Author Kyle Shigekuni / Category Kava / Originally Published: March 11th, 2019
Author Kyle Shigekuni / Category Kava / Originally Published: March 11th, 2019
"I search for the strongest extracts with the highest percentage of kavalatones. You can get a whole bottle of them with 30% kavalactones at half the price without the bad flavor. After all, all forms of kava are the same, right? "
I get emails and comments like this all the time. And every time I do, I want to bash my head on the keyboard. 🤦🏻♂️
Kava (Piper Methysticum) has been proven on multiple cases to be a potent natural anti-anxiety supplement. Over the last couple decades, methods of extracting the active ingredients have become commonplace in the commercial market. However, Kava was and still is, recommended to be taken via traditional methods.
Kava extracts in pills or tinctures are some forms of non-traditional methods.
Yes. Kava extracts are cheap.
Yes. You can find some with 30% kavalactones.
Yes... Again... They are cheap.
Have you ever stopped to wonder, why?
I'm sure you're aware of kava's murky past. There were a whole lot of questions back then when the kava scare was booming in the early 2000's and countless investigative hours have been spent researching the truth. Most of which, the public does not yet know.
There are a couple points I hope to go over with you and nestled within them, are the 6 major dangers of kava extracts you must know, as well as the guidelines to make sure you don't become a victim.
DrinkRoot Connoisseur - Premium Vanuatan Kava
"When commercial interests intervene with traditionally proven practices, problems often occur." - Wise sage
DrinkRoot was created in mid 2015, by a group of friends looking to make a change in the world. We saw first hand how kava could help us in our own lives, and sent out on a mission to spread it with the world.
We wanted to sell a traditionally brewed kava in a form that could be consumed immediately without the whole kava sock meshing process. After some experimenting, we began brewing kava in small batches and bottling them to sell out of small bodegas around Brooklyn. The blend was doing well, but it certainly wasn't scaleable and there was no chance of our beloved dream kava bar being opened up anytime soon from this.
We started working on a possible solution of dehydrating kava juice or trying out kava kava extracts. We ran into a problem (which still exists) on the first method. It is not super scaleable, and it's expensive.. more expensive then you would believe.
So a kava extract version was very attractive to our young budding entrepreneurial minds.
For the sake of this blog post, a "Kava extract" refers to the final product of non-traditional processes using organic or synthetic methods to extract the active kavalactones from the kava root, with the extracted material being packed into pills, capsules, tinctures and pastes. Using these methods one can pull much higher percentages of the active materials compared to traditional methods. P. Zhou and others showed in 2010 a common organic extract method using a solvent of 95% ethanol can pull 11.76x the amount of kavalactones more from the same 1 gram of kava powder, than the traditional water brewing method can.
Traditional? - No, but VERY efficient!
Inexpensive? - Yup! Super scaleable!
Worth investing in? - I THINK so... Let's see...
Below is a quick summary of the points I made from a business point of view while sourcing kava extracts around the world. While these opinions are my own, this is NOT the whole story
The Pros 👍
The Cons 👎
From a business standpoint, kava extracts make a whole lot of sense. We're supposed to do what we can to cut costs and increase profit. We've been running borderline break-even with very low margins, with hopes to grow a company that is focused on helping others. Having said that, there were thoughts going through my head like;
"Not many people know about the differences and most won't read into the research articles"
"I can capitalize on the extract/tincture market and grow the business"
"The margin. The margin. The margin. IT'S SO CHEAP. I can support my family with margins like these!"
When I left my previous career, I vowed to never again work on anything that I knew would directly hurt or harm a human being Ignorance is not bliss and I learned the hard way to always be fully in the know on what you're doing. Once I became more educated on the topic of kava extracts, It was obvious what the correct choice was, regardless of the financial gains that could come from it.
I looked into extracts, in depth. The more I dove into them though, the fuzzier things became. I couldn't find a single farm or manufacturer who would be completely transparent with the processes and would make me feel comfortable backing it with our DrinkRoot brand. I couldn't find a single source who could safely extract the actives without the negative side effects. AND, I could not for the life of me, understand why sourcing roads kept crossing through China.
China is in the other friggen direction from where the kava is being grown (That is of course, assuming the kava itself is actually being grown in the South Pacific. It's a pretty hard papertrail to trace, even when you do your due diligence and show up at the factories out there).
More questions arose. During that time I was using my research experience (and university database access) to rigorously analyze the scientific research studies that have been done on kava. I found paper after paper pointing to various "complications" that can be derived from the use of extracts, a few pointing to the commercialization of extracts aligning with the emergence of liver hepatotoxicity cases, and a few pointing out the only liver hepatotoxicity cases that had legitimate data, were when patients were using kava extract pills, not traditionally brewed kava.
The World Health Organization even stated in their comprehensive review on kava, that they recommended only consume kava in the traditionally brewed form and to avoid kava extracts until more research is done
But before we get to that. Let's educate ourselves a bit. 👩🎓
Like you when I started drinking kava, I focused much more on percentages of kavalactones in the kava, I didn't realize I was only seeing a fraction of the whole story.
Kava acts as a natural benzodiazepine, calming one's mood and generating a sense of euphoria from within, without the common associated addictive withdrawls of its synthetic counterparts. However, unlike benzodiazepines, kava "appears not to adversely affect cognitive function, mental acuity, or coordination".
But this is all a generic interpretation of kava, because kava's effects differ dramatically depending on the percentange and specific chemotype of the blend.
