Kava is one of nature’s secret little ‘yes, yes, yes’ herbs with its ability to induce a powerful state of calm relaxation, whilst allowing your mind to stay focused and clear (yes, I did say relaxed AND clarity of mind in the SAME sentence).
How long have I used kava for? I first discovered kava when I worked part-time in a health food store somewhere in the middle of England around the age of 20. I don’t even remember how I heard about it, other than a brief period of studying phytotherapy (a sort of science-based medical herbalism) and diligently reading the herbal information books behind the counter every time I got a spare second.
I was feeling stressed and anxious at the time (life, I guess). I was young, feeling a bit lost, not feeling like I ‘fitted-in’ anywhere, a bit directionless and being somewhat sensitive to energies, I was easily rattled and had a bit of an ongoing state of ‘fight-or-flight’. After reading about the benefits of kava, I took some and almost immediately felt ‘ahhhhhhhhhhhh’ – serenity in the storm. The relief and the calm I experienced was incredible. I felt relaxed yet my mind felt sharper and clearer. It seemed to quickly lessen the panicked ‘flight’ response from anxiety triggers, immediately putting me back in the driver seat of my own emotions.
My experience of kava: Imagine the relaxation effect you might get from a drink of wine, yet with none of the drowsiness or other side effects.
In some places, you get Kava Bars to go and drink at!
I went into a kava bar in Maui once – we were served pure kava tea in wooden bowls – very ceremonious and beautiful, not to mention incredibly calming. I’ve gotten my kava in Hawaii ever since. Kava Bars are actually a thing! So if you have one near you, go visit.
I think kava kept me off medication during the toughest of times
Fast forward to my mid-forties. I started suffering from anxiety and panic attacks a few years back once again. Mid-life reality check and all that! Kava helped beyond measure to induce an instant calming effect, like a big, loving hug from Mother Earth herself. I experienced inconsolable grief during that period. Again kava was like an angel sent from above during those challenging times. To be perfectly honest, kava probably kept me off anxiety medication (thankfully, I’ve never taken medication, but my life felt so ripped apart at one point, that I’ve been pretty damn close). For me, kava would mean the difference between a full blown anxiety attack that brought up every suppressed trauma conceivable all rolled into one OR being able to inhale and exhale calmly and heal myself more gently from a place of peace. Whilst it’s important to honour our ‘stuff’, it reaches a point where a helping hand is just what we need.
So I am giving a shout out to kava, because in my experiences it has consistently been absolutely awesome on my journey.
Where is kava from?
Kava is found growing on Pacific Islands and in other similar climate zones such as Hawaii. It’s used ceremoniously and part of indigenous cultures. In Fiji kava is considered to be the national drink and is widely appreciated as part of the culture.
“Traditionally, kava was prepared by cutting the root into small pieces, being chewed by several people and spat into a bowl, where it was mixed with coconut milk. It was believed that the chewing procedure blended the root with enzymes in the saliva and promoted the extraction of the active ingredients of the root and generally produced a much tastier brew. The concoction was then strained through coconut fibre, squeezing the pieces of masticated root until all the juices were blended with the water. This was then decanted into another bowl for consumption. Nowadays, the root is ground, pounded or grated rather than chewed and spat out, although among some locals the traditional method is still practiced.” source: ancient-origins.net
The effects of kava kick in pretty quickly, within 10 to 20 minutes. You might feel an immediate numbing of the lips (totally normal and just a sign that it’s working). It is a muscle relaxant, yet keeps you alert at the same time.
Are there any side effects of kava (and what about those controversial liver toxicity studies)?
I am not writing this article as a professional, it is just a personal sharing. I’ve never had any side effects myself. I’ve heard of countless success stories over the years too. However, I need to mention these ‘potential’ and contraversial side effects.
Apparently, studies showed that a few people had serious liver toxicity after taking kava. HOWEVER! In all of these cases, the kava was used in conjuction with alcohol or liver-harming drugs. Hmmmmmmmm. So (in my totally subjective opinion) it never felt like a very fair and scientific study to me in the first place. Kava is allowed in almost every country in the entire world. It is not sold in the UK or Poland however. It is apparently available in Norway as a prescription drug. It’s pretty much accepted everywhere else as a herbal remedy just like plants such as chamomile or lavender are.
According to ancient-origins.net “The reports of liver damage due to kava consumption have been puzzling, as inhabitants of the Pacific islands have been drinking the kava drink for at least three thousand years without apparent liver damage.” Hmmmmmm, again, very interesting.
Other very credible arguments in favour of kava…
Interestingly Germany reversed their temporary ban on kava saying that the studies against it lacked quality control and involved misguided regulatory politics
The New Zealand Government have gone as far as publishing a big document that concludes kava is safe to use Kava: A Human Health Risk Assessment
There is also a good article on Psychology Today about kava here: Kava is an effective and safe treatment of anxiety
Where can you get kava from?
If you aren’t out in the wilds of Fiji or the Pacific Islands, then luckily you’ll find this wonderful stuff in most countries, in good health food stores or online (not in the UK though, sorry my friends!). It comes in the form of tinctures, ground root (great for tea making), capsules etc.
My prefered method is to make ‘tea’ with it, although for ease of use and instant access, ticture also is a great option.
This is one of my favourite options for Hawaiian Kava if you are looking for a tincture…
This is excellent value powder originating from Fiji, ideal for making your own tea with. No straining required either.
And if you want something gentle but very soothing indeed this is good (available in stores all over the USA or online). I really like this one and always make a beeline for it when I visit the USA.
I hope that you find some of this information useful.
Please do let me know your experiences too or if you have anything to add.