Zen and the Art of Kava Concentrates
Once upon a time - okay, two Christmases ago - my dad got me the 23andme Ancestry DNA test. Not only was I fascinated by my family history after I got the results back, I also got to take a look at my health data using a site called Promethease. My husband recommended the site to me and encouraged me to look up whether I had the “Worrier” or “Warrior” gene, which I had never heard about...but imagine my surprise when I found out I had Worrier tendencies (to which he responded, “I knew it!”).
Long story short, it turns out that individuals with this particular genetic expression have “enhanced vulnerability toward stress, yet [are] also more efficient at processing information under most conditions,” which is me in a nutshell. I was the kid who did well in school but would cave under too much pressure around grades or tests, and as an adult, I still find myself feeling frustratingly overwhelmed under certain conditions.
I felt a weird sense of relief learning that this had a genetic basis, but of course I was also curious to know - was this something that I’d always be stuck with? Or could I learn to effectively manage those moments of stress better, now that I knew about why they were happening?
Luckily, it appears that the answer to the latter is true, which I found to be comforting news. I realized that there’s a quarter of the population who have this gene, so maybe you have it, too, or maybe you have anxiety for other reasons, whether genetic and environmental. In either case, you’re probably in the same boat as I am, wondering what else is out there that can help you cope.
I now know that the kava root is a natural stress reliever that has been around for thousands of years and can help with anxiety so that you can manage it effectively. Different forms of kava can be used depending on the magnitude of what you’re experiencing or what you’re looking to do, so I’ve pulled together a short guide to help point you in the right direction.
Taking a kava tincture is recommended for stressful moments because it’s fast-acting, easily absorbed, and discreet. Since the kava has been dissolved into a carrier like alcohol, it’s more concentrated and can go into your bloodstream more quickly which will help you feel more immediate relief. Just a few drops under your tongue or into a drink like tea or water can help take you from feeling overwhelmed to a space of being able to step back from your flight, fight, or freeze response. Tinctures are easy to carry in your bag, backpack, or in a desk drawer, and they also don’t taste as bitter.
If you have more generalized and persistent anxiety, you might want to take kava capsules more regularly. Taking the capsules frequently can help your body regulate itself and some will also have other herbs that will provide relief to you. The concentration of kava in capsules can vary from product to product, so make sure you do your research. And of course, speak to your doctor or medical professional about this especially if you are taking other prescription medication.
Powdered Kava Root
For the times that you/I need to mellow out and relax after a stressful day at work, you can try making a traditional shell of kava made from powdered kava root and a mixture; the ritual alone can be useful to help transition you from whatever your mind was on at work to being more present at home. Rest is an important part of productivity that’s often overlooked, so don’t get fooled by the idea that you need to always be “on” to be your most effective self.
By preparing and even sharing a shell as is the original tradition of drinking kava, you can help melt away some workday stressors. Additionally, if you’re having trouble sleeping from anxiety, going this route can help you get ready for bed and keep you asleep. However, this type of kava typically is associated with tasting the more bitter root and experiencing numbing of the mouth, which some people like and some people aren’t fans of.
Finally, pastes made of kava are likely to have the highest amount of kava concentrates. They’re not recommended if you are brand new to kava, but a lot of kava aficionados like to put pastes in their mouths - under their tongue or in the upper lip - to get the relaxing effects of kava. Like tinctures and instant kava, it’s easy to keep on hand for moments when you need it.
Supplementing your regular activities with kava can help you relax and transition out of stressful moments when you might not feel like you can do it on your own. You might need to try a few different types and forms of kava because everyone reacts to them differently, and you’ll probably find yourself progressing or seeking different types over time as you explore more. Remember, stress is inevitable but our reactions to it don’t have to be.