Kava: Is it the healthy substitute for alcohol you have been waiting for?


Last Updated June 13th, 2021

Kava As A Ritual Drink

Kava is a famous root found in the Pacific islands. This root tastes like mud and has been used for centuries by the natives to release stress. The vast history of researches has proved that it is a beneficial drink. The ground roots of the kava are extracted from the plant Piper methysticum. This plant is part of the pepper family, including black pepper. It is also known as “kava kava”.

The people of the Pacific make use of Kava for their rituals and ceremonies. This ceremonial kava drink is prepared by making the root into a paste and mixing it with water. This mixture is then filtered or strained and ready for use. During the good old days this paste was made by chewing the roots and spitting them into the water but now it is jammed and mixed in the water. Traditionally this mixture was known as kava tea and was an avid part taker in every cultural practice and traditional ceremonies. It is a green plant that grows to an average height of six feet with beautiful heart-shaped leaves that have a wide area stretch of 10 inches. In the present days, it is cultivated in volumes of hundreds across the Pacific.

What Makes Kava Special?

This piper methysticum root-derived its name “kava” as it constituents an active ingredient called Kavalactones. The active ingredient helps reduce anxiety, preserve neurons from damage, reduce pain sensations, and restrict the risk of cancer. The kavalactones are known as the psychoactive part of the kava as it responsible for stimulating relaxation. The relaxing effects that it nurtures help prevent the risk of mental disorders. It is a most sort depressant drug which slows down the messages traveling to the brain.

Well, to be more precise, it is because of its soothing effect on your mind, it is also being referred to as “intoxicating pepper”. Thus it also is known as Piper methysticum when interpreted in Latin means pepper and intoxicating. It is a medical herb that helps treat a person from our very migraine and insomnia to our infections and ailments.

Kava Has Taken Different Forms

This psychotropic beverage is found in varied forms. The various forms of kava product consist of the root extract, root capsules, tincture, root powder, root tea, a brownish colored drink and concentrate paste. The highly concentrated form of kava is available in the concentrated paste. The capsules and kava teas are said to have a moderate concentration of kava while the tinctures and root powder consist of stronger content of kava. It has been considered as the best substitute for alcohol.

What Does It Do For You?

  • It helps fight the big “C” (cancer): The kava root has the potential to treat symptoms associated with bladder cancer. This is evident as the inhabitants of the south pacific island (the home of kava) have very low rates of cancer though that they are heavy smokers.
  • Lowers blood-pressure: Being a stress buster to your weary nerves, the root not just helps with your nerves but also helps reduce and at the same time regulate blood pressure. Kava helps reduce blood pressure by lowering the cholesterol levels in the body and in a way contributes to fat reduction too.
  • Eases Depression And Anxiety Issues: kava is well-known for its nerve-soothing and mood-elevating effects. The kavalactones present in kava help in having a positive effect on the central nervous system and the brain. These help in relaxing the tension caused by varied factors and serves as medicine to your depression and anxiety.
  • Relaxes muscles: kava is indeed a friend to all bodybuilders as it helps relax muscles and controls the symptoms of overtraining and relaxes the muscles.
  • Cold and cough: This medicinal tea helps relieve cold, flu, cough and other respiratory-related infections.
  • Helps reduce menstrual cramps: With a history of pain reduction, kava helps reduce menstrual pain and cramps and also helps deal with hot flashes caused during menstruation.
  • Erectile Dysfunction: Known to reduce stress and calm nerves, kava plays a significant rule in treating erectile dysfunction (also known as impotence, is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex) as it is mostly related to stress.
  • Help treat insomnia: Since this wonder root has a calming attitude, it helps with inducing sleep and treating insomnia. This helps promote sleep without having to interfere with a person’s REM sleep (is a unique phase of sleep distinguishable by the random/rapid movement of the eyes).
  • Improves your memory: The root helps in promoting awareness and helps a person stay open minded by calming the body. This is possible as kava maintains wonderful chemistry with amygdala and the hippocampus (amygdala involves brain structure in emotional responses and the formation of emotional memories while the hippocampus, acts synergistically to construct long-term memories related to emotional happenings).
  • Anti-inflammatory: It possesses an anti-inflammatory quality that also acts as an antiseptic and anesthetic agent. This helps treat a toothache and with its vast medicinal qualities, it helps treat gingivitis too.
  • Hair growth: Kava helps strengthen the hair follicles and thereby prevents hair fal
  • Diuretic: The intake of kava helps in removing excessive levels of fluids from the body.

