**Kava kava will only be served and sold to individuals at least 19 years of age. Photo ID is required.
The main brand of kava kava currently used and sold at the Blu Kava Lounge is "Zend Elixir", which is a mixture of Rhodiola (enhances mental alertness), Basil Leaf (effective for mild pain relief), Yerba Mate (relieves fatigue), Ashwagandha (used to elevate mood), and Kava Kava. This is what we will focus on here, as it is the main ingredient, the purpose behind our lounge, and the ingredient most subject to controversy.
What is Kava Kava?
Kava Kava is a root from a form of pepper plant that has been used traditionally for thousands of years by Islanders of the South Pacific, including Fiji, Tonga, Australia, and Hawaii. It is often used in ceremonies, and is the national drink of Fiji. Kava Kava is renowned for its relaxing qualities, and the traditional way of consuming it is by grinding the root, adding water, and drinking it. It is also available in capsules and dried powder, though we only serve kava beverages at Blu. The kava used by Blu is ethically sourced kava of the Noble type (as opposed to Tudei which is associated more with nausea and other side-effects). The benefits of kava kava come from a class of biochemical compounds called "kavalactones". These kavalactones are psychoactive in nature and alter neurophysiological function; the concentration of kavalactones will determine the level of effects experienced, but in general include some degree of sedation and anxiety reduction. Though it affects the brain differently, some of the effects of kava kava have been compared with cannabis, alcohol, and kratom.
We are not going to sugar coat it - kava of any brand or variety tastes pretty nasty! Like most medicine and plant-based remedies, it can have a bit of an unappealing flavour (think of the commercials for the popular cough and cold medicine that tastes awful but works!), and don't let froufrou descriptions like "botanical" and "earthy" fool you - that is just a nice way of saying it tastes a bit like muddy water with a hint of bitter, citrus peel undertones. That is why the recommended way to take it is as a shot, followed by a pleasant chaser such as juice or chocolate (or just chug when you participate in a traditional Fijian ceremony). Some cocktails with certain ingredients do make it more palatable though, and you can acquire a taste for it. You will definitely want to power through it when you discover how wonderful it makes you feel.
The unique formula in Zend, which is processed in North Vancouver (yay Canada!), contains a pure concentrate of Kava which is ethically sourced from Vanuatu (which is known for the most potent varieties of kava) and hints of chai to help make it easier on the taste-buds.
Don't discount kava kava out of fear of the taste; what is more important is how it makes you feel - ultimate relaxation with no hangovers, no caffeine jitters & no anxiety make it so worth it!
What are the benefits?
~ Kava is an all-natural and therapeutically effective way to relax and de-stress. It has been used in alternative medicine as a possibly effective aid in treating anxiety thanks to its calming effect on the nerves. It is an herbal intervention that produces a sense of relaxation and pleasure.
~ It is known to enhance sociability and communication skills (i.e. it gives you a bit of an intoxicated buzz!)
~ For some, it helps with pain thanks to its analgesic action. It potentiates the GABA receptors instead of opioid receptors, so it is a good alternative for those sensitive to opiates.
~ Its sedative qualities can help some with insomnia and enhance sleep quality, and though not proven, is claimed to help with sedative withdrawal symptoms when people are trying to get off of prescription meds.
Other uses not proven with research have included cancer prevention, depression, and attention deficit disorders.
According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database: "Orally, kava is used to treat anxiety disorders, stress, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), insomnia, and restlessness. It is also used orally for benzodiazepine withdrawal, epilepsy, psychosis, depression, headaches including migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), common cold and other respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis, cancer prevention, musculoskeletal pain, and bladder cancer. Kava is also used orally for urinary tract infection (UTI), uterine inflammation, venereal disease, menstrual discomfort, vaginal prolapse, and as an aphrodisiac. Topically, kava is used for skin diseases including leprosy, to promote wound healing, and as an analgesic. It is also used topically as a poultice for otitis and abscesses, and as a mouthwash for canker sores and toothaches. Ceremonially, kava is used as a beverage to induce relaxation." ~www.naturaldatabase.com
What are the risks?
When you Google Kava, what is likely going to stand out is blogs and articles with scary headlines like "Kava Kills" and "Death by Kava" and "Liver Toxicity". However, even the World Health Organization (WHO), who is a respected source for research into health-related issues states, "There is no link to liver damage with water-based root extracts of kava kava." They further state that kava kava is not believed to be associated with the serious forms of liver damage some case studies report. It is STRONGLY encouraged that you read at least some, if not all, of the articles below. While it will take you a bit of time, kava kava is something new for a lot of people, and it is critical that you have a complete understanding of what it is you will be consuming. There are benefits and there are risks, and you need to be informed about both:
In short, it seems there have been some poorly designed studies with no significant indication that kava should not be consumed, and it is likely that many of the people jumping on the "ban Kava" bandwagon are not properly educated and are basing their statements on fear rather than facts, twisting case studies to try and prove a major link that does not appear to exist. It is true that kava was banned at one point in Canada. However, it no longer is because it was realized that there was no justification for the ban. Generations of islanders have been consuming kava for thousands of years without any reported significant health issues. If it was as toxic as some sites claim, there would be a lot more concrete proof backing the claims, not just studies funded by pharmaceutical companies who neglect to mention that their tests often use subjects already suffering from some amount of liver impairment, and that tests included parts of the plant that are potentially poisonous instead of just the roots. There are many otherwise healthy plants that we consume on a daily basis that are toxic if the wrong parts of the plant are consumed - peach pits and other fruit seeds, leaves and stems of tomatoes, skin of aloe vera leaves, leaves of rhubarb plants, and so on, so it is not fair to judge the effects of kava on anything other than the root, which is what is supposed to be consumed. Unfortunately, many of the cases of liver-related illnesses that are valid and can be traced back to kava were because of improperly processed kava that was using parts of the plants it should not have been.
