Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Kava Helping Australia To Relax

The first kava bars are just opening in Australia, indicating that the word about kava’s relaxing and medicinal qualities is spreading.

Kava and Australia are no strangers. The root has been in widespread use in indigenous Australian communities for many years, often as a substitute for alcohol. But there is little doubt that attitudes towards kava are changing and it is becoming more ‘mainstream’…

Kava bars opening their doors

The news that kava bars are starting to be a feature of the Australian ‘bar scene’ is interesting. Australia is known as a bar-loving country, but strictly the alcohol variety. Aussies love their beer!

Kava bars are already a feature of the beach communities in the U.S. and more are opening in major urban centres there. But in Australia, they are still something of a rarity. The Kava Hut Bar in Adelaide is one of the first – and it’s not very big.

Kava bars generally serve only kava and are completely alcohol-free, meaning that there are no hangovers to contend with the next day and the mental clarity of customers is not impaired. The atmosphere, like the beverage, is best described as ‘relaxed’. Compare that with a Friday night in a typical bar in urban Australia!

Kava: available in some parts of Australia

Kava has been available in Australia as a supplement sold in health stores for some time. However, only in some areas. It is now banned in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, where there have been problems when combined with alcohol; kava tends to heighten the effects of alcohol and the two should never be taken together.

But kava taken on its own and in its purest form is a known treatment for anxiety, though many Australians are still unaware that there is a natural and scientifically proven remedy for mild anxiety.

Stress is a common health problem in Australia, as it is in most urbanised populations around the world, so spreading the word about kava should be a big help to many anxiety sufferers around the country.

You should feel quite confident in kava’s general safety as the government lists it on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). You can read more about that here.

Note that, in the states where kava is legal, there are usage and importation restrictions.

By Zane Yoshida

Kava For Performance Anxiety

The value of kava in treating anxiety, lowering stress, and helping people feel more relaxed is well established.

But think what this might do not only for your health – but for your performance in other areas of life.

A few weeks ago we covered the topic of kava as a study aid for students. Key to this is that kava, unlike alcohol, does not impair mental clarity; in fact, many users say that it enhances their ability to focus, which is an obvious help for students revising for exams.

This could also help in another area…

Performance anxiety

‘Stage fright’ or ‘performance anxiety’ is usually experienced when standing up in front of a large group of people in public. This could be to make a speech, deliver a presentation, answer questions, or anything else that demands public speaking.

Many of us feel nerves before a ‘performance’ of some kind; in most cases this is healthy adrenalin racing around – and it will help us deliver. However, for some people, it can be a real problem, and impairs their performance, because they become too stressed.

There are three solutions:

  1. Cancel all engagements
  2. Battle on, shaking like a leaf
  3. Do something about it!

Trying kava falls firmly into the third category.

How can kava help?

The key lies in getting more experience on stage in these situations to gain confidence. Kava may help you do that in a natural way, without taking medication.

Nicholas Ross Smith is a lecturer at the University of Auckland and the Auckland University of Technology. He is also one of the founding members of the Kava Society in New Zealand, one of the foremost authorities on kava culture in the country. He has experience of using kava to battle performance anxiety, and says:

“After using kava in a social setting for a few months, I became aware of its anti-anxiety properties. Given that I work in academia and I am required to regularly teach as well as give conference talks and seminars in front of large audiences, all of which tends to leave me rather anxious, I started experimenting with taking kava before these activities.

“The results of this have been remarkable. Not only do I feel taking kava prior to public speaking allows me to perform better, the routine I have developed has allowed me to be anxiety-free the night before an important lecture, something which impeded my sleep greatly and in turn affected my performance.

“Therefore, I recommend to any people that suffer from performance-anxiety in their professional lives to consider the usefulness of small intakes of kava as a way of managing this anxiety.”

(Source: The Kava Society blog)

Interesting that he mentions the ability to get a better night’s sleep before a gig. We wrote about kava’s sedative qualities and its potential for getting better sleep here.

So, it seems that the ability to help with performance anxiety is another ‘tick’ to add to the growing list of kava benefits. Maybe give a kava shot a try before you are next in front of the microphone.

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

Kava: ‘An Alternative Therapy That Works’

It’s not often that kava (or any other alternative therapy, for that matter) gets a truly ‘fair’ write up in the mainstream press.

The focus is usually on the safety concerns of sub-standard kava raised in recent years, rather than the centuries of trouble-free usage, and the proven positive effects of kava on the body and mind.

While medications with some serious side effects often get off without even a reference to their dangers, kava and other ‘alternative therapies’ often get hammered as ‘unproven’, ‘proven not to work’, or possibly dangerous to the health.

This is par for the course – and another example was found in a recent article in the UK’s Spectator magazine.

Kava: an alternative therapy for relaxation

It’s worth summarising the article and including a few quotes here.

It takes what it considers to be a balanced view about ‘alternative medicine’ and begins by highlighting how certain quips about alternative medicine not working may be unfair. The author selects three in particular that can claim to work: tai chi, garlic, and our beloved kava.

The article puts forward positive points about each of these therapies. For instance, it points out that tai chi reduces the risk of falling, and hence could be an important therapy for old people. However, it also points out that more conventional treatments might be “more suitable, cheaper or more available.”

