Kava is a powder or beverage that is made from the Piper methysticum plant from the South Pacific region. In Polynesia Kava means bitter. Does this mean the old line about ‘a bitter pill to swallow’ is based on Kava? Let’s learn more and see if the answer comes to us.
The plant is also known as the intoxicating pepper or asava pepper. The plant can grow to six feet in height and have leaves that grow to ten inches and are heart-shaped.
For centuries, the people of the South Pacific have used Kava as a medicinal plant. The plant is known for its euphoric, psychotropic, and sedative qualities. What this means is that this one plant extract can calm you down, help you sleep, and make you feel good.
Kava Drink Health Claims and Other Benefits
The taste is said to be an acquired taste. It is, after all, roots boiled in water. However, the very freshest Kava plants taste like licorice and can taste flavorful and spicy.
Many who drink the tea made from Kava root, state that after a period of time, they find that they crave the taste of the Kava tea. They stress that the tea is not a product that is naturally good tasting.
The Kava is an extract or powder form that is made into drops, pill form, or beverages. This drink is then used for relaxation, in ceremonies, and anxiety.
It is also used to help the withdraw from certain drugs. Many claims that it helps to get better sleep, and reduce stress. There is no accepted scientific proof that Kava extract, Kava pills, or a beverage made with Kava actually does any of these reported actions. However, Kava is considered to be a depressant.
Kava as a Natural Alternative to Drugs
Kava affects the brain and the central nervous system. The chemicals within the plant are responsible for the effects on the brain and central nervous system. These chemicals are called ‘kavalactones.
Kava has become increasingly more popular in the last few years in the United States. Most people consider it an alternative to drugs, a sort of natural or homeopathic choice. It is most often used as a tea in the United States to help relieve mild stress and tension.
In the South Pacific there are now Kava bars, quite similar to coffee bars, but serving Kava instead. As this trend continues to grow, so will the businesses that offer the Kava products. As of now only a few of the United States have Kava bars up and running.
In the early 2000s, Canada and Europe removed all Kava products from the market. There were reports of liver damage and deaths that were related to Kava drinks.
Since that time, the evidence has been more thoroughly investigated and many of the areas have allowed Kava back into the marketplace. The United States, however, never removed the products from its market.
There is an issue called GAD, General Anxiety Disorder. It is believed that Kava is ineffective at helping those with this often exaggerated tension and worry that causes anxiety. Taking Kava orally has not been shown to produce any relief for this generalized anxiety disorder.
For anxiety that is not generalized, has nothing to do with exaggerated tension. It has been shown that using Kava orally for 5 weeks will produce some improvement to the anxiety. Many who use the kava products use it as a natural alternative to prescription anxiety or stress medicine.
Possible Side Effects
It is believed that if taken for 6 months, Kava should be safe. However, it must be said that using Kava may make it difficult to operate heavy machinery or drive a vehicle. This means that you could be pulled over and given a citation for ‘Driving under the influence’.
This includes people who have been drinking large amounts of Kava tea. What seems to be an innocent situation and an innocent product, could be a serious downfall to consumers. In other words, avoid driving if you are using the product, Kava.
It is also possible that liver damage may happen when using or consuming Kava. From recorded data, it appears that this occurs from heavy doses of Kava over very long periods of time. Most who use Kava products have not experienced any form of liver toxicity.
The previously mentioned cases that caused removal from the markets in some countries could not be proven to have been caused by Kava. Other side effects to note would include feeling happy and relaxed, numb mouth and throat, sleepiness, reduced appetite, or loss of appetite altogether.
Some long-term effects that should be noted include mood swings, loss of weight, malnutrition, apathy, frequent infections. If these are noted in users, a physician should be consulted promptly.
Warnings To Be Noted
Women who are pregnant or wish to become pregnantshould avoid the use of Kava. The product could harm the fetus, and also may affect the uterus when pregnant. It is also thought that the chemicals in the Kava could transfer to the breast milk of lactating women and women who are breastfeeding.
It is also believed that any person with Parkinson’s, should totally avoid the Kava products. Since Kava is believed to have an effect on the Central Nervous System, it could make the symptoms and condition worse.
If you plan to have surgery, it is highly suggested that you stop using Kava for at least two weeks prior to surgery. It is likely that Kava could affect the effects of anesthesia. This means that it would make the anesthesia more potent, which could very likely be dangerous.
Most adults will use Kava in beverages or as an extract in doses of 150 to 400 mg per, for up to two years. There is no safe level of any drug use. Even when used as a tea, Kava dosage should be based on factors such as weight, age, the strength of the drug, has the person used it before? Is the person using other drugs or medication also?
If too large of a dose is taken, there are many effects that you should watch for. These will include nausea, loss of muscle control, shortness of breath, dry and scaly skin. Fever, drowsiness and red eyes, and dilated pupils.
There are many other names for Kava, some of these include:
Methods of Use
Different regions have been found to use Kava differently than others. In the Pacific Islands, it is chewed, crushed, and grinding the stump and the root, then boiling it with water and producing a tea that is then drunk. The tea-type liquid is used in ceremonies and cultural practices.
It is believed to strengthen the ties of the community and the people. It is also believed that the Kava liquid tea helps certain members of the community to speak with spirits.
In the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island regions, Kava is used as a sleep inducer, a hypnotic and muscle relaxant. It is believed that Kava reduces the alcoholic harm caused by some in the community.
In many areas, Kava is sold as a supplement. Kava extract is used in some herbal preparations. These can be sold over the counter as treatments to help with insomnia, anxiety, and stress.
Long Term Effects
There is the possibility of long-term effects on people who use Kava. Obviously, these are dependent on how long you have used Kava and the dosage of Kava.
These effects could include such issues as visual changes, sensitivity to light, breathing difficulties, such as shortness of breath, liver or kidney damage, alterations to the blood cells, compromised immune functions, loss of motivation and drive, malnutrition, and severe weight loss. And also worsened pre-existing mental conditions.
As it states, Kava is considered a natural alternative to illegal drugs. It will help a person sleep, relax and calm down. In other words, it makes them feel good. There was a previous ban, but after further investigation, the ban was overturned in those countries.
The Kava can be used in multiple methods. Boiling the root and making teais the main choice, there is an extract available and also pills or capsules.
There are said to be some mild side effects, most of which you likely would not notice unless it is from too high of a dosage situation. There will always be issues with people consuming too much of any type of drug, whether all-natural or man-made. These folks should be seen by physicians or other medical staff so that they do not suffer from the effects.
The main concern would be the loss of weight and appetite. Losing too much weight and not eating properly can cause malnutrition and obviously anorexia. If you notice anyone who has any symptoms such as what has been mentioned, you should get them some help. Their life may depend on it. However, Kava is very seldom used as a negative drug.