A Friend To The Alcoholics?

The consumption of kava provides relaxation and mental clarity. These specifications make kava a better alternative than alcohol. It loosens you up and brings out the party-going person in you without affecting your body. It serves as a healthy intoxication and helps alcoholics abstain from consuming alcohol. It enhances all after-effects of alcohol but doesn’t affect the body in any way.

A lovely cup of kava tea can substitute the big bottle of alcohol. The easiest way to prepare the tea is to blend the kava mixture and gulp it down. It can also be prepared by adding the root, tincture or kava powder to hot water (no boiling as it can thicken the mixture). Blend the mixture for a few minutes and strain it. Throw the pulp away and sip on to your so-called alcohol.

Safe limits for Kava consumption

Medical experts and doctors recommend that your daily intake of kavalactones or kava should not in any way exceed 250 milligrams. Kava intake of 70-250 milligram is considered as an effective dose. Kava supplements enlist the number of kavalactones in milligrams or as a percentage. If the content is shown as a percentage, you will need to calculate the number of kavalactones it contains.

For instance, if one capsule contains 100 mg of kava root extract and is standardized to contain 30% kavalactones, it will contain 30 mg of kavalactones (100 mg x 0.30 = 30 mg). To reach an effective dose within the range of 70–250 mg of kavalactones, you would need to take at least three capsules of a kava supplement. Most extracts of kava root contain 30–70% kavalactones.

The other side of kava

Though it is a hub of wonders, it does have certain skeletons in its cupboard. With the long-term use of Kava, it can lead to an array of health problems which can range from malnutrition to apathy (lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern).

Being a central nervous depressant it is mandatory that pregnant women, lactating mothers, drivers, individuals operating heavy machinery, people on pharmaceutical medications, large consumers of alcohol, and the people who have a pre-existing heart, lung, or liver condition avoid the intake of kava. In 2001, medical experts and researchers reported that “in rare cases and in long-time heavy users, kava can cause liver toxicity”. The FDA and CDC cited case studies and warned people with the liver disease about taking kava and precautionary measures were taken to avoid its use.

Kava is a friend to alcoholics but an enemy to your liver. Prolonged use of kava can cause liver and kidney damage. However, the side effects portrayed by it can vary depending on the size, weight, and health of an individual. It can also depend on the factor if the individual is habituated to it, and has the will power to withstand the strength of it. Below are the wide ranged problems associated with the prolonged use of kava:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Increases sensitivity to light and tends to cause photophobia and visual difficulties.
  • Alters blood cells including platelets, white blood cells (WBCs) and red blood cells (RBCs).
  • Compromises immune function.
  • Causes crocodile skin or “Kani Kani”, a condition where the color of the skin changes into yellow or white ulcerations or lesions which appear on the surface of the skin.
  • The constant use of kava also leads to contact dermatitis where the skin becomes scaly and consists of a flaky rash.
  • Kava interferes with your appetite and causes loss of appetite and even lead to anorexia. When anorexia or loss of appetite is persistent it leads to malnutrition.
  • As a central nervous systems depressant, care should be taken not to consume it in excess as it causes a person to lose drive and motivation and deviate from their goals and commitments.
  • Too much of it can worsen conditions in patients suffering from schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and in certain cases related to depression.
  • It is mandatory to stop the use of kava two weeks before surgery as it can alter the anesthetic effect during a surgery.
  • The excessive intake of it can lead to loss of muscle control and mild fever.
  • It over consumption can cause pupil dilation and red eyes.
  • People under anti-depressant drugs should avoid using it as it can lead to several mental health complications. The long term use of it affects mood, weight loss, infections, and breathing.

In conclusion…

With the contradictory outcomes of the use of Kava, it is legally banned in several places across Europe and American and can only be used under medical care and purchased with a medical prescription. It is, therefore, necessary for you to consult your doctor before you plan on taking kava. But as a tea, you can sip on the same with a cautious eye on its content to avoid any complications. Lastly, it is of great necessity to watch out from which part of the plant the kava was derived from. This should be done because if kava extracted from any other parts of the plant other than the root, it can cause liver damage.


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