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Is Kava Safe?

Throughout history, people have asked: is kava safe? To determine if it is safe or not, we'll take a look at the history of kava, and see how this question emerged. We'll also look into what can be done to ensure its safety.

In the last sixteen years, 183,000 people have fatally overdosed from prescription opioids. That means a doctor somewhere prescribed an opioid to a patient. That patient most likely abused the opioid, overdosed and died.

This does not even include the overdose deaths related to prescribed muscle relaxers such as benzodiazepines, or sleeping pills such as Seroquel or Ambien.

Prescription opioid drugs are still on the market and are still heavily prescribed by doctors and pain clinics all over America. No government agency has put a ban on this substance, ever.

Many people believe that kava is also unsafe. In the last 3,000 years, there have been close to 70 reports of deaths related to kava. That’s right, 70. And it turned out to be a misunderstanding relating to the type of kava consumed. But is kava safe? How can we ensure that it is?

In this article, we will go over this main question: is kava safe? We will also give four safety tips to ensure you have a good experience while you drink kava.

The Misunderstood Kava Incident

The death of less than one hundred people who drank kava happened in the early 2000s. Different medical reports claim a different number of people were affected. The numbers range from as low as 25 to as high as 100. But none of the reports claim kava has affected more than 100 people negatively.

Those who drank this kava reportedly experienced liver toxicity that later lead to death. This was a horrible experience that could have been prevented.

Bans were immediately placed on the export of kava, no matter what type.

It was later learned that the kava connected to these 68 deaths was “bad kava” or ignoble kava. This means the kava these unfortunate people drank was harvested from the bark, stems and leaves of the piper methysticum plant.

Good kava or noble kava has never been associated with negative reactions. And in 85 studies, researchers found the reason some had negative experiences with kava were because they prepared it differently.

Most bans on kava have since been lifted. While warnings are to be placed on packaging of kava, it is a product that is recommended by organizations such as the American Association of Family Physician.

Is Kava Safe?

According to the Federal Drug Administration, kava has been found safe for short-term use if you follow recommended Guidelines and safety tips. We discuss these four safety tips to ensure you enjoy kava and allow for deeper relaxtion.

  • Know Your Kava
  • Do Not Mix with Alcohol or Drugs
  • Know Your Dosage
  • Know Your Supplier

By following these safety tips, you can fully enjoy your kava and not ask yourself "is kava safe?". 

Safety Tip 1: Know Your Kava

The kava that offers a relaxing result is the kava harvested directly from the root of the plant. After harvesting, the kava plant will stay fresh for about three days. Because this is not long enough for people around the world to enjoy kava tea, harvesters will pound the root into a powder.

This powder can be stored and saved for use for many months. In powder form, it can also be shipped to anyone.

The kava you purchase needs to come from a reputable farmer and supplier. Choosing a supplier that is a member of the American Kava Association ensures they are certified and practice the sale of quality kava.

Tudei kava is the version of kava that can cause negative side effects to those who drink it. You may experience the effects of this kava for longer, even up to approximately two days, hence the name. Just keep in mind which type of kava you are buying, so that you are not surprised by the kava effects of the strain you have purchased.

Safety Tip 2: Do Not Mix with Alcohol or Drugs

If you are drinking alcohol and decide to mix it with a kava drink, the effects of the alcohol can increase. The same is true for drugs taken with kava. If you are feeling drowsy or sedated, kava will increase these effects, making the mixture dangerous.

While more than 12 studies have shown kava to be safe on its own, is kava safe when mixed? If mixed with drugs such as those used for Parkinson’s disease and benzodiazepines, it can become dangerous. There are multiple interactions between kava and prescription medications that are to be avoided.

Alcohol, sleeping pills, sedatives and prescription pain killers have a similar goal. They all relax you and make you feel better. They can each do this on their own. None of these should be mixed.

Because kava’s effects, when taken by itself, are so positive, there is no need to take additional chemicals.

Safety Tip 3: Know Your Dosage

Kavalactones are compounds found in kava. They determine the effect you will receive when drinking kava tea. There are approximately 18 kavalactones, meaning there are hundreds of combinations.

Because the effects can differ based on the compounds, it is recommended you start with a low dosage and work your way up to a higher dose.

The recommended dosage for a beginner kava tea drinker is 100 milligrams. According to Kava Library, a standard dose given to those having trouble falling asleep is 200 milligrams one hour before bed.

Your first few uses of kava tea may not offer you the affects you desire. This is because some people experience a reverse tolerance. This is when a person does not feel any effects from drinking kava tea until their bodies have built up a certain amount of kava in their systems.

If you have questions regarding dosage, you can always ask your kava supplier.

Safety Tip 4: Know Your Supplier

A trustworthy supplier will offer kava in a variety of forms. Most offer kava in supplement and powder varieties.

Kava suppliers may even have their own kava bar, where you can have the experts prepare the drink for you. This is highly recommended for beginners. Also, because kava is such a social drink, sharing the experience is beneficial.

Good kava suppliers welcome inspections and make efforts to become certified through organizations such as the American Kava Association.

In this time of information availability, searching reviews of a supplier is quite easy. Getting recommendations from fellow kava tea drinkers is one of the best ways to pick a supplier.

Kava tea has existed for thousands of years. In this period, it has offered drinkers a relaxing, calming effect. It has helped many enjoy a sound sleep when before they had trouble falling asleep. Kava has even given introverts the confidence to be more social.

So, is kava safe? The answer is yes. Your kava experience can be safe and enjoyable. If you drink kava tea that is purchased from an honorable supplier, without mixing it with any alcohol or drugs, you will experience the true positive effects it offers.

What is Micronized Kava?

When you think “micronized”, you may think it means tiny or minute. And you are on the right track. Micronized means a product has been broken down into small, fine particles. Micronized kava, then, means kava broken down into small, tiny pieces. So fine that it is more often considered to be a powder, a ready-mix type of product. Meaning, you can simply stir it into the beverage of your choice and drink.

Learning the history and makeup of micronized kava can help you make a good decision as to whether you want to purchase kava in this form.

Origin of Micronized Kava

Kava has been used for centuries. This has been great in terms of measuring any positive or negative effects of kava.

In the beginning, kava was created by crushing or pounding the root of the piper methysticum plant. The pounded root was then mixed with spit or water and strained into a separate bowl. The strained mixture is what is consumed.

