Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Kava And ‘Reverse Tolerance’

One of the questions we get asked most frequently at Taki Mai is:

“How long does it take kava to work?”

And another is:

“How much kava do I have to take to experience its relaxing effects?”

The answer to both of these questions is: “It depends…

But it’s not just dependent upon the nature of the kava; or even on its kavalactone content, its preparation, or your personal body chemistry.

It also depends on how long you’ve been taking kava. This is due to a phenomenon known as ‘reverse tolerance’.

What is reverse tolerance?

In the case of many substances with active ingredients – like alcohol, for instance – people tend to build up a tolerance; so the more they drink, the more they become immune to its effects over time.

With kava, the reverse is true. When you first start taking kava, it may take more time to feel the effects than for someone who has been taking it for years. It’s like you need to become ‘sensitised’ to kava before it starts working – a type of ‘break-in’ period.

It’s not known exactly why this is, but it is theorised that some people need a certain level of kavalactone build-up in the body to feel the full effects of kava.

If you start with a small amount, as most people understandably do, then the relaxing effects of kava may not register. In fact you may feel very little the first few times you take it.

If you are patient, and gradually take more over time, you will get more benefit out of your kava. You are likely to experience the effects sooner after taking it and, while you will be more familiar with the taste and the effects, this means you will need less to trigger the pleasurable relaxing effects.

Ultimately, you will only know how much kava you need to experience the desired effects after taking it for a while.

Typical guidelines

That said, some general guidelines would probably be useful?

Moderately potent kava will usually produce an effect within 20–30 minutes and should last for 2-3 hours.

That’s about it for generalisations though – you really need to find your own ‘level’ with kava. Reverse tolerance may take a couple of weeks to a month or more to overcome.

Persevere with it – and space out your kava servings until you are familiar with its effects. That way you can take a shot of kava and get the predictable, relaxing benefits at the time of day when it suits you best.

By Zane Yoshida

What You Need To Know About Kavalactones

Most of you reading this will be well aware of the relaxing effect that kava has on the body and mind. But what do you know about the kavalactones responsible for producing this effect?

How can a pre-prepared kava shot, capsule, or powder mixed with water calm the mind, soothe the muscles, and produce the feeling of well-being that kava lovers enjoy?

Yep … it’s all in the kavalactones.

The all-important ‘active’ ingredients

When a substance produces an effect on the body, we talk about the ‘active’ ingredients that cause it. In the case of kava, a range of phytochemicals known as kavalactones are responsible.

With many plants, we predominantly use the leaves for their health-giving or nutritional effects; with kava, the magic all happens underground.

The piper methysticum plant is a member of the pepper family. The kavalactones are concentrated in its rootstock and roots, rather than the leaves or stems. This is why ‘real’ kava is made only from the roots; using any other parts of the plant will damage the quality and may even lead to toxicity.

The many faces of kavalactones…

Kava is not quite so simple though. There is not just one type of kavalactone contained in it; there are eighteen. Of these, six are generally measured, as they account for 90 percent of the kavalactones commonly found.

These are:

  1. Desmethoxyyangonin
  2. Dihydrokavain
  3. Yangonin
  4. Kavain
  5. Dihydromethysticin
  6. Methysticin

Don’t worry – there’s no test to see if you remember the names!

Just be aware that each one produces a slightly different effect on the body. This is why not all kava produces the same intensity of relaxation, stress-relief, or sense of mild euphoria; and some may even produce less welcome side effects.

The kavalactones all work together, of course; but it is the specific make-up of their content, the preparation, and your own personal physical make-up that will ultimately determine the effects of the kava you take.

The search for predictability

Different kava cultivars are usually distinguished by measuring the relative concentration of the six substances detailed above; and this difference in concentration is called its ‘chemotype’.

For instance, some varieties of Vanuatan kava may contain high amounts of dihydrokavain, which can cause nausea. However, the response to kavalactones is individual and some people have a higher tolerance than others.

A six-figure numbering system is commonly used to differentiate between varieties based upon each cultivar’s kavalactone-type content. So those starting with 34 will have a higher content of yangonin and kavain.

Remember – predictability is important with kava; if you don’t know where the kava comes from it’s impossible to know its precise effect on you before you take it.

That’s why Taki Mai kava products use only kava grown on the island of Ovalau in Fiji. By insisting on this we know that we can enjoy the pure, sedative, calming effect of kava at any time of the day, without any side effects.

By Zane Yoshida

What Factors Affect Kava Quality?

There has been a lot of discussion recently about kava quality. With the lifting of the European ban Pacific nations are more committed than ever to maintaining a high standard of kava for export.

There is considerable vested interest in this too – for the economies of the Pacific nations and the livelihoods of the kava farmers in those nations.

So why the need for kava standards- and what actually affects the quality?

Kava variations

Kava has always varied in quality and farmers have always identified different strains, based on its physical appearance, the brew produced from its roots, and the physical and psychological effects produced by its consumption.

The biggest factor in quality is in the strength and predictability of the kavalactones present in kava, rather than in the physical appearance, which may only differ slightly.

In Vanuatu alone there are an estimated 80 varieties of kava, and Fiji has many other varieties. These are the two largest producing nations in the Pacific.

Kava varieties can be broken down into three basic types:

  • Noble kava
  • ‘Two-days’ kava
  • Wild kavas

In its most basic definition, noble kava is high standard, cultivated kava that can be exported in root or supplement form. It is free from toxins and impurities.

‘Two-days’ kava is a particularly potent strain that is actually prohibited for international export, but which often makes its way onto the market. This can damage the reputation of kava as it may cause nausea and other unpleasant side effects. It is so-called because the effects can last for up to 48 hours.

Wild kava is another inferior type grown in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

What factors affect kava quality?

The overall quality of kava you enjoy in your beverages, shots, capsules, or powder form depends on several factors:

  • The variety
  • The age of the plant (usually should be harvested after 3-5 years of growth)
  • The part of the plant used (roots, stumps, or basal stems)
  • The way it is cultivated (organic or not? Soil fertility and sunshine hours?)
  • The geographic origin

This will all affect the appearance, consistency and, most importantly, the kavalactone content of the kava.

The ‘chemotype’ of the kava describes its chemical make-up and will help you understand more about the kavalactones present in the variety that you take.

As you sit back and relax with a Taki Mai kava shot, you are probably not thinking too much about what’s in that little 3oz shot. You are likely just enjoying the relaxing feeling wash over you.

But its consistent calming effect is because you are enjoying elite kava of the highest quality – and now you know a little more about the factors that make it so.

Kava And ‘Reverse Tolerance’
What You Need To Know About Kavalactones
What Factors Affect Kava Quality?