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.