In the case of kava, the author introduces it as “a herbal medicine that, about 10 years ago, used to be very popular for managing anxiety.”

Then the evidence for it working is presented:

“Does kava work for anxiety? The answer is yes. In 2003, we published a Cochrane review of all rigorous studies testing the efficacy of kava as a treatment of anxiety. We were able to include 11 randomised, placebo-controlled trials and concluded that ‘compared with placebo, kava extract appears to be an effective symptomatic treatment option for anxiety. The data available from the reviewed studies suggest that kava is relatively safe for short-term treatment (one to 24 weeks), although more information is required.”

Waiting for the mention of the ‘dangers’…

While reading, you just know the ‘catch’ is coming. And sure enough…

“For a while, many of us thought that kava was safe and effective. When the first reports of side effects emerged, we were not particularly worried — which medication is totally free of them? But then a flurry of reports was published suggestive of severe liver damage after kava intake. At this stage, many national regulators became seriously concerned and started to investigate. The results seemed to indicate that the commercial kava preparations on the market were indeed liver-toxic. Consequently, kava was banned in many countries.”

That’s it. No mention of the overturn of the kava bans; no mention of the likelihood of inferior quality kava being the likely cause. All kava is tarred with the same brush again!

And, what’s more, there is no mention of the serious side effects of some other anti-anxiety drugs like the benzodiazepines (tranquilisers). These can cause addiction when taken long-term and come with a wide range of other side effect warnings, including dizziness, trembling, and confusion.

The author’s conclusion is that he agrees with the quip that ‘alternative treatments are therapies that either have not been proven to work or have been proven not to work’. This, despite specifically stating that kava was an ‘alternative therapy that works’…

What started as a promising article strangely turned on its head and effectively became another ‘hit piece’ on kava in the end!

As stated, this really is par for the course for kava in mainstream media.

By Zane Yoshida

The Art of Relaxation: Fijian Style

You can tell a lot about a place by its drinks! Think about the French and their wine, the Chinese and their tea, or the Germans and their beer. You instantly learn a lot about how they love to spend their time.

With the relaxing and stress-relieving effects of kava being so interwoven into Fijian culture, it’s no surprise that few places on earth ‘do’ relaxation like Fiji.

We even have our own ‘time zone’! When you land on our soil you enter ‘Fiji time’ – where everything is that little bit more laid back!

Here are a few ways for you to kick back and enjoy the breeze for a while, with a Taki Ma kava shot in hand:

Five ways to relax on Fiji Time

  1. On the sea

With Fiji spread out over 333 islands, there is a LOT of sea to navigate out there! You can take day trips or longer, and hop between islands on a longboat. Some islands have cities and extensive tropical beaches, while others are little more than unpopulated bars of sand (like Mondriki, where the Tom Hanks blockbuster Castaway was filmed).

Depending on the weather and time of year, sometimes the waters can be choppy (not so relaxing), but choose the best times to venture out and you’ll be kicking back on the deck with a Taki Mai shot in your hands, enjoying a little corner of paradise.

  1. At the pool or spa

Need a rest? A pool holiday? With Fiji’s superb climate, a few days around the pool at your hotel is almost guaranteed to perfect your tan. Sometimes the plusher hotels have floating pontoons and sunset bars where you can enjoy some offshore Taki Mai – or something a little stronger in cocktail form if you prefer.

Or how about a day pampering yourself in a spa? Many of the resorts offer first class spa facilities, where a Taki Mai shot will get you in the perfect mood for a massage.

  1. With a day of water sports

Relaxation comes in many forms. If lounging around a hotel pool or in a hammock is too boring for you, then maybe something a little more active lights your fire. Fiji offers a host of water sports from sailing, jet-skis, and snorkeling to diving off the top deck of pontoons. Maybe you’ll even get to see dolphins or sea turtles?

If your muscles are aching at the end of an active day, guess what? A Taki Mai kava shot will help soothe your body and relax your mind.

  1. Over some superb seafood

You won’t be surprised to hear that Fiji serves up some delicious seafood. Perhaps enjoy the fresh catch of the day for lunch or lobster for dinner?

Wash it down with a glass of wine or two or, if you want to go tee-total for an evening, a Taki Mai kava shot to help you relax and enjoy the evening breeze.

  1. In a traditional Fijian Village

Get to know a slice of ‘real’ Fiji with a visit to a traditional fishing village. You’ll find the experience eye-opening as the peace and tranquility of the ancient lifestyle washes over you. You will be treated to a traditional Fijian welcome and feel like a temporary member of the village – where kava (or “grog” as you may hear it referred to) features heavily in the welcoming “sevusevu” ceremony.

Clap once and say “bula”, before drinking your coconut shell full of kava all in one gulp. After you hand it back, clap three times to show your appreciation.

Now you’re all set for a relaxing trip to Fiji. Come and join us sometime.

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Kava Helping Australia To Relax
Kava For Performance Anxiety
Kava And ‘Reverse Tolerance’
Kava: ‘An Alternative Therapy That Works’
The Art of Relaxation: Fijian Style