In more modern times, so that people around the world can enjoy kava, it has been further processed to preserve its quality.

Freshly harvested kava roots retain their effectiveness for only about three or four days. This makes it hard for people around the world to access quality samples. Therefore, this changed the processing method.

Now, kava root is dried, then ground into powder form that can be shipped around the world while keeping quality at the forefront.

3 Components of Micronized Kava

Even when kava is ground into a fine, micronized powder, there are components that can be easily seen and distinguished. The components are mostly seen in medium ground kava but can also be found in micronized kava.

All positive effects of kava come from the roots of the plant, not the stems or leaves.

  • One component is the root flesh. This is soft material from the plant. Typically, it is in a powder form.
  • Another component is the skin of the root. The skin of the root is darker in color are not as noticeable before you mix the powder with water. But once mixed, the darker skin will become more evident.
  • A third component is makas, which some users choose to remove from their powder mix.

What Are Makas?

Makas are hard fibers. For a few people, drinking these hard fibers can cause an upset stomach. Not everyone is affected by makas but those who are, take an extra step in the micronization process of kava to make sure they are removed.

Makas can be easily seen in the ground powder. They are tiny clumps of fibers. With the right kava strainer, they can be easily removed.

Some have reported that when they remove makas from their powder, there is a considerable difference in the weight of the powder. The weight can be almost cut in half in some instances.

Fortunately, you do not have to worry about removing makas yourself. That’s because you can purchase makas-free micronized kava. The work has been done for you so that all you must do is mix with your beverage and enjoy.

How Makas are Removed

What Is Micronized Kava | Root of Happiness

Makas can be removed. You can choose to remove the makas in the beginning, right after harvesting the kava root. Or, you can remove the makas once the kava roots have been made into a powder and dried.

When makas are removed soon after the root is harvested, it is easier to get most of the makas out without wasting any other parts. Removing makas during harvest also makes it easier to continue processing kava into micronized kava.

While this may be the best way to remove makas, it is not very cost efficient due to the extra labor involved.

Another way to remove makas from kava involves separating the makas from the dried powder that includes the root skin and flesh. This can usually only be done once the kava is in powder form. It is a more difficult way of removing makas.

With this method, it is almost impossible to eliminate all the makas. But the more makas you can remove, the better the kava.

Some claim the makas-free micronized kava, rather than the simple micronized kava, is more potent. This may be due to the kavalactones within the components of the kava root.

Kavalactones in the Components

Each component (root flesh, skin, makas) contains kavalactones. It is kavalactones that create the relaxing and calming effects offered by drinking kava. There are many kavalactones, creating hundreds of combinations that each create their own level of potency.

It has been reported that the skin of the kava root has the highest kavalactones, followed by the flesh. Makas have the least amount of kavalactones among these three components.

The affects you feel from drinking kava tea will give you an idea of its quality. There are other ways to determine quality of the kava you purchased.

Determine Quality

One way to determine the quality of your micronized kava is to check for makas. If you look into your mixture and notice hard bits or flakes of makas floating on the top, your micronized kava is said to be of less quality.

If you have ever experienced drinking fresh kava, meaning straight from the ground to a mixture, then you have experienced the best quality kava. You would have tried it in the South Pacific where it is grown. Once you know the original taste and texture of kava, you can compare all processed versions of kava to the original.

The kava you purchase that is most like the original kava you drank is the one with the most quality.

These facts about micronized kava almost make it seem like we are discussing instant kava. There are many similarities. With both you can mix in your beverage and drink.

Instant kava is a bit more refined, however.

With instant kava, micronizing is taken to the next level, making the kava even smoother, with less texture and particles when the drink is prepared.

Micronized kava may cost a little more than other types of kava powders but it is worth the money. The extra cost represents the extra time and labor put into processing the kava so that it is more enjoyable and easier to use.

If you want to give micronized kava a try, make sure you purchase from a reputable supplier, one who sells micronized varieties from only quality kava. Then drink and enjoy the benefits.

The Differences Between Kava and Alcohol

People constantly compare kava and alcohol. Many people believe the kava myth that they are very closely related. However, there are several differences between kava and alcohol.

The differences range from how the two substances are created, prepared and consumed. Other differences include the effects after drinking them and addictive qualities.

Below, we discuss the differences between kava and alcohol in detail.

How They Began

Kava’s history begins in the South Pacific Islands. For over 3,000 years, it has been a part of the culture, used daily by some of the native islanders.

Kava was originally used before, during and after important ceremonies and rituals. It was used to welcome leaders from other villages. It was also used to celebrate weddings, funerals and at the start of important meetings.

Over time, kava’s use has modernized and is often consumed as a social drink.

Alcohol, or fermented grains and fruits, has been around for thousands of years also. In the beginning, its use was encouraged in both medicinal and recreational areas. In more recent years, however, people noticed alcohol could have a negative impact on a person’s life.

It was banned altogether in the 1920s. Although banned, it was still widely used by many people. Since the prohibition of alcohol ended, alcohol has remained a popular staple around the world.

How They are Prepared

Kava is taken directly from the root of the piper methysticum plant. Farmers dig the root and then pound the root into a powder. The powder is mixed with water and drank. Making kava is an uncomplicated process.

Alcohol is created by putting grains, fruits or vegetables through a fermentation process. This process converts sugars to a chemical called ethanol. Alcohol is also distilled to add flavor.

How They Taste

This is one of the biggest differences between kava and alcohol - the taste.

Many believe that kava has a muddy, earthen flavor. That makes sense considering you prepare kava shortly after digging it up from the ground. Other claim kava has a bitter taste. While not many people state kava tastes great, there are ways to flavor the drink or mix it with other drinks to improve its taste.

Alcohol has many tastes that can range from fruits to strong bitter flavoring. Alcohol is usually an acquired taste and can be based on genetics. Most people prefer one flavor over another. Because alcohol is a chemical made by man, it can be adapted for any flavor.

How They Are Consumed

Kava, once in powder form, is mixed with water, strained and then consumed directly from the bowl or cup holding the strained mixture. Kava also comes in supplement form. Because it is a natural plant, it has an expiration date that tells you when it is best for use.

