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

When Should You Avoid Taking Kava?

Most people can enjoy taking kava in its various forms and experience its relaxing and de-stressing effects. Whether taken as a drink or supplement, in liquid, capsule or powder form, kava suits most situations. Its benefits are well documented on here and other websites.

But what about situations when taking kava might present problems? It’s wrong to say that EVERYONE can enjoy kava at ALL times. So who should avoid kava, and when?

Here are a few scenarios that you might not have considered:

Pregnant or lactating women

In a report produced by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand, it advised:

“Use of kava during pregnancy or lactation has been cautioned since kavalactones may be present at concentrations, which would likely have an effect on the foetus or infant (Brinker, 1998).”

So, if you are pregnant, planning pregnancy, or breastfeeding, avoid taking kava unless you have first checked with your doctor.

When driving or operating machinery

Kava has been shown in studies to act as a relaxant and enhance cognitive performance (making it a useful study aid). It is also considered safe to take it in moderate amounts and then drive vehicles.

However, there are some concerns about driving and operating machinery after consuming higher amounts of kava, because it may impair reaction times and motor skills.

It’s therefore best to exercise caution when driving or operating machinery after taking higher doses of kava.

When drinking alcohol

Alcohol and kava should not be mixed; in general, if you take kava, avoid drinking alcohol for 24 hours.

Kava works best when drank on an empty stomach , so if you are going to have a kava session it may be best to avoid drinking or eating anything except water for around four hours before. Kava is a diuretic so make sure you keep water levels topped up during your kava session.

When noble kava is not available

The quality of the kava you take is important. Avoid taking any non-noble varieties that may be of inferior quality and be harsher on your body.

With Taki Mai you can be sure that all the kava in your shots, capsules, or powder is premium quality, noble kava from one location in Fiji – the island of Ovalau.

If you avoid taking kava in the above four instances, you should be able to enjoy it safely, healthily, and while experiencing all of its benefits.

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

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.

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
When Should You Avoid Taking Kava?
How to Select Safe, Healthy, and Relaxing Kava
What Factors Affect Kava Quality?
Kava in 2016: Higher Demand, Higher Quality