hose who have an eye on the fast-paced world of recreational pharmacology will probably have heard of kava. Kava (or kava-kava) is a plant, long known in the South Pacific, that induces a sense of relaxation. It also induces euphoria. And helps you diet. And acts as an effective anesthetic. How does it manage all this? Find out!
If you are in America and go to a sufficiently hippie-inspired store you will probably find a wall full of “relaxation” teas. Most of those teas are of no more worth, when it comes to relaxation, than a regular cup of hot water. However, one might help you out a little bit. That would be “kava” or “kava-kava” tea. They may not be high quality, but the plant they contain is one of the better-known legal drugs.
Kava is a plant found widely throughout the Pacific islands. Its use varies, from island to island. In some places it is part of a solemn ceremony. In others it’s consumed in the equivalent of bars. Wherever it is consumed, it is pounded, ground up, or chewed, and then soaked in water. People then drink the water by the bowlful over the course of an evening, and, given its effects, it’s not surprising to see why.
While kava’s taste is described as both bitter and “dirt-like,” it gives the drinker a sense of calm and relaxation, and sometimes a sense of euphoria. It also has a host of other effects, one of which is bitterly disputed.
Kava, once gulped down, goes to work on the body via about fifteen different compounds, known as kavalactones. These different compounds are present in different amounts, depending on the exact strain of kava, but the ones that are responsible for kava’s popularity are known as kavain and desmethoxyyangonin.
Kavain induces a feeling of relaxation, like a sedative. Unlike a sedative, it doesn’t do so by knocking out the brain. Instead it’s a muscle relaxant, physically relaxing the body and letting the brain follow along. This leaves kava drinkers relaxed but alert. Desmethyoxyyangonin, meanwhile, increases dopamine in the brain, giving people a mild euphoric sensation. (Another kavalactone, yangonin, works the same brain channel as THC, and also contributes to the good feelings that people have while on kava.)
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