Manufacturers store alcohol in bottles, kegs and cans. Individuals typically purchase wine, beer and whiskey at a store that has a variety of stored spirits. Alcohol can sit on a shelf in its liquid form for a prolonged period. This may be due to preservatives added to the alcohol.

People can consume both kava and alcohol by drinking it. However, kava has many more options for consumption than alcohol does.

Kava and alcohol are similar in that people can purchase them at bars that serve their drink of choice. Kava bars are becoming more and more popular today. They offer many choices for customers, and many people visit kava bars to socialize and unwind. Similar to kava bars, the same is true for drinking establishments that serve alcohol.

How Much is Consumed

Kava typically only requires one full drink of kava. The effects may last for several hours at a time. Even if you were to consume additional kava, the effects would be the same, unlike alcohol.

If you continue drinking alcohol after you initially have the happy buzz often associated with drinking a small amount of alcohol, you will notice different effects. The more alcohol you drink, the worse you think, feel and act.

How much alcohol you consume should be based on safe guidelines.

How They Affect You

The biggest difference between kava and alcohol is the way that affects you.

Kava’s effects are very calming and relaxing. Users state they notice tension easing and stressful thoughts fading away. They also report feeling happy and in a good mood, ready to socialize and offer good will towards others.

Not many people report any negative effects of kava. They do report having mental clarity no matter how much kava they drink.

Kava does not produce day after effects, meaning there is no "hangover". People claim they wake up the day after drinking kava feeling the same as they did before they drank kava.

Alcohol, on the other hand has more damaging effects. It alters the brain, disturbs judgment and thinking, hampers speech and other body movements. Alcohol clouds the mind and makes it hard for a person to make good decisions.

When substantial amounts are consumed in a brief period, it can lead to alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol has been associated with memory loss because of its effects on the hippocampus region in the brain. It dehydrates the body, which may be one of the reasons for hangovers the day after drinking.

A hangover can include anything from a mild headache to nausea and vomiting.

Addictive Qualities

Kava has no known addictive qualities. People have been drinking kava for centuries and report they do not feel an overwhelming desire to use kava.

Even more, they report no withdrawal symptoms when they quit using kava.

Withdrawal symptoms felt by a regular drinker of alcohol can be severe. The body can react in a way that produces seizures. Because your body becomes dependent on alcohol, it is dangerous to try and quit using alcohol on your own.

An addict may experience shaking hands and the inability to eat due to the damage excessive alcohol use can do to the stomach, esophagus and the liver.

Long-term use of alcohol abuse can damage relationships between you and your family and friends. It can also cause a loss of job, legal problems and irreversible brain damage.

There are 15 million Americans suffering from alcohol addiction. Even worse, approximately 40 percent of all deaths related to car accidents involve alcohol.

As you can see, there are many more differences than similarities between kava and alcohol. For thousands of years, they have held different meanings for varying cultures. It is undeniable that kava is healthier, with greater benefits and no link to negative side effects or addiction.

What Are the Side Effects of Kava?

Kava is a popular topic these days. There is conflicting information available about how to drink kava tea and the effects of kava. One reason may be a result of people using the wrong type of kava.

Kava is extracted from the root of the piper methysticum plant. This type of kava produces effects that have been described as calming and reduces tension.

The farmers who harvest noble kava know the roots produce positive effects. However, there are some farmers who care less about quality and more about quantity. These farmers will use the leaves and stems of the plant to make quick products.

Fortunately, the more you research kava, the more knowledgeable you will be when making a purchase.

Because you can make the distinction between the two kavas, you can quickly determine which type of tea you are drinking. Make sure you are completely understand which type of kava is best for you, and ensure you know which type you are buying.

How Does Kava Work?

Farmers extract strands of kava root that contain kavalactones. There are many different kavalactones. When each is combined with another kavalactone, it gives the kava specific effect.

Kavalactones are the active ingredients of kava. Depending on the combination used, the effects of kava will vary in strength.

Because kava is such a social drink, some report their best experiences are when they are with friends.

What Are the Effects of Kava on the Mind?

Kava has been compared to alcohol when it comes to several of its effects. That is, except when it comes to the effects of kava on the mind.

Alcohol alters the mind. It impairs judgment and can make your thinking unclear. When you drink kava, however, you maintain mental clarity.

Happy Mood

Drinking kava tea has been used for around 3,000 years before, during and after ceremonies and rituals. It is a very social drink. The reason is that it puts you in a happy and friendly mood. Before a ceremony, villagers in the South Pacific would drink kava to promote good will towards one another.

This is not the same happy mood some experience with alcohol. With alcohol, your entire personality can change, for better or worse. Also, when drinking alcohol, you must continually drink it for hours to maintain that happy mood.

Kava’s effects last for several hours even with only a small amount of tea consumed.

There are also times when consuming alcohol that a positive mood quickly turns to a negative, angry mood. Bar fights are a fitting example of this. One minute everyone is friendly, laughing and having an enjoyable time.

With one foul word or gesture, those same people are fist fighting and wanting to hurt each other.

This does not happen when drinking kava tea. Visit any kava bar and you will not see this negative behavior. Everyone at the kava bar remains pleasant and friendly, throughout their entire visit.

Alcohol gives you energetic, excitable vibes that can turn sour. Kava gives you calming, pleasing vibes that are rarely changed. Many describe kava as making them feel euphoric, accompanied by relaxation.

Relaxation

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Kavain is the compound associated with the relaxing effects caused by kava. After drinking kava tea, you will start to feel the tension in your muscles fade away. You will feel calm, but not so much that you cannot function.

You will not be overwhelmed with sedation. Kava does not cause you to lose the ability to walk and talk. It may slow you down a little bit, but you remain fully functional. While it is not recommended you drive while drinking kava, you can still do ordinary tasks.

Suppresses Appetite

Many users report their appetite is suppressed while experiencing the effects of kava. This may be because the feel-good chemicals in the brain are activated by the kavalactones. Kava can alter activity in the hypothalamus region of the brain, the part of the brain that controls hunger.

Appetite suppression is most common in new kava drinkers. It is known to stabilize the more you drink kava.

Restful Sleep

Another effect of kava is that of restful sleep. Kava’s calming and relaxing qualities allow you to have a deep sleep without interfering with the REM sleep that is so important.

