(Overcoming alcoholism, anxiety, depression, and insomnia with Kava)
Kava, one of the most psychoactive plants, is a popular Polynesian root, often used in place of alcohol. The plant is making a resurgence to popularity in North America for an array of uses.
At the heart of the 1990s controversy and the victim of unrelenting FDA-attacks, kava was wrongfully accused of causing liver toxicity. Despite several sources not updating their databases decades later, researchers accept this to not be the case with certified Noble kava root instead of kava stem and leaf.
Legal in most countries worldwide, the truth about kava continues its rise in popular acceptance. Kava causes a unique reverse tolerance, which means it takes several uses before users experience its full expects. One often needs to “breakthrough” kava tolerance.
Kava affects GABA, our calming neurotransmitter, similar to alcohol, and is often used as an alcohol alternative. While some GABA-acting drugs such as barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and alcohol can cause dependence on some users, “GABAergic” plants, such as kava, do not cause the same effect.
Besides boosting GABA-A like alcohol, kava also acts as an MAO-B inhibitor, which means it can support mood disorders. Finally, kava is a phytocannabinoid plant that allows it to stimulate CB1 and CB2 of the endocannabinoid system.
Kavalactones such as kavain and yangonin are kava’s active psychoactive compounds delivering these effects. This means kava is a special plant with special attributes, worth serious consideration.
Two Types of Kava
Noble kava is the gold standard and considered safe. Tudei kava is controversial because it contains flavokavain A, which we associate with the potential for liver damage.
Three Kava Strains
Calm, relaxation, and well-being are the typical effects of kava. Originating from the Pacific islands of Hawaii, Federated States of Micronesia, Vanuatu, Fiji, the Samoas and Tonga, kava comes in an array of varieties.
There are three primary types of kava — heady, balanced, and heavy, which differ from stimulating and better for daytime use to sedating and more applicable for nighttime use.
Day/ Social: Hawaiian/ Tongan Kava
These types of kava cause more “heady” or cerebral, uplifting, and happy effects. Considered the optimal kava for daytime, work, gym, and social settings.
Multi-use Kava: Fijian Kava
You can think of this as you would a hybrid, as the name implies.
Night/ Sleep: Vanuatu/ Borongoru Kava
Kava users draw the distinction amongst strain effects between body versus head. Whereas heady strains are more uplifting and stimulating, heavy strains are most associated with sleep and notable anti-anxiety effects.
These are the strongest kava strains.
9 Kava-Making Tips
- The traditional and best results kava method is kava tea, involving kneading or extracting the tea from cheesecloth or special kava bag.
- A kava strainer ball has become a less potent kava-making option for a more convenient and faster tea.
- Another more recent offering is instant kava, which requires no preparation, but as well might cause gastrointestinal side effects.
- A large industry survey of daily kava drinkers shows 5 Tablespoons or 750 mg of kavalactones seems to be the average dose.
- Avoid mixing kava with alcohol or other GABA acting compounds and as always check for all other interactions.
- Stimulating euphoric kava effects last up to 1 hour followed by 1–2 hours of relaxation and then possible deep sleep.
- The onset of effects is approximately 15 minutes.
- For best results, drink kava tea on a fully empty stomach, and wait for 10–15 minutes before eating.
- Some report eating 10–15 minutes after drinking tea is an effective potentiator strategy.
Kava Tea Recipe
- Steep your kava using 120-degree water. The ratio is 1 cup for every kava 4 tablespoons. Some say we need up, but this means for more kava to drink, and it is not the most pleasant taste. You can mix in flavor enhancers to help with this.
- Kava is fat-soluble, so adding coconut milk, MCT oil, or other fat increases absorption. Kava kavalactones bind to fat, increasing absorption. Lecithin might work best, as it’s used to increase absorption in a variety of substances. Some say mixing in cocoa or cacao also helpful for a different action. This thickens your tea and adds yet more volume, so use it sufficiently but sparingly. Ideally, 11 grams of fat is a suitable target amount.
- Allow kava to steep from 10 to 60 minutes. A kava user can use a blender to agitate or “activate” the kavalactones. For ease of transfer, steeping initially in the blender is the best option.
- Transfer your kava into your kava bag, and squeeze thoroughly to remove all liquid while ensuring the plant matter remains in the bag. Repeat 1 to 3 more times. We call this a “wash”, as the average user does 2 to 3 washes. No need for extended steep times on the extra washes. Strain kava after we soak it for two minutes. Look for the color change to know you have done a thorough extraction.
- Cool in the refrigerator and then drink when chilled.
1) Only use certified Noble Kava.
2) Empty stomach by as much as 4–5 hours produces the best results.
3) Use fats when making kava tea.
4) Blend kava tea.
5) “Wash” or strain thoroughly and up to 3 times for the most potent tea.
6) For ongoing healthy liver support to be on the safe side, NAC might be an effective strategy.
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