2013: The Year in Kava!

Posted by on Jan 21, 2014 in Kava News | 0 comments

2013: The Year in Kava!A big aloha to all of you readers out there in this new year of 2014! As we say goodbye to what was undoubtedly a tumultuous year worldwide in 2013, I thought it might be a good time to look back at some of the strides, both large and small, local and global, that my beloved kava has made in the public consciousness. What were the biggest news stories you discovered about kava in 2013? Please write me if something you were expecting doesn’t appear on this list; I always love to hear from our dear visitors! Now then, on to the year in kava!

May 13th, 2013- The University of Melbourne released a study on the effectiveness of kava for treating generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Those of you who know my respect for kava as a plant medicine can see why I just had to lead with this new study! Conducted by Jerome Sarris of the Department of Psychology at the University of Melbourne, and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, this study involved 75 people who had been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The participants were given a pill containing either 120mg of kavalactone from a kava root extract or a placebo. The experimental and control groups each had their anxiety levels regularly assessed over 8 weeks.

After the study period ended, the researchers’ results showed a statistically significant reduction in anxiety symptoms in the experimental group compared to the control: in fact, 26% of the subjects with moderate to severe GAD in the experimental group–those taking the kava extract–experienced remission of their anxiety symptoms, compared to 6% of the placebo group. An increase in women’s libido in the kava group was also reported, which I found interesting given kava’s history of use as an aphrodisiac in the South Pacific. Kava was well-tolerated in the experimental group, with no subjects showing any sign of liver damage, adverse reactions, addiction, or withdrawal symptoms after the treatment was stopped.

Studies like this are really encouraging to me, especially this one, seeing as Australia has had contentious relations with kava in the past… so much that we’ve basically given up trying to ship our kava there for fear of it being seized by customs! Though this is a small study and more follow-up work definitely needs to be done, it’s still part of the heartening shift toward clinical investigation of the many possibilities of kava that my family has known about for generations!

July 24th, 2013- The Kava King Brewery began operations out of Long Island City, New York: I’m always on the lookout for new developments in the ongoing kava diaspora from the sunny South Pacific to the rest of the world, and I was especially excited to discover this news story about a new grassroots kava beverage company operating out of Long Island City, a neighborhood of Queens in New York. Now, I’ve been to New York once or twice myself, and I can’t think of a better niche for this cooperative brewery to exploit in this busy metropolis! With flavors like lemon mint, ginger citrus, and tarragon, Kava King is aiming at making kava more palatable for the uninitiated—and I am all for efforts to ease newcomers into kava’s gentle embrace. Even better, the company will soon be offering a kava tea flavored with hibiscus, as well as unflavored kava teas under the name “Brooklyn Kava” for an even more authentic experience. Once Kava King becomes established, I’m sure these convenient kava teas will be taking the edge off city life for many grateful New Yorkers!

October 12th, 2013- The annual Kava Festival took place at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus, Honolulu: Featuring local Hawaiian musicians, ‘awa (kava) sampling, live ‘awa plants for cultivation, and a kava-brewing demonstration, this festival has truly become the yearly showcase for all things kava in Hawaii! Alas, though I wasn’t able to attend this year—duties at the farm beckoned—perhaps one day I will be able to contribute Kona Kava Farm’s luscious Mahakea variety to an ‘awa sampling booth, or even sit in on the festival’s yearly traditional kava ceremony, which honors VIPs of the year who made contributions to science, culture and education. Or, I might just hang back to watch the poi-pounding demonstrations, get a traditional lomi lomi massage, or chat with other festival goers over a bowl of kava chased with a delicious Hawaiian pupu platter. It truly sounds like a wonderful, laidback event and I encourage all of you to try and attend at least once if you can! The next festival will be held on October 4th, 2014 the UH Manoa campus in Honolulu, Hawaii.

December 9th, 2013- The New Methodist Church of Fiji suspended its ban on kava: A few years ago, I reprinted an article on this blog about the New Methodist Church of Fiji taking steps to restrict and even ban kava use among its members and pastors. Irksome as it always is to see kava’s ceremonial history ignored and the plant itself reduced to a “vice”, some good news recently came out of Fiji regarding this ban: it seems that the restrictions on parishioners consuming kava in Fiji and Rotuma have been suspended pending a general church meeting. To refresh, the bans on kava imposed by New Methodist church president Dr. General Tuikilakila Waqairatu were:

-no drinking kava for 24 hours before Sunday services
-no drinking, selling, or exchanging of kava on church premises
-no iluva ni tai (kava sessions) to be held after a church service

For those striving to keep kava and her ancient ways from falling prey to Christian missionary influence—a struggle that has been going on in the South Pacific ever since European contact—this lifting of the kava ban provides a temporary reprieve: the Standing Committee of the New Methodist Church has decided to circulate a vote on the kava ban to all the church circuits before issuing a final ruling on the matter, probably sometime in the spring of this year. I hope to return with their decision in a future blog post, but for now, I am hopeful that the committee will come to recognize the profound cultural and spiritual value of kava and become a force of integration (rather than division) between Fiji’s traditional and modern culture.

Wishing everyone a peaceful and fruitful 2014,

Aloha no,

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