The reasons you may not be able to sleep can include worry, restlessness and racing thoughts. Kava helps you sleep by reducing the tensions that typically keep you awake. It makes you just calm enough to fall into a deep sleep, but not so much you are overly sedated. Your brain still functions properly.

Mental Clarity

Kava seems complicated to some because they can’t understand how kava can make you feel relaxed and calm while also allowing you to remain mentally clear. This is exactly what kava does, however.

Substances like alcohol, opiates or even marijuana can make you feel relaxed at times also. But each of them clouds your mental abilities. They alter the brain, slows your thinking and hinders judgments.

Kava does just the opposite, leaving you feeling very mentally aware.

Effects of kava can vary from person to person. You may even notice different effects each time you use it.

It may take you a few times of drinking kava to figure out the right dose to give you the effects you desire. Some report they feel very little during the first few times they drink kava. Reverse tolerance is the reason.

Reverse tolerance simply means you experience no effects until there is a buildup of kavalactones in your system. Once there is a buildup, you will start to feel the full effects of kava.

Overall, drinking kava tea is safe and has very positive side effects and is enjoyed by many. It can be enjoyed by you as well. Make sure you buy from reputable suppliers and only get the best kava available. Then you can ensure your effects will be pleasurable.

Samoan Culture and Kava: Using the Tanoa and Fue

Samoa is a group of islands in the South Pacific. Kava is called “ava” in the their culture, which varies from other islands in the Pacific Islands. Kava has immense importance in Samoan culture and is consumed at most celebrations.

It is also consumed by leaders of the communities. In more recent times the effects of kava can be experienced by all villagers, but historically kava was reserved for a select few. For example, centuries ago, specific leaders would reserve kava for welcoming dignitaries, royalty and others of significant importance.

It would have been considered a great honor to be asked to attend a kava ceremony. Drinking kava in Samoan culture has spiritual meaning. The compounds within kava allow participants to feel calm and relaxed while also having a clear mind.

This may be one reason the people of Samoa are often called “the happy people”.

Below the Fa’a Samoa, or the Samoan way, and its use of kava is discussed in more detail.

Drinking Kava in Samoa

The kava used in Samoan culture and celebrations is of the greatest quality. Kava is extracted from the root of the piper methysticum plant that is found throughout the island.

Drinking kava in Samoa usually precedes and important event or celebration. It is often accompanied by chants and dancing among those at the event. These ceremonies can be to celebrate and welcome a visiting tribe, or for a wedding or even a funeral.

The tools used in processing and drinking kava are just as important in the culture as kava itself.

Each attendee will drink kava, typically using a coconut shell to scoop their kava from a Samoan Tanoa.

What is a Samoan Tanoa?

The kava drinking bowl is just as old as the Samoan culture. It dates to Samoan beginnings. A tanoa fai’ava means a kava drinking bowl. In its earliest creation, the tanoa had legs holding up a rimmed bowl. This bowl is where the kava roots were mixed with water to create the kava tea.

The bowl traditionally was made from a variety of hardwoods. In the earlier years, the bowls had only four legs with a straighter bowl that has its edges pointing upward. The bowl can vary in size from twelve to thirty inches.

They are not that deep, however. Usually they are only a few inches deep, and no more than six inches.

In more recent years, the Samoans have added more legs to the bowl.

Some reports say they did this for the purpose of selling them to tourists. At the time, tourists were supposedly charged by the number of legs. The addition of legs meant the shape of the bowl had to change also. It eventually became narrower and could hold more ava.

The bowls used by natives were often very plain, while the ones made for tourists were colorful and ornate.

What is a Samoan Fu’e?

Fly whisks, or fu’e, are used by chiefs and help to show their leadership. Fu’e are often made from coconut fibers or horse hair. They are braided and connected to a wooden handle.

Most high-ranking chiefs would hold the fu’e when they were speaking to the community. Throughout history hand held objects have been associated with authority.

Etiquette and Order

Samoan Culture and Kava: the Tanoa and Fu'e | Root of Happiness   Samoan Kava Bowl

A taupou, usually a female and in the ancient times, a virgin female, will prepare the kava for the villagers to drink. Behind the taupou is sometimes a male guardian called the manaia.

Ceremonies in Samoan culture start with welcoming words and the mixing of kava tea. The chief of the village is usually the host. Once the ceremony has begun, you are not allowed to speak out or move around. Showing respect to their traditions is expected.

An order is often followed in Samoa when drinking kava. Each person may have their own seat during an ava ceremony. For instance, talking chiefs sit in the front and hosts and guests to the sides. The ava mixer sits in the back with the tanoa and fu’e.

The sui’ava is the person who adds the water to the mixing bowl and sits to the right of the mixer. The Tufau sits behind the mixer and catches the strainer. He or she then shakes out any loose fibers and tosses the strainer back to the mixer.

The first person to receive kava is the chief leader of the visiting tribe, followed by the chief of the host tribe. The leading orators of each tribe are then served, with the visiting orator drinking kava before the host orator.

A kava divider will then call out names of guests to drink kava next. A kava distributor will take the kava to each person who is called.

Opening and Closing Words

The chief orator will welcome everyone and in the beginning, will call out “Ia Minuia”, meaning be happy. He may also include other opening statements, welcoming everyone. He will then take a drink and throw the rest of the kava over his shoulder.

The audience then says back, “Soifua”, meaning may you live. The audience also claps their hands in a slow, loud manner.

After everyone has been served, the orator will announce if there is more kava available to drink. Once all the kava has been consumed, a feast is served and enjoyed by all.

The Samoan kava culture has changed over the years, but not nearly as much as other, more modernized, islands. Keeping the culture true to its origins is important for the inhabitants.

If you are interested in trying kava but can’t take a trip to Samoa or the South Pacific, you can still enjoy the relaxing drink in a variety of ways. Kava can be purchased through alternative stores and online kava certified shops.

You can also visit a nearby kava bar. Kava bars are popping up all over the world, even in the South Pacific Islands. At a kava bar, you can ensure you are getting the proper amount of kava with each order.

Kava may be steeped in Samoan cultural traditions. Those traditions can be observed even in these modern times. Respect the tools, like tanoa and fu’e, used to create kava. Understand the importance of etiquette followed by Samoans. But also enjoy drinking kava tea.

What is Reverse Tolerance of Kava?