However, that being said, consuming kava kava is not for everyone, and there actually are some risks. Pretty much every supplement or drug you can get, be it from a dealer on the corner, your local pharmacist, a government lab, a village shaman, or straight off of a plant you harvested yourself, carries some inherent risk. Any time you introduce a foreign substance into your body, you run the risk of a reaction, even potentially life-threatening. It may be a mild reaction such as nausea or hives, or it may be a major reaction like liver failure or respiratory distress. Some reactions are immediate while others come with long-term exposure. To put it in perspective though, tens of thousands of people die every year from negative reactions to pharmaceuticals, including acetaminophen and ibuprofen, which are considered by most people to be pretty safe. Don't even get us started on how many people die each year from alcohol and cigarettes. As pointed out by Kava Lover in the blog "True Kava Side Effects", you have a higher risk of dying from a coconut falling on your head, a mosquito bite, a vending machine, playing high school football, getting bit by a dog, or opening a champagne bottle than you do by enjoying the benefits of Kava. So, while it is unlikely you will die or become extremely ill from using kava, some individuals are not able to tolerate the side effects.
To minimize the risks:
~Make sure you are purchasing kava kava from a reputable source with a product that is stringently tested.
~Avoid drinking in quantities larger than 300mg per day, which is what the United States FDA says is a safe daily dose.
~Do not consume kava in conjunction with alcohol or other drugs.
~Do not take kava if you have any underlying health conditions that may be affected, especially problems with your liver.
What are the side effects and adverse reactions to watch for?
One of the most noticeable side-effects for some people is nausea. Even though kava works better on an empty stomach, in order to reduce the chance of nausea it is recommended to take it with or after eating. It is up to you to determine whether you prefer to take it with or without food. However, if you have a sensitive stomach and want to use kava in conjunction with a float session or Vibroacoustic Therapy session, we recommend you come by and try kava on its own first so you know how you are going to react. If you are going to experience any negative side effects, you do not want to experience them while floating in a pod or vibrating on the bed!
You will experience a numb, tingling sensation on your tongue and in your mouth. This is mild and will go away.
You may also experience "brain fog", dizziness and/or drowsiness. Do not drive immediately after consuming kava. That is why we provide a relaxing lounge in which you can chill out until you feel comfortable to drive. Note, the effects generally take about 10-15 minutes to set-in.
This article provides an in-depth discussion about the adverse reactions and the cause of each. Please read through it completely so you fully understand the risks and what to watch for, and can make an educated decision about whether kava kava is a good option for you.
Some effects will require you to stop using kava kava completely, while others may just require you to cut back or change the conditions under which you consume it. A few of the adverse effects include:
~skin conditions such as dry, scaly, or flaky skin
~symptoms of jaundice including yellowed skin, hair, fingernails, or toenails
~allergic reaction including skin rash, itching, or a puffy face
~blood in the urine or other bleeding disorders
~appetite loss, weight loss and decreased absorption of protein
Who should not consume Kava Kava?
~Individuals with known or suspected liver conditions.
~Individuals with prior allergic reactions to kava.
~Pregnant or nursing women.
~Children under 19 years of age.
~Persons who regularly use alcohol.
~Persons under the influence of other drugs or those using prescription or OTC medications known to affect the liver, such as androstenedione, chaparral, comfrey, DHEA, germander, niacin (vitamin B3), pennyroyal oil, and red yeast.
~Individuals taking other anti-anxiety medication such as 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), calamus, California poppy, catnip, gotu kola, Jamaican dogwood, melatonin, St. John's wort, skullcap (or scullcap), valerian, or yerba mansa.
~Persons exhibiting signs of jaundice or hepatitis.
~Anyone who will be operating heavy machinery or engaging in activities where impairment of any form could be hazardous.
Serious Interactions are noted with the following drugs and should not be used in conjunction with Kava Kava:
- Arava (leflunomide)
- Aubagio (teriflunomide)
- Belbuca (buprenorphine)
- Bunavail (buprenorphine / naloxone)
- Buprenex (buprenorphine)
- buprenorphine / naloxone
- Butrans (buprenorphine)
- Juxtapid (lomitapide)
- Kynamro (mipomersen)
- Probuphine (buprenorphine)
- Suboxone (buprenorphine / naloxone)
- Subutex (buprenorphine)
- Zubsolv (buprenorphine / naloxone)
It is recommended to get a doctor's permission before using Kava Kava if any of the following conditions are present:
~severe anxiety or depression
~significant pain conditions such as arthritis or migraines/headaches
~asthma or allergies
~any kind of infection
~high blood pressure
~gastrointestinal conditions such as GERD or chronic heartburn
Note: The above is not an exhaustive list of drug interactions and side effects. When in doubt, do your research and check with your physician or pharmacist before consuming kava kava.
This is a headline.
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