Nope, no one laced your tea with cocaine. That numbness is the normal reaction to drinking Kava. Kava Kava, or Piper methysticum, is a plant whose origins come from the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Traditionally used for healing and spiritual ceremonies, Kava has now become mainstream—Kava cafes are popping up all over (its root is ground into paste and combined with water or liquid to make a tea). It’s supposed to provide a euphoric–like state of calmness, reduce anxiety and promote sleep. Given what I’d heard about it, I set out to see if there was any evidence out there to back it up.
Kava for reduced anxiety and a state of calm
A decent number of studies have been published that review Kava as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), in which a person is crippled with excessive worry and stress about everyday life situations without a specific reason. Multiple studies and reviews have shown that Kava (when compared to a placebo) has beneficial effects on anxiety and could be used as a primary treatment. We can attribute Kava’s anxiolytic properties to one of its key constituents, kavalactones, which are thought to be responsible for its GABA–regulating effects.
Kava for sleep
Pretty lousy studies exist on specific effects on sleep. But more anecdotal evidence suggests that due to its anxiolytic and calming properties, Kava helps relieve insomnia caused by stress and anxiety. Some have reported that drinking the tea causes a state of drowsiness, but others suggest that it doesn’t and that it only promotes a state of euphoric calm.
One of it’s drawbacks (besides it’s terrible taste) is that it can pose health risks, specifically to the liver. Studies have shown it to be hepatotoxic, which means that it can damage liver cells. Scientists don’t understand how Kava damages the liver, but it doesn’t seem to be dose–dependent. Currently, several countries have banned the sale of Kava Kava, including Canada and most of the UK. As it stands, the United States still permits sales, which explains the flurry of Kava pop–ups opening countrywide.
Forms of Kava
One of the most common forms of consumption is via tincture. It’s extracted active ingredients are combined with alcohol (usually) so that a concentrated liquid is formed. This way, the patient only needs a few millilitres to receive an effective dosage.
An easy and tasteless way to benefit from Kava would be to take it as a capsule. For it to be effective, though, one would likely need to take quite a number of pills, which gets pricey.
The other common and definitely trendiest form of consuming Kava is as a tea. The ground root paste is mixed with water and served in a bowl at most tea shops. It can be served warm, as a tea, or cold, as a shot (alcohol not included). And, of course, there are elixirs, lemonades and juices.
Most people report an almost immediate sense of calm after drinking it. Many refer to it as a euphoric state. Though I’ve read that it doesn’t affect one’s driving ability, as you would expect a drug-like substance to do. But be warned: it can numb your mouth (gums, tongue and lips) and feel like you’ve just rubbed cocaine on your gums. The numbness does go away after a few minutes, though, and the euphoria lasts longer.
This trendy tea is not necessarily safe for everyone, so please ingest with caution and speak to your healthcare professional before consuming it on your own.