Why do some people use kava and not feel a thing, while others drink it once and experience all its benefits? How do two people drink the same amount of beer but only one of them gets drunk? Or, some people can take two aspirin for pain while others need to take six. This mystery has a lot to do with tolerance and reverse tolerance.

Understanding these will help you understand why effects differ among people, no matter what the substance.

The amount of substances we take depends on how much of the substance we need to achieve desired results. Each person is different. How soon the substances work in your body will be different than others. It will be based on your body chemistry, your metabolism and many other physical factors.

What is Tolerance?

A technical definition of tolerance is given by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Tolerance is most often associated with substance abuse, alcohol and drugs.

They report tolerance is when your body is no longer responding to a drug or substance you are taking. It can also mean that to achieve a desired effect, you need more and more of the substance to do so.

It is almost like your body has built up an immunity to the product. To feel the effects of the product, you must increase the amount you use.

Tolerance is rarely associated with kava. Most users of kava agree they do not need to drink more kava over time to feel relaxed. The same amount of kava offers them a clam feeling and eases their tensions each time they use it.

There are three broad types of tolerance:

  • Acute tolerance is temporary and happens because a person is exposed to a high amount of a substance in a short amount of time.
  • Chronic tolerance happens because a person is exposed to a substance over a lengthy period.
  • Learned tolerance means people under the influence can function and complete tasks successfully when necessary and then go right back to being intoxicated.

There are specific types of clinical tolerances within the field of psychology.

Clinical Types of Tolerance

Clinical tolerances refer mostly to how a person reacts to chemical substances. In this reference, substances can be anything from alcohol to opioids.

Behavioral tolerance is quite fascinating. A person using chemical substances, when high, can immediately appear not high under certain stressful situations. A good example of this involves teens who smoke marijuana.

They smoke the drug and do all the things associated with being high. They laugh for no reason; their speech is changed and they are relatively unmotivated. However, when they encounter their parents, they immediately “straighten up” and can appear sober until the threat of being caught is gone.

Dispositional tolerance is when the body metabolizes a substance too quickly. When this happens, you will need more and more of the substance just to keep up with the metabolic process of your body.

Pharmacodynamic tolerance is when the brain goes on defense. The brain uses whatever it can, from nerve cells to receptor sites, to desensitize itself to the substance being ingested.

Selective tolerance is like what people call selective listening. Meaning, you hear what you want to hear and block out the rest. With selective tolerance, the brain selects which parts of the body will be effected by a substance and which will not.

However, one of the most interesting types of tolerance is reverse tolerance, or sometimes called inverse tolerance.

What is Reverse Tolerance?

Reverse tolerance, when discussed in terms of drug or alcohol use, can mean you need less of the substance to feel the effects. For example, it may normally take you a case of beer to get drunk. If you start to notice over time that it is taking you only half a case, or maybe a six pack to get drunk, you are experiencing reverse tolerance.

With alcohol and drug related substances, reverse tolerance means you need less of something to feel the same effects.

This is totally different than with kava, however.

Reverse Tolerance and Kava

Reverse tolerance with kava can mean a person drinking kava may not feel its effects at all when first using it.

You could even go weeks without feeling any effects of kava. Then one day, you drink your kava, and notice a difference, a good difference.

Why Does It Happen With Kava?

Reports say a body needs to build up kavalactones before it can receive the full potential of kava. Kavalactones are the chemical compounds that give kava its effects.

Kavalactones are directly linked to how a person feels after drinking kava, usually very calm and relaxed. There are numerous kavalactones and they combine to give you diverse levels of feeling good.

The compound combinations in kava can vary from sedated to taking the edge off your tensions. 

Because of this, many first time users feel reverse tolerance when they try kava and do not feel the desired effects. 

How Long Does Reverse Tolerance Last?

Reverse tolerance lengths will vary from person to person, just as kava’s effects will vary. It is based on how much kava you drink each day. It will also depend on your body metabolism, brain chemistry and much more.

The good news is that there is no risk of overdosing on kava. Therefore, you can increase your dose a little at a time during the first few weeks of using kava. Eventually you will start to feel the effects.

Kava drinking has long been associated with trial and error for first time users. There is no “one dose fits all” with kava. You will have to experiment to find the right amount for your body.

Is It Dangerous?

With kava, the answer is no, it is not dangerous. This is because noble kava does not create problems for other parts of the body. There isn't a way to be addicted to kava.  It is actually helping your body get used to kava over time rather than making you feel all the effects at once.

With alcohol and other chemical substances, yes, it can be dangerous. The reason is because your liver is no longer processing the substances properly. Meaning, there may be a backup of the alcohol or drug in your system.

So, when you ingest your substance of choice, reverse tolerance kicks in. Even just a small amount of the substance reacts with the backup from your liver and gets you drunk or high many times faster than anticipated.

The use or over-use of any man-made substance can be dangerous. Millions of people die from alcohol and drug abuse each year.

Plants such as piper methysticum, in which the roots are used to create kava, have never been found to be dangerous. For centuries, there are no determined deaths due to kava.

You can see why the use of kava is recommended over alcohol and other chemical substances. Even if you must deal with reverse tolerance in the beginning, the effort is worth the wait.

Traditional Kava Preparation and Kava Ceremonies

Oceana, the South Pacific Islands, is an almost magical place on this Earth. It is exotic and beautiful. Just visualizing the islands within this region offers a calming feeling. Oceana is comprised of three main regions, all with distinct cultural histories. Immersed in each region’s culture is the use of kava kava or often called just kava. Each area has their own traditions surrounding the use of kava. These traditions include both the kava preparation and the ceremonial uses.

It has been stated that kava was domesticated to these parts of the worlds around three thousand years ago. Understanding the regions that make up Oceana is a fantastic way to learn why kava is such an important aspect of the area.

Regions of Oceana

Melanesia is a region that is comprised of Fiji, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Micronesia includes the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Palau.

Polynesia is a region with French Polynesia, Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Tuamotu Archipelago, and the Tubuai Islands.

Kava in Each Region

In the Melanesian culture, you may find locals sipping kava while sitting around a fire, talking of their Gods and mythical events and legends. In Melanesia, kava is said to give knowledge to humans.

Kava in the Micronesian history has been used to seal agreements such as marriage or business.

It is also used in Micronesia to celebrate funerals, to bless visitors, and to ask for forgiveness. It was originally used only by leaders within the community. Now, every member of the community can partake.