"Kava chemotype" is a term that refers to the distinct order of kavalactone densities present in the kava. Kava comes in different kavalactone chemotypes depending on where and what variety is grown and/or blended. This is why we recommend beginners to stop focusing primarily on kavalactone percentage, because it's generally more important to focus on the particular chemotype. There are 6 common kavalactones which are the major constituents to make up a particular strain of kavas chemotype.
Like your own custom sundae at the local ice cream shop, you can customize the experience to your liking depending on the chemotype you pick.
The six major Kavalactones are ordered by the numbers as follows (High Performance Liquid Chromatography analysis is usually used to find chemotype)
👆 These are the actual numbers of the top 6 relevant kavalactones, and for every HPLC analysis this is universal (at least what I've seen so far).
Each of these kavalactones generates slightly different effects in the consumer, and the order they are in will give you an idea of the expected qualities and acute onset of each characteristic effect.
Example. Kavalactone chemotypes in the 42xxx range are known to exhibit a high headiness and anxiety releasing properties due to the much sought after "Kavain" kavalactone (#4), and followed up with a nice GABA enhanced experience from the Dihydrokavain kavalactone (#2).
And vice versa kavalactone chemotypes in the 24xxx range have will have a GABA effect over the headiness. Ie, the user will feel a more acute body experience over the anxiety-releasing euphoric experience.
The order of a particular kavalactone in the chemotype compared to another, will define roughly that it is either superior or inferior in presence to its companion. Take for example, a 24xxx means "2" Dihydrokavain will be in a higher percentage than "4" Kavain. So you can expect it to be Dihydrokavain heavy.
*WARNING*. 🤓 I nerd out on this stuff so it's not necessary to understand or learn this all
However, we can be even MORE vain and take it another step further. Because it is entirely possible to have two kava's with the same chemotypes, but drastically aggressive or flat levels of the chemotype distribution. This is why kava is so interesting. It can change greatly from varietal to varietal even with the same chemotype. 🤯
Take again two kava's with 24xxxx chemotypes. One can have a relatively flat percentage of kavalactones across the board, and the other can be 90% Dihydrokavain, with 10% everything else. This is how it is possible to sneak in a borderline tudei kava with a chemotype looking like a noble kava. It's about the distribution of the kavalactone peaks in the HPLC.
There's also a VERY fascinating potentiation effect observed when mixing marijuana (cannabis) and kava tea, which we went in detail about here
Anyways, in their analysis of the kava industry, the World Health Organization recommends us to only drink Noble kava varietals.
What the heck is Noble kava anyway? An aristocratic kava? 👸🤴
For example, Alcohol, kava's poisonous competitor, can cause hippocampal atrophy, the area involving memory and spatial navigation. You would think that is just for heavy drinking right? Nope. This measurable decline was with subjects who drank a little over 7 pints of beer per week. If you drink craft beer that's just 4 beers a week to cause brain damage (since the abv average is higher). Of course there's also the 88,000 deaths EACH YEAR and potential liver cirrhosis from just 30mL per day over a decade, from which there is a 50% survival rate.
Or your standard "safe" pain reliever, ibuprofin, can burn a hole through your esophageal lining if you're not careful and don't drink enough water, or take it right before you sleep.
I'm not trying to be your mom, but I do care about people.
Point is, there are dangers in everything we do, just please be safer by educating yourself.
You have a moral responsibility to bring beauty into this world and make it a better place. Please take care of yourself. We (the people of the world) need you and the light you bring.
In the end, we stuck to our values and beliefs and focused entirely on creating products only using traditionally practiced methods.
We trashed the route of kava extracts or micronized powder (who wants to eat kava anyway) to invest in the process of creating a fully dehydrated version of pre-made traditionally brewed kava juice.
Each batch is made with love using the well-established traditional method of combining just warm filtered water and premium organic kava. The kava and water is meshed and mixed over time to generate the proper blend. Then the water from the final filtered kava juice is evaporated, to create a truly on-the-go experience. Ready to consume anytime, anywhere.
We call this, "The Instant Connoisseur". A true instant kava
Our mission is still, to this day, to spread the love of kava by making it accessible to everyone. 🤗
And we are darn proud of it.
The Instant Connoisseur - Premium Vanuatan Kava
Yes they are cheap. However, don't expect us to be supporting them anytime soon.
Kava is an amazing gift from the South Pacific islands. It continues to help hundreds of thousands of people with generalized anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia, substance addictions, and even people just looking to relax after a hard days work. But now that you know more, we recommend you make sure to consume from proper sources and steer clear of kava extracts.
There's a reason kava extracts are inexpensive and are not entirely transparent with their sources.
There is a reason that South Pacific Islanders have been using kava brewed traditionally for thousands of years with no problems
And there is a reason when these kava extract versions in pill/capsule, tincture, or resin form came onto the market, complicated liver cases arose.
👩🎓 Congratulations, you're educated now. 👨🎓
Go back through the research articles, verify the information, and make your own conclusions moving forward. And if you are currently taking kava in pill/capsule/tincture or resin form, please conduct a careful analysis and ask yourself,
"Is it worth it?"
Our family drinks our kava. So for us, you know the answer.
At DrinkRoot we believe in the love of kava and making it accessible to everyone.
If this message vibes with you, share it with your friends and make sure to spread the love of kava ❤️
As always, from our family to yours, Mahalo! ❤️
*A quick message to kava brand owners: If you sell kava extracts, contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to hear how you are dealing with this problem and I promise I will not publish anything about you unless you ask me to. Please let's only talk about solutions to this problem. Do not contact if you are going to argue about costs like the other people I've talked to, I don't want to hear it. You shouldn't be supporting a process frowned upon by the entire scientific community.
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