Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Who Should Avoid Kava?

Most of you reading with this will enjoy the occasional Taki Mai shot or even regular kava sessions with friends, without having to worry about safety or whether you need to avoid kava.

But there are still the ‘naysayers’ out there who continue to focus on the isolated negative incidents involved with kava rather than the millennia of safe kava use in the South Pacific.

Now kava is becoming more global and is taking its place alongside other herbal supplements and beverages in health stores and supermarkets across the world, it is inevitable that kava is coming under more scrutiny.

This is a good thing – let’s consider it a way for kava to clear its name.

But there are some people who certainly should avoid kava. Below we briefly consider who should NOT be sitting by the kava bowl.

Avoid kava if you…

Let’s first make it clear that kava is non-addictive, has proven ability to relax and de-stress you, and has been used safely for millennia to treat a wide range of ailments and at social gatherings and ceremonies in the South Pacific.

Kava is well-known for its treatment of mild anxiety but those with severe depression should avoid taking it.

While it is worth noting that no study has ever proven a link between liver toxicity and kava, rare cases of liver problems have been reported, as you are probably aware from the so-called ‘European kava ban’ from previous years. Kava is best avoided totally if you have pre-existing liver problems.  It is not known precisely why the cases of liver toxicity in Europe occurred, but it is suspected that sub-standard kava was used.

Putting this problem into context, the amount of people with liver problems as a result of kava usage would be a dot on the landscape of those who suffer liver problems from alcohol usage.

…which brings us to another category of people who should avoid kava. It’s best never to mix kava with alcohol, benzodiazepine, or SSRI usage. It’s also best avoided if you are taking prescription monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

Pregnant or nursing women are also advised to avoid kava altogether, as are children under the age of 18 and anyone who is due to have surgery.

Kava is sometimes associated with dry, yellowish, scaly skin, but this is usually only in users who take large amount of kava, or indulge in particularly strong, low-grade strains of kava.

A few shots of elite Taki Mai kava are very unlikely to cause any problems. So enjoy!

By Zane Yoshida

Producing Nations Set To Up Quality of Kava

In the coming months and years we expect to see a gradual rise in the quality of kava coming out of the South Pacific kava producing nations.

That’s not just because we, at South Pacific Elixirs, have been pioneering our elite kava nurseries in Ovalau, Fiji, to grow the highest possible grade of disease-free kava. It’s also because this message is being broadcast loud and clear to all the major producers in the region.

One bad kava story…

With the world becoming more interested in kava, and the message finally getting out that kava is not only safe, but promotes good health and lowers stress, it’s a timely reminder to keep the quality of kava up for exports.

Since the German ban was overturned in February 2014, there has been a rise in demand, as new markets have become interested in importing the root in supplement form. The EU has even agreed to conduct a new kava study.

As demand is set to boom, there is a rush to produce more. At the same time, one bad story can ruin the industry. It was a very few cases of liver damage reported in Europe (from inferior quality of kava) that previously led to the kava ban on Europe and lots of adverse publicity.

The calls for an increase in quality are to avoid the type of ‘image’ problems that kava has suffered from recently.

Maintaining quality of kava for export

Radio New Zealand International reported at the end of April:

“Kava-producing countries have been put on notice that nothing less than top quality exports are crucial in ensuring the industry thrives.

Scientists are now analysing kava from across the Pacific to formulate a gold standard and find easier ways of weeding out kava varieties of a lesser quality described as “non-noble”.

The chair of the International Kava Executive Council, Tagaloa Eddie Wilson, says there will always be importers looking for cheaper varieties and governments need to get tough.

‘There are certain traders in the industry that are still finding their way to get hold of this and export them. That is a no-no, industry in the Pacific has met several times and they have agreed that this kava which is non-noble must never be used in the trade.’”

Keeping kava ‘noble’

‘Noble’ kava is another name for the ‘elite kava’ that Taki Mai supplements are made from. It is the highest grade available, and countries like Vanuatu have already passed legislation (the ‘Kava Act’) to outlaw exports of inferior or ‘non-noble’ kava.

Failure to prevent export of these ‘non-noble’ varieties of kava is perhaps what led to some of the problems in the past.