In the Polynesian region, spirits are thought to live on in animals and plants. This includes the plant piper methysticum, or kava.

Early in Polynesian history, only those of royal ancestry could drink kava and talk to the spirits.  It was used primarily in ceremonies and rituals. But over time, it has been used by everyone who wishes to enjoy its relaxing effects, and in any setting.

Harvesting Kava

The older the kava plant, the better affects you will experience. Mature kava plants are between five and ten years old.

When seeking the best quality kava, you will find it has been harvested from only the root of the plant. The stems, shoots and leaves are never used in kava preparation.

While it is possible to grow it yourself in a greenhouse, it is much easier to purchase kava from reputable suppliers. They acquire kava from South Pacific farmers who are qualified to source directly from the kava root. Farmers can easily sort noble kava, which is the best.

Because kava root does not last long once harvested, it is typically pressed into a powder form that can be dried and transported over great distances. This makes it accessible to people around the world.

Kava Preparation

Traditionally, kava root has been chewed, some cultures claim by female virgins while other regions claim children did the chewing. Whether female virgins or children, the root was chewed and then spit out into a cloth.

Kava root has also been pounded or grinded into a pulp. However, chewing produces the strongest effect due to the release of kavalactones. These are the chemical compounds that determine strength.

If grinding was chosen, it was done by hand and pressed against a hard substance. For some, a block of coral would be used.

The wet mixture was then strained. The liquid that was strained was then consumed.

The kava name varies throughout the regions. For example, in Hawaii, it is called awa. In Samoa, it is called ava. In Fiji, yaqona. And although the names may vary, the traditional kava preparation techniques are quite similar.

Today, kava preparation is much simpler. Once you find quality kava powder, mix the powder in water. Do not use hot water since this delineates the effects. After mixing the powder in water, pour the mixture through a strainer into a clean bowl. Drink the liquid left in the bowl.

Kava Ceremonies

The traditional use of kava before, during and after ceremonies is varied, although all are with immense value. Kava has been used to welcome new guests or say goodbye to others. It has also been used to start a celebration, such as a wedding.

It has been noted that many in the Pacific drank kava at dusk, before their evening meal.

Kava, due to its calming effects and tendency to make you feel happy, was used to start rituals involving business deals or to send workers off to complete projects. For example, kava was often used to wish blessings on fisherman as they went to hunt and gather.

At one time, the elders of the community would drink it to reach out to their ancestors for spiritual world for guidance.

Ceremonies such as the birth of a child and mending friendships involved drinking kava. It was a very political drink, offering conclusions to many situations, both positive and negative. Kava ceremonies were included in a variety of different celebrations.

Each region may have their own traditional, ancient chants that help facilitate the beginning or ending of a ceremony. This adds to the rich cultural history of the kava plant, making it more popular today.

Kava Moving Forward

Many Islanders continue to use and prepare the Kava traditionally. Throughout the regions, people drink kava in social settings and in private.

Kava’s popularity is increasing around the world. With the ability to export kava in the forms of capsules, powders, tinctures and more. Kava bars are making it even more accessible.

Across the nation, people are learning about the traditions, uses and benefits of kava.

For thousands of years, kava has been consumed and enjoyed by countless numbers of people. Among these, there have been relatively few complaints. That is an amazing record for any product.

This means that out of the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people drinking kava, only a handful had a negative experience that may have actually been a reaction to something other than the kava.

There are very few products in today’s time that can claim comparable results.

Kava’s long-term history of use offers all of us proof that it is a safe, natural way to ease tensions, relax and enjoy being with our peers. It also offers us an alternative to alcohol and other mind-altering substances, one that allows us to improve our mood without hindering our mental clarity.

For these reasons, we should continue to use kava and pass along its traditions, both in kava preparation and at kava ceremonies where people gather in celebration.

Is Kava Addictive?

Some people compare kava to addictive substances because it can be mind-altering. However, they are not the same. Kava alters your mind in a positive way, for a brief period. Kava has been used for centuries and has been studied and tested. Kava has been determined to be safe. However, many people still ask: is kava addictive?

Kava has not been found to be addictive among users. Even those who take kava daily report that at times when they do stop using it, they do not experience withdrawal symptoms. Meaning, they do not have symptoms that make them feel they need to continue using kava.

We'll discuss some of these withdrawal symptoms in further detail below. First, it is important to determine what constitutes addiction.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is affecting millions of people around the world. Some are addicted to prescriptions medications, others to alcohol. Even more people are addicted to tobacco, sugar and caffeine, which don’t seem as dangerous as drugs and alcohol. However, over time, they can be very harmful.

You can become addicted to anything, from tobacco to gambling. Some even find themselves addicted to what are normally considered positive actions. For instance, there are many people addicted to exercise.

While exercise is great, taking it to the extreme and allowing it to control your lifestyle can be damaging. If your thoughts and actions become consumed with something and you are unable to stop yourself from participating in this behavior, you most likely have an addiction.

To be an addict, your body has become habituated to a lifestyle where a substance or activity is top priority due to the high or feeling of euphoria associated with it. This feeling is fleeting, however, and is rarely felt again after the first time.

There are specific traits of addiction that are typically found among all users.

Characteristics of Addiction

Addiction arises from multiple substances such as alcohol and tobacco, but is kava addictive as well?

Characteristics of addiction include not being able to quit using a substance no matter how bad you want to stop. You will also continue to use the substance despite the negative consequences that arise because of your use. Addiction can arise from multiple substances such as alcohol and tobacco, but is kava addictive as well?

Negative consequences can include arrests and jail sentences, loss of family and friends who no longer want to be around you, and loss of employment. Some have even lost custody of their children due to their addiction.

Addiction can even cause you to steal from others, even loved ones, to get money to supply your habit. Addiction can make it easy to lie to the people who care about you. Not only will you lie, you will isolate yourself from family and friends.

It can also turn your brain from healthy to constantly focusing on one thing, getting more substances that make you feel good.

Addiction and the Brain

Addiction in the Brain | Root of Happiness

We know chemicals in drugs, alcohol, and tobacco can cause addiction, but is kava addictive? Fortunately, kava stimulates brain chemicals that allow you to feel happy but without any risk of addiction.

