I’ve been in Small Town, Ontario for the past few days in anticipation of the next few days, and have been peacefully enjoying myself in large part to Kava, an “herbal valium” my always gift-creative brother bought everyone for Christmas (and gave early). I wouldn’t call it an addiction just yet, but spending countless hours publishing 105 indieWIRE poll ballots has never been so fun.
So if you want to spend your next visit home in tranquil giggilyness, I’d suggest you get your hands on some:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Kava (Piper methysticum) (Piper Latin for “pepper”, methysticum Greek for “intoxicating”) is an ancient crop of the western Pacific. Other names for kava include awa (Hawaii), ‘ava (Samoa), yaqona (Fiji), and sakau (Pohnpei).
The word kava is used to refer both to the plant and the beverage produced from its roots. Kava is a tranquilizer primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity. Its active ingredients are called kavalactones. In some parts of the Western World, kava extract is marketed as herbal medicine against stress, insomnia, and anxiety. A Cochrane Collaboration systematic review of its evidence concluded that it was likely to be more effective than placebo at treating short-term social anxiety. Safety concerns have been raised over liver toxicity, although research indicates that this may be largely due to the use of stems and leaves in supplements, which were not used indigeneously.
In modernized countries Kava beverage is usually made from Kava root powder. The root is dried and then finely ground into powder before being exported. Generally one tablespoon of powder is added per cup of water, but sometimes as much as a half a cup of powder (eight tablespoons) is added per cup of water to increase potency. The powder is then soaked in water for approximately 30 minutes to allow the water to completely soak through the powdered fibers. Lecithin is often added to aid in the process of emulsifying the kavalactones with water. The Kava powder, water, and lecithin are blended in a blender for several minutes then strained into a straining cloth. Nylon, cheesecloth, and silk screen are common materials for straining. The remaining liquid is squeezed from the pulp and the pulp is discarded. As an alternative to the blender method, with the powdered pulp enclosed within the straining material, the pulp is massaged for five to ten minutes in water, then the liquid is wrung out. The more pressure that is applied to the wet powdered pulp while wringing it out, the more kavalactones will be released from it. Finally the pulp resin is discarded and the beverage is enjoyed. Often coconut water, coconut milk, lemongrass, cocoa, sugar, or soy milk is added to improve flavor.
A moderately potent kava drink causes effects within 20-30 minutes that last for about two and a half hours, but can be felt for up to eight hours. Because of this, it is recommended to space out servings about fifteen minutes apart. Some report longer term effects up to two days after ingestion, including mental clarity, patience, and an ease of acceptance. The effects of kava are most often compared to alcohol, or a large dose of Valium.
The sensations, in order of appearance, are slight tongue and lip numbing (the lips and skin surrounding may appear unusually pale); mildly talkative and sociable behavior; clear thinking; anxiolytic (calming) effects; relaxed muscles; and a very euphoric sense of well-being. The numbing of the mouth is caused by the two kavalactones kavain and dihydrokavain which cause the contraction of the blood vessels in these areas acting as a local topical anesthetic. These anesthetics can also make one’s stomach feel numb. Sometimes this feeling has been mistaken for nausea. Some report that caffeine, consumed in moderation in conjunction with kava can significantly increase mental alertness.
A potent drink results in a faster onset with a lack of stimulation; the user’s eyes become sensitive to light, they soon become somnolent and then have deep, dreamless sleep within 30 minutes. Sleep is often restful and there are pronounced periods of sleepiness correlating to the amount and potency of kava consumed. Unlike with alcohol-induced sleep, after wakening the drinker does not experience any mental or physical after effects. However, this sleep has been reported as extremely restful and the user often wakes up more stimulated than he or she normally would (though excessive consumption of exceptionally potent brew has been known to cause pronounced sleepiness into the next day). Although heavy doses can cause deep dreamless sleep, it is reported that many people experience lighter sleep and rather vivid dreams after drinking moderate amounts of kava.
After thousands of years of use by the Polynesians and decades of research in Europe and the U.S., the traditional use of kava root has never been found to have any addictive or permanent adverse effects. Users do not develop a tolerance. While small doses of kava have been shown to slightly improve memory and cognition, large amounts at one time have been shown to cause intoxication. In Utah, California, and Hawaii there have been cases where people were charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after drinking a significant amount of kava (eight cups or more) although some of them were acquitted due to the laws not being broad enough to cover kava consumption.
Basic research on anti-cancer potential
On 15 February 2006, the Fiji Times and Fiji Live reported that researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and the Laboratoire de Biologie Moleculaire du Cancer in Luxembourg had discovered that kava may treat ovarian cancer and leukemia. Kava compounds inhibited the activation of a nuclear factor that led to the growth of cancer cells. The Aberdeen University researchers published in the journal The South Pacific Journal of Natural Science that kava methanol extracts had been shown to kill leukemia and ovarian cancer cells in test tubes. The kava compounds were shown to target only cancerous cells; no healthy cells were harmed. This may help explain why kava consumption is correlated with decreased incidence of cancer.
Fiji Kava Council Chairman Ratu Josateki Nawalowalo welcomed the findings, saying that they would boost the kava industry. For his part, Agriculture Minister Ilaitia Tuisese called on the researchers to help persuade members of European Union to lift their ban on kava imports.