Kava’s Tranquil Agents

Posted by on Jul 27, 2010 in The Mind of Makaira | 4 comments

Kava's Tranquil AgentsAloha!

Anybody who consumes good kava can attest in minutes to the fact that kava produces a palpable, pleasurable and relaxing effect. This is the remarkable thing about kava. On many evenings on the islands, I have felt the relaxing “way of kava” flow through my body even before the coconut shell has left my lips. Good kava is so immediate it can surprise the new drinker. But what accounts for this? The active tranquility-promoting constituents of kava are a group of resinous compounds known as kavalactones. The kavalactones have been the objects of chemical research since the mid-1800s, and today much is known about their mode of activity. While as many as 15 kavalactones have been identified, only six appear in kava to any significant extent: methysticin, yangonin, dihydromethysticin, kavain, dihydrokavain, and demethoxyyangonin.

The giant scientific step of isolating methysticin in 1860 opened the door to subsequent chemical progress with the resinous extract of kava. In 1874, scientists isolated a second kavalactone, yangonin, and in 1908, dihydromethysticin, the most active tranquilizer of all the kavalactones. Between 1914 and 1933, researchers identified kavain and dihydrokavain, and in 1959, scientists finally discovered demethoxy-yangonin. Today, the isolation and analysis of the kavalactones is made easier due to sophisticated methods and technology.

While the kavalactones were being discovered, their pharmacology, or drug activity, was of keen interest to researchers, and it continues to be so. Pioneering ethnobotanical plant researcher Dr. Louis Lewin found that injected kava resin produced temporary paralysis in frogs and sedated pigeons and sparrows to such an extent that they were temporarily unable to fly. I have found that kava can be very relaxing and makes me more comfortable in a cramped or unnatural situation. On many occasions, I have offered either fluid kava extract or kava soft gels to friends or associates with muscle cramps or spasms, headaches, menstrual cramps, or just plain daily stress. Almost without exception, they have found relief. This is the wonderful thing about kava: It straddles the line between agent of relaxation and broadly useful therapeutic remedy.

Women going through menopause have told me that kava has evened them out, made them feel more in control. People I know who work in high-tension office environments confide that they keep bottles of kava in their desk drawers, to reduce tension when the day runs away with them. There is a quiet kava revolution under way, a soothing medicinal sea change. Instead of reaching for a drink or a prescription drug, many people are turning to the peace plant of paradise for relief.

And why not? Kava plays a part in the native pharmacopoeia of Oceania, traditionally being used for a wide range of conditions. The primary folk medicinal use of kava is to treat urogenital inflammation and cystitis, for which it is still commonly employed today. But kava is also drunk to treat headaches, to restore vigor in the face of general weakness, to promote urination, to soothe an unruly stomach, to treat whooping cough in children, and to ease the symptoms of asthma and tuberculosis. Applied topically, kava is useful for treating fungal infections and for soothing stings and skin inflammations. Kava has also been used to treat gonorrhea.

Although you would be hard pressed to find studies directly proving kava’s efficacy in all of these things and, indeed, in the case of infections and serious conditions one should absolutely seek out the advice of a doctor before trying kava, the fact that this plant has been used for so many years and for so many reasons in its native habitat is a testament to its amazing healing power. I am sure that if you try this peaceful, ancient medicine, you too will come to understand how much power it really has!

Aloha no,

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  1. Aloha Aniezzt,

    Thank you for your comment! We’re always very happy to know that our kava is helping people to safely and effectively manage anxiety. It sounds as if you are using the root chips – they’re definitely more work, but it sounds like you’ve found a way that works for you!

    Aloha no,

  2. This is the only kava I found that helps my anxiety. The other 9 or 10 I have tried acatluly seem to increase it. I use a coffee blender to get them into small pieces/powder and then finish it off in the blender. I don’t strain (lazy I guess). I just drink the whole thing.

  3. Isn’t nice when we realize the power Mother Nature has? Glad you found healing in Kava Kava; if only the laws in the United States allowed us to speak more freely of the exact benefits you describe! Aloha no, Makaira

  4. I received my kava order a couple of weeks ago. I started taking it and was slightly skeptical. After just a day, I felt more relaxed, much less achy (I was taking 3-4 aspirin a day, now I take 1) and my energy and mood has improved immensly. What a great product!!! I have been taking 2-3 caps of kava and 1 or 2 pea-sized paste doses spread out throughout the day…Thanks again..many orders coming your way !!!

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