Most substances associated with addiction have a direct link with the brain. Upon first use, the substances interact with the feel-good chemicals in the brain, such as GABA, dopamine or serotonin. It causes these chemicals to feel ten times better than what they normally feel.

For example, on a scale of one to ten, a normal brain may feel like a 4. When you first take a drink of alcohol or use opiates for the first time, your brain feels like a 10. It makes sense as to why your brain makes you crave the substance you used. It wants to feel like a 10 again, and again, and again.

When the brain realizes you are not going to use these substances again, it makes you feel like you need them and can’t live without them. That is when cravings and withdrawal symptoms appear.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms make it hard for you to quit using your substance of choice. Someone experiencing withdrawal associated with alcohol and drugs may have sweating, nausea, vomiting, and other flu like symptoms.

Kava has not been associated with any withdrawal symptoms. Its effects last only a few hours, unlike that of alcohol or drugs.

When you stop taking alcohol or drugs, you can begin to crave the substances. This is your brain telling you that you need more.

With kava, you do not experience these cravings.

Those who have been addictive to serious drugs or alcohol are now using kava to help them stop taking the more dangerous substances. They claim kava is a great anti-craving agent, making it easier for them overcome their addiction safely and effectively.

Overdose

To overdose means to take too much of a substance. An overdose of drugs or alcohol can have adverse reactions, from the inability to function properly to becoming unconscious to death.

An overdose on kava, however, just increases the sedation you feel, still lasting only a few hours. There is no imminent danger or severe negative consequences associated with drinking too much kava.

Tolerance

Most addictive substances have a tolerance level associated with them. Meaning, after using them for a period, your body needs more and more of the substance to get the same effects. For example, when a person drinks alcohol, in the beginning, they may get drunk on two beers.

Over time, however, they will need to increase the number of beers they drink to get drunk.

This applies to all addictive substances, including caffeine, sugar and tobacco.

Kava is excluded from this group. In fact, kava has a reverse tolerance effect. This means when someone first starts taking kava, it can take several uses before you even feel its effects.

One Final Thought

So, is kava addictive? The answer is no.

An important fact to remember when comparing kava to addicting substances surrounds the origins and process by which each are made. Alcohol is made using hops. Drugs such as opiates derive from the poppy plant.

Both alcohol and drugs go through a lot of processing that includes additives made by man.

Kava, on the other hand, derives from the piper methysticum plant. The only processing that takes places is when the root of the plant is pounded to extract the best noble kava strands. Within two or three simple steps you have an alternative drink that makes you feel relaxed and happy. Be sure to follow these kava safety tips to enjoy kava to it's fullest. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your kava without having to ask yourself: is kava addictive?

How to Prepare Kava

Are you ready to start drinking kava? You probably have heard by now that drinking kava helps you feel calm and relaxed. It also gives you a happy outlook towards others and about life in general. It does all of this without the risk of addiction or negative side effects. If you are ready to try kava, you may have found yourself wondering how to prepare kava.

There are several steps to preparing kava the right way for the best results. As you will read, preparing kava has advanced in more recent years. We'll explore how to prepare kava the traditional way, and through modern day techniques.

How to Prepare Kava Traditionally

Back in the day, those who made kava followed strict guidelines. Female virgins were given the task of chewing the root of the kava plant into a pulp. They would then spit it onto a leaf and pour water over the leaf and pulp.

The liquid that was strained through the leaf is what the South Pacific Islanders would drink. This process took place before rituals and ceremonies. It was used to make everyone in attendance feel relaxed and loving towards one another.

This was one step used to ensure everyone enjoyed the celebration.

Fortunately, the kava making process has been modernized.

Modern Ways of Preparing Kava

More recent processing makes kava accessible on a larger scale. Not to mention you don’t have to drink the germs of the person chewing and spitting.

Today, farmers harvest kava root from the plant known as piper methysticum. They make sure to separate noble kava from ignoble kava. Noble kava is the strains that are of the best quality. These strains offer the best effects.

Once the noble kava has been sourced, the farmers use tools to pound and grind the root into powder form. The powder form is then made into easy to use products.

Kava Products

Kava can be purchased by quality suppliers around the world. The easiest use and preparation of kava is in supplement form. The kava powder fills clear capsules and you simply swallow the capsules when ready to experience the effects.

Some buyers purchase kava in the form of a paste or gel. Others opt for kava in candies or tinctures.

The most popular and often called the most effective way to prepare kava is in a tea for drinking. It can be purchased in traditional grind, micronized or instant formulas.

Many people are unsure how to prepare kava, and it's recommended that they follow all directions, especially when it comes to the dosage.

Tools and Ingredients

Like any other recipe, you need to first make sure you have the right tools to complete the process. The tools needed for making kava include a good mesh strainer, one that will not let fibers or powders pass through it, only the liquid.

There are many options for strainers, from socks to specialty ones made just for use with kava.

You will need two bowls, one for the water in which you will immerse your mesh strainer filled with kava. The other bowl is for collecting the strained liquid.

Water will be needed to mix with the fibers or powder. The temperature of the water is an essential part. If the water is too hot, your kava drink will lose important kavalactones. Also, hot water can make the taste of the kava worse.

Kavalactones are what make kava produce desired effects when ingested. Getting the temperature of the water right can ensure you get the best results.

Finally, you need your choice of kava. You can choose traditional grind kava for your recipe. This type is more fibrous and will need to be kneaded while in the mesh strainer. Kneading the kava will force the kavalactones through the strainer and into the liquid.

Kavalactones are not typically water soluble.

If you don’t want to use traditional kava, you can purchase micronized or instant kava. All the processing of the powder has been prepared for you. All you must do is mix and drink.

How to Prepare Kava Beverages Today

Now that you have the tools necessary to make your kava drink, it is time to prepare your beverage.

If you are preparing traditional kava, take the recommended amount of kava, usually two to three tablespoons, and put it in your mesh strainer. Immerse the mesh strainer in your bowl of water and knead the mixture with your fingers.

You will need to knead for about fifteen minutes, pressing hard to make sure the powder is mixing with the water.

A liquid should drain from the mesh bag into a bowl or cup. This liquid is what you will drink. You may also repeat this process for what is called a second washing.

If you are preparing instant or micronized kava, simply pour the recommended dose into a cup filled with water, stir well and drink.

