Kava, also called “kava-kava,” is an herbal substance that comes from the root of Piper methysticum – a plant native to the western Pacific Islands. The name kava comes from the Polynesian word “awa” and literally means “intoxicating pepper.” The substance has been used by native islanders for centuries as both a medicinal treatment and a part of religious ceremonies due to its sedative, euphoriant, and psychotropic properties. Typically consumed as a beverage, kava is considered to be non-alcoholic but psychoactive. As people have become increasingly interested in the concept of natural and herbal remedies to treat various diseases and ailments in today’s society, kava bars have become more popular and well-known. Especially in South West Florida since the opening of Kapua Kava Bar in 2017.
The main use of kava is to help with anxiety. In fact, kava has become an increasingly popular natural alternative to benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Ativan. Despite the therapeutic effects of prescription “benzos,” the drugs have the potential to cause a lot of negative side effects that people don’t want to experience. Taking benzodiazepines can leave people feeling tired, weak, confused, and nauseous. The drugs can also cause debilitating mood and psychological side effects, including depression, irritability, and hostility. Research on the usefulness of kava has shown that it is possibly effective at helping with the symptoms of anxiety and anxiety disorder, and this is believed to be because of the similar way that it affects the brain as anti-anxiety drugs.
People that regularly consume kava say that the herb induces a calming sensation similar to alcohol and benzodiazepines; however, unlike that of alcohol, they are able to remain “clear-headed” while using kava. Most people experience a kind of euphoria when drinking kava and increased levels of relaxation. Kava essentially acts as a central nervous system depressant as it impacts the receptors of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and stimulates dopamine in the brain.
Many of these effects also lend themselves to sociability. Kava can be a very social drink and kava bars provide a safe social outlet for many people who prefer to avoid the traditional “Booze Bar” scene. Kava bars like Kapua are generally warm, down to earth and welcoming to all walks of life. For people suffering from the effects of anxiety and PTSD, kava and the calming atmosphere of the kava bar can be the perfect space to unwind, socialize and relax.
Many kava strains produce a relaxing effect in the body that can be effective for chronic pain. Kava has been used in the Pacific Islands as a traditional analgesic for thousands of years. Kava has been shown to relieve muscle spasms and soreness, making it a potential replacement for muscle relaxants. Many military veterans and athletes have found kava to be a much safer alternative to the pharmaceuticals often prescribed by doctors.