It is important for customers of Taki Mai to know that we take kava cultivation seriously – as shown by the previously-referenced article on our kava nurseries in Ovalau, Fiji.

Not only is the quality of kava the best available, we have received good manufacturing practice (GMP) accreditation; and we produce medicinal grade kava that is certified in Australia as a therapeutic good. So you can feel perfectly safe taking our kava shots, powder, or capsules.

By Zane Yoshida

Effects of Kava and Alcohol this Festive Period

It’s that time of year all around the world when Christmas and New Year parties are in full swing.

On the Pacific islands kava drinking levels tend to go through the roof as families and friends get together.

Elsewhere around the world, the festivities are celebrated in different ways, but in much of the developed world, over-eating, over-drinking and not enough exercise are a common outcome for large numbers of people.

Not to put too much of a dampener on things, but the New Year is certainly a hard time for the liver too. That got us thinking about the differing attitudes to liver damage from kava and alcohol, as well as medications.

Alcohol & liver damage

Alcohol is a leading cause of liver disease in the world – and has been linked to hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis and steatosis (fatty liver).

It is know that prolonged and excessive consumption of alcohol dramatically increases the risk of liver damage and disease, but the exact reasons are not fully understood.

Most alcohol will pass through the liver and be detoxified in the process, but it is believed that the secretion of pro-inflammatory substances in the livers of heavier alcohol users causes inflammation, apoptosis and eventually fibrosis of liver cells. However it is also known that much of the damage can be reversed, because of the liver’s amazing regenerative powers.

The point remains that, even given the wealth of evidence connecting alcohol and liver damage, there is never any debate on bans or clear labeling of the proven health risks on bottles and cans.

Prescription and non-prescription drugs & liver damage

Nonprescription and prescription drugs are easily the most frequent cause of acute liver failure in USA. The FDA reports that half the cases of acute liver failure each year are due to drugs – and almost half of these cases are caused by over-the-counter medications.

It is widely suspected that numbers are under-estimated because doctors often miss the diagnosis leading to under-reporting of cases.

This can mean that some medications stay on the market far too long before being investigated and eventually withdrawn, potentially increasing the risks to users.

Kava & liver damage

During the 1990s people in the west had started to use kava for anxiety and stress relief and to promote sleep especially. There were reports from Europe at the beginning of the millennium about cases of liver toxicity involving kava in dietary supplements.

This led to a kava ban which still affects the kava trade of the South Pacific nations like Fiji and Vanuatu to this day.

It is suspected that the cases that led to the ban were not from usage of kava in the traditional drink form, where only the prized roots of the kava plant are prepared with cold water, and then drunk. It is widely suspected that either:

-Other parts of the plant may have been used

-Preparation of the kava may have involved alcohol or other additives as well as water

-The kava supplement may have been taken in combination with other substances that could have put extra strain on the liver (e.g. alcohol or  tranquilising/anti-depressant drugs like Valium or Prozac)

In any case, the number of cases of liver toxicity in the South Pacific, where the kava is prepared in the traditional way, is negligible – and that applies over many centuries of usage.

Don’t mix the drinks!

Some sound advice would be to think of your liver this festive period. Don’t mix drinks that will put extra strain on your liver. A combination of kava and alcohol, with rich foods and perhaps some medications, is going to put a heavy load on your liver.

Bear in mind that, compared with alcohol and some medications, the potential threat from kava usage on its own is minuscule.

You should be able to enjoy a kava shot or two this festive period, safe in the knowledge that you are much less at risk of liver damage than if you take some other common substances that do not have any health warnings associated with them.

By Zane Yoshida

Kava and Liver Damage – What’s the Truth?

Objective information about kava and liver damage is out there if you look hard enough, but all too often we see the same misinformation being spread around the web and the same warnings applied to kava based on misunderstandings of the facts.

So in this post we look at the facts about kava and its association with liver damage – with a brief timeline on the key developments with kava safety – what has been said, what has been proven, what hasn’t been proven and what’s in doubt. You can then make up your own mind, in full possession of the facts.

  Read more

Who Should Avoid Kava?
Producing Nations Set To Up Quality of Kava
Effects of Kava and Alcohol this Festive Period
Kava and Liver Damage – What’s the Truth?