Alternative Add-ins

There are noble versions of kava that have a mild, nice flavor. Other versions are not so tasty.

You may find the taste of your kava drink to be less desirable than you imagined. If this is the case, do not worry. There are alternative ways to prepare kava so that it has a better taste. There are many different kava recipes to try to improve the taste of your kava drinks.

Some users suggest mixing the kava powder with organic milk. Others claim the more fat in the milk, the better the taste. Therefore, they recommend using coconut or almond milk.

Protein powders are often used to make kava drinks by bodybuilders and other athletes.

Chasing your kava drink with lemons, limes, oranges or another citrus fruit can also make drinking kava more pleasant.

You may also want to try this kava brew recipe.

Drink mixes may be frowned upon by natives who follow the rules of ancient kava drinking. But in modern times, it has become more accepted.

The one thing you do not want to mix with kava is alcohol.

Now that your kava beverage is made, it is time to enjoy its benefits. Recommendations for consuming kava include drinking it quickly, as if you were taking a shot of whiskey.

Because kava makes you feel calm, relaxed and happy, it is a great drink for social activities.

The more you practice making kava, the better you will get. Before long, you will know the exact dose that tastes good and relaxes you.

You will soon discover that kava is a fantastic way to ease your tension and promote a positive well-being. You can also have fun figuring out how to prepare kava to fit your style and taste.

The Differences Between Kava and Kratom

There is a lot of buzz recently about the amazing benefits of kava. This may be why some companies are trying to capitalize on this buzz by marketing products like kratom. Misleading information is given to buyers, causing them to think there is a big similarity between kava and kratom.

Kava and kratom are not similar. To be fair, they do start with the same letter of the alphabet and they both produce stimulant or sedative reactions. But as far as geography of where it is grown, chemical makeup, biological effects, side effects and even how it is prepared and taken, there are more differences than similarities.

Difference in Geography

Kava, also known as Piper Methysticum, can be found in the Pacific Islands. It comes from the pepper family. Farmers then harvest the root. These skilled farmers then separate the noble kava, or that of exceptional quality, from ignoble kava, which is poor in quality.

This is important because only noble kava is legal for export.

Kratom, also known as Mytragyna Speciosa is found in Southeast Asia and is a member of the coffee family. While it is legal, the Drug Enforcement Agency is trying to place a ban on kratom due to its effects mimicking that of heroin and other mind-altering substances.

This difference in effects is due mostly to the chemical makeup of each product.

Difference in Chemical Makeup

Kratom has more than 40 compounds in its leaves. Some of these compounds can be as much as ten times stronger than morphine. The more compounds present, the more a person will feel its effects.

Kavalactones comprise the chemical makeup of kava. The concentrations of the kavalactones determine the potency of the product. The effects, however, are much more positive than those associated with kratom.

The different compounds between kava and kratom create astonishingly different effects.

Difference in Biological Effects

Kava works with the GABA receptors in the brain. It attaches to dopamine receptors and tells the brain to feel happy. Kratom, on the other hand, targets opioid receptors in the brain by utilizing serotonin and norepinephrine to make the brain feel happy.

Kratom has alkaloids that help block pain receptors and give the user an effect like using morphine, making the mind foggy and unclear.

Kava has kavalactones which offer a sedated feeling but without the loss of mental clarity. This is just one difference in the effects both kava and kratom have on the person drinking it.

Difference in Side Effects

Kratom Plant Leaves | Root of Happiness

Kratom can act as a stimulant and a sedative that lasts between sixty and ninety minutes. The alkaloids cause effects that can include hallucinations, sleeplessness, nausea, sweats, constipation, itching and even tremors.

You feel sedated and lack the ability to develop clear thoughts. Your speech is slurred and slowed. While you feel a euphoric high, it doesn’t last long. Once it wears off, you begin craving more.

Kratom, because it acts like an opiate, has characteristics that cause users to become dependent on it. When people try to stop using kratom, withdrawal effects can be very uncomfortable.

Kava makes you feel relaxed, mentally and physically. Your mood is uplifted and you feel good will towards others. These effects last for several hours.

Kava has no known traits that cause dependency. Meaning, a person can stop using kava without experiencing painful or uncomfortable symptoms. Kava does not cause the brain to crave it once it wears off either.

Difference in Preparation and Use

Kratom is sourced from the leaves of an evergreen tree in places such as Thailand, Malaysia and Borneo. Users typically chew the fresh leaves. However, some are now crushing the leaves into powder form to mix with liquids for drinking.

There are different forms of kratom: paste, gels, drink mixes, supplements, powders and liquid extracts.

Kava is sourced from the root of a plant in places such as Hawaii, Fiji and New Guinea. The roots are pounded into a powder which is then mixed with water. The liquid strained from this mixture is consumed.

While users can buy kava in similar forms as kratom, most users drink kava in the form of a tea for best results.

Individuals use kava simply because they want to feel calm and have a good outlook on life in general. Many Pacific Island natives still consume kava daily to relax after a stressful day. Kava is rich in cultural history, often used before ceremonies or religious events.

Kava is a social drink while Kratom does not make individuals feel social. Some people even list it as a good drug on many recommendation lists.

Kratom users tend to feel numb, disassociating with any negative circumstances. Some users are even using it to overcome their addiction to opiates.

Difference in Dangers

If you purchase noble kava, the dangers are relatively non-existent. To avoid interactions, users should not mix kava with prescription medication. Overall, kava is a safe, natural way to relax and feel happy.

Kratom, when used in extremely low doses, is not harmful. However, medium to high doses lead to dependency and withdrawal symptoms that are very uncomfortable.

Kratom is becoming so dangerous that it is banned in many countries, with the United States pursuing a ban as well. It is even banned in Thailand currently, a location where it is sourced.

There are suppliers who sell both kava and kratom. Suppliers sell their products online, in stores and at kava bars. Reputable suppliers, however, will encourage you to only buy kava.

They are experts that know kava offers great effects without becoming dependent. Trustworthy suppliers and kava bar owners want you to have a positive experience. They want you to reach your goal of relaxation and happiness.

Providing you with kava rather than kratom is one way you can know your supplier has your best interest in mind. They focus on customer experience, not making money any way they can. They want you to have an enjoyable time socially, with less tension and more peace.

When you want to relax, choose kava over kratom.