A socially vibrant area with bustling conversation over a cup of kava has become a common affair in many bars in the USA. Though bars and “kava” don’t quite go hand in hand, with changing times, associations are also changing.
The stressful world around us continuously demands a moment of calmness. The calmness can be achieved with a shot of vodka or cuppa coffee or a fresh glass of juice. Everyone has their own go-to beverage, right?
Despite multiple existing options, alcohol has dominated everyday social settings. The major concern with this behavioural habit is alcohol’s severe impact on health. Regular use may lead to dependence. Beyond this, long-term use may even lead to liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, interpersonal violence, or alcohol use disorder.
It is because of the aforementioned reasons and a general dislike of taste by people, kava bars are popping up not just in the USA but around the globe. Also, we are not demonizing alcohol. It is simply a matter of finding healthier alternatives that are not addictive and still provide the calm people are looking for. Kava qualifies well on these parameters so far.
Let us dive deep into how kava, a pepper plant, helps in better mental health and is an amazing alternative to alcohol.
The Kavalactone Peace Is Unmatched
Kava is a thousand years old ceremonial drink from the Pacific Islands. It has survived the test of time and now is embracing the modern, technological world. People love kava not so much for its taste but for what it brings to the table- the unmatched sense of peace.
What about kava makes it soothing? The answer is a chemical compound called kavalactones.
Kavalactone is a class of polyketides which interacts with our central nervous system and produces anxiolytic, analgesic, or other therapeutic effects. There are six major kavalactones found in kava: methysticin, dihydromethysticin, kavain, dihydrokavain, yangonin, and desmethoxyyangonin.
Each type has its value and contributes to the overall health of an individual. The beauty of kavalactones is its easy absorption in the gut. Also, its impact on the nervous system is transient in nature, making its depressant impact lower than alcohol.
Though many kavalactones are still under study, they have shown to provide relaxing effects. On many kava forums, people describe their kava experience in terms of spirituality/mindfulness.
Kava’s impact in social settings is often cited as mellow and quiet as compared to alcohol gatherings. As American plant medicine expert Chris Kilkham says:
“…a condition of peaceful quiet that follows the consumption of a few good shells (…). Kava replicates some dimension of the inner peace achieved through meditation very well. Good kava effortlessly induces a condition of pleasurable contemplation.”
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The Withdrawal Impact & Lack of Dependence of Kava
Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol are well known. The body gets confused when a heavy dose of alcohol is stopped and the process of rehabilitation becomes difficult.
But this isn’t entirely true for kava. So far no significant statistics exist to showcase the dependence or addictive angle of kava.
The generalized confusion and delirium associated with alcohol consumption is found to be non-existent amongst kava users.
With this in mind, it is significant to recognize the limitations of even a herbal plant like kava. Using it based on your bodily needs is important for a healthy lifestyle.
More studies are being conducted to substantiate kava’s non-addictive nature but it is advisable to stay safe and use it within safe boundaries.
Increasing Popularity As An Alcohol Replacement
People love alcohol because, well, they simply love it. It has become an integral part of life and there’s no way to truly give a reason. It is an unsaid fact that if you wanna relax or chill, you drink.
But due to its overall negative impact, people started looking for an alternative. Kava came into the picture as a relaxant which would not get you hammered or sloshed.
Also, earlier studies into kava have shown its sleep-enhancement effects and have proved promising in treating anxiety.
The kava bar rise also shows people’s desire to be more mindful and in a meditative state. A typical kava bar heavily focuses on creating an atmosphere of spirituality, largely associated with the South Pacific culture and values.
Therefore, the rise in kava consumption has a social bearing and is not simply about finding an alternative. It has managed to give new meaning to social experiences. A typical “cheers” has seen a cultural shift to “bula”.
Kava isn’t alcohol and it need not be. It is a herbal plant that represents the Pacific history of togetherness and collectivism. So, if you need a break from your typical alcoholic beverage then give kava a chance and see the overall positive experience unfold.
We have also curated a simple FAQs list so that you can find answers to your questions easily with a brief summary!
Is Kava hard on the liver like alcohol?
This can be understood with the help of multiple theories such as human genetic variability theory which explains how a certain population lacks digestive power to process liver enzymes found in kava. But the research is still on and unlike alcohol, it looks like kava is not as hard on the liver 🙂
Can You Drive After Drinking Kava?
We’d say don’t! A recent study at the University of Waikato has shown that kava drinkers’ reaction time, attention, and perception showed little change after six hours of drinking it. The study went on to show kava drinkers are safer drivers as compared to other users of pharmacological substances. The study still needs refined results and further investigation. Therefore, be safe and responsible. Let the effect wear off and then drive.
Is Kava A Narcotic?
It is not a narcotic but a depressant. It’s scientific name is Piper methysticum which roughly translates into intoxicating pepper. So, the general perception is that of it being a narcotic but so far, it is simply a shrub which is used to feel good. It does not cause drunkenness like alcohol.
Can Kava get you high?
Many kava users do talk about feeling a sense of euphoria. Along with it, it also produces tongue tingling and mouth-numbing feeling. It has a bitter-batter taste and not the most popular flavour. The high isn’t strong like popular psychoactive drugs though.
Does kava reduce stress and anxiety like alcohol?
Kava does help in reducing stress and anxiety really well. The mechanism is mellow and calming. There’s no way to say whether it is a better experience than alcohol because it’s subjective. But if you’re looking for a herbal alternative to alcohol then kava is your answer.
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Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis. (2018, April 23). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/withdrawal#causes
Kava. (2019). In Drug Enforcement Administration. https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/kava.pdf
Kava as an Alternative to Alcohol and Kava vs Alcohol. (2020, April 12). The Kava Society. https://kavasociety.nz/blog/2020/3/4/kava-as-an-alternative-to-alcohol-and-kava-vs-alcohol
Kava study delivers unexpected results. (2017, July 26). The University of Waikato. https://www.waikato.ac.nz/news-opinion/media/2017/kava-study-delivers-unexpected-results
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