waking Up To Why It Needs Kava
What Is The Kava Bill – And How Does It Affect You?
How to Select Safe, Healthy, and Relaxing Kava
The Way Forward For Fijian Kava
Kava in 2016: Higher Demand, Higher Quality