This bitter root also has a medicinal history, thanks to its ability to inspire a restful sleep and perhaps relieve pain.
But, increasingly, kava is seen as a social lubricant in the Pacific Islands. In Tonga, for example, the root is most often consumed in kava social clubs, acting as an alternative to cafes, tea houses, and bars.
In the US, the largest importer of this root, kava bars has not been very successful.
But the medicinal qualities of the plant often make headlines. Today, most consumers buy kava tea for health and wellness purposes: the root can relieve anxiety, reduce stress, and has some analgesic properties.
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What is Kava tea?
Kava is an evergreen plant native to Polynesia and Micronesia.
Sometimes called “intoxicating pepper,” it is a member of the Piperaceae plant family, which also includes the black peppercorn.
But it’s not the seeds that make kava so valuable. Instead, it is the root that takes the prize.
Kava root contains mild psychoactive compounds, which have anxiolytic, analgesic, and sedative effects.
But the efficacy and safety of the plant depend largely on how the root is prepared.
Traditionally, it is sprayed and mixed with water or coconut milk to create a bitter, pasty drink, a concoction dating back at least 2,000 years.
It is mostly used as a natural remedy to reduce anxiety-related disorders due to its great tranquilizing effects.
But you have to be very careful with the dosage and how this plant is taken since excess leads to hallucinogenic effects and serious health problems such as liver damage.
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What does kava tea taste like?
People often call it earthy and bitter. My opinion after my first sip? This does something because no one would take it any other way.
The first one we take numbs the tongue a little due to its active components. Most people sweeten it with a little honey or maple syrup, agave syrup, and sometimes ginger powder or pineapple juice.
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Side effects and contraindications.
The use of this remedy remains controversial. While its proponents point out that short-term employment is beneficial, some experts warn of the potential risks that come with its consumption.
It has been reported that this preparation is associated with cases of liver toxicity. In fact, in countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, France, and Germany, its distribution is prohibited.
Other entities, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), also issued a warning about the risks of these supplements.
Kava tea appears to inhibit the movement of enzymes that break down drugs in the liver, causing them to build up and further damage the organ.
However, the only studies conducted on this effect were carried out on people who also had other habits that could have affected the functioning of the liver.
In this way, although the true effect of Kava tea on the liver is not yet known, it is recommended not to exceed the dose of 120 mg per day.
Its consumption is contraindicated in the following cases:
- Neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, bipolar disorder, and clinical depression.
- Bleeding disorders.
- Patients with alcoholism and liver disease.
- Lung disorders.
- High blood pressure.
- Kidney diseases.
- Pregnancy and lactation.
- People who work while driving or with heavy machinery (since it causes drowsiness and increases the risk of accidents).
It should not be consumed simultaneously with the following drugs:
- Over-the-counter sedatives and sleeping pills.
- Tricyclic antidepressants.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
- Proton pump inhibitors.
This is where the history of kava gets really interesting: the science behind its safety is full of controversies.
Germany banned kava in 2002, and other European countries followed suit.
In the same year, Canada issued a “stop sale” on kava, preventing the legal sale of the root nationwide.
Health officials cited public health as the reason for the bans. Western scientists discovered that kava extracts were toxic to the liver, so much so that some consumers developed life-threatening liver damage.
But here’s the weird thing: Kava has been traditionally used for more than 2,000 years, with no reports of liver toxicity.
The total daily dose should not exceed 300 mg of kavalactones. For insomnia, the recommended dose is 210 mg of kavalactones one hour before bedtime.
Kava tea should not be used for a period longer than three months, or possibly not even then, given the security risks.
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