TRIPPING ON KAVA
Many Australians are familiar with the beautiful island’s of Fiji. Known for their palm-lined beaches and coral reefs with crystal clear lagoons. However, many are not familiar with the endearing cultural practices exclusive to the “Melanesia” region – dating back over 3,000 years.
Fijian’s, along with their brother and sister islanders, have been using Kava, a psychoactive beverage derived from the pulverised root of the Yaqona plant, for centuries. The name “Kava” is a word derived from Tongan and Marquesan language, meaning “bitter.”
Fiji Kava is a highly valued spiritual and indigenous gateway to the past, according to locals. The Kava ceremony in it’s self is said to be psychologically significant. As the mutual act of sitting amongst a circle, exchanging in “Talanoa” (conversation), and sharing the ancient elixir, is said to create a spiritual bond.
Kava was first spread by the Austronesian Lapita culture hundreds of years ago. Eventually being formally introduced to Vanuatu, New Guinea and Tonga, with Fiji and the Solomon Islands adopting the psychoactive plant soon after.
FIJI KAVA EFFECTS
Fiji Kava, commonly referred to as “Nature’s Xanax,” is scientifically proven to assist with anxiety and stress disorders. And is also reported to help relieve physical pain, prevent seizures, and relax muscles – similar to CBD.
With its active ingredients, scientifically known as “kavalactones” (a class of lactone compounds), the Fiji Kava plant itself is very chemically unique. It holds a total of 18 kavalactones; six of which, including kavain, dihydrokavain, methysticin, dihydromethysticin, yangonin, and desmethoxyyangonin, are responsible for 96% of the plant’s pharmacological activity.
These kavalactones act on receptors in the central nervous system, causing an anaesthetic effect and slowing in the response time in muscles and the brain.
Chase Brendal – the owner of the Lacuna Kava Bar in Phoenix, Arizona, said in a 2019 interview with The List: “Some people come into my bar on their lunch breaks so they can calm themselves down from their stressful jobs.” Brendal added, “The best part about Kava is, there’s no hangover.”
FIJI KAVA BAN LIFTED IN AUSTRALIA
Kava was previously listed as a controlled substance under the Prohibited Imports Act, only ever being commercially available for medical and scientific research. However, this ban was recently lifted in Australia, for standardising Fiji Kava export and production. Now allowing commercial imports directly from Kava farms in Fiji to various states in Australia and the United States.
Aleveo Basaga, a Fijian Kava farmer, has farmed the Fiji Kava plant for decades and exports the crop to the United States. Basaga believes a larger commercial market for Kava would provide Fijians greater opportunities and better standard’s of living.
In a recent interview with ABC Australia, Basaga told reporter Emily Clark: “In Australia, and America, if they like Kava, it’s good for them and for us too.” Basaga encourages Australians and travellers from all over the globe to experience the hypnotic effects Kava has to offer.
PSYCHOACTIVE PLANT RITUALS
Although western society may use psychoactive substances as a mere escape, or recreationally – perhaps even a trend; many centuries ago and still today, they are used by native tribes in ritualistic, spiritual and religious ceremonies.
Take Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), or Ayahuasca derived from the Acacia tree for example; having been used in South American cultures since pre-Columbian times.
Allamanda Pina, a Solomon Island’s born Australian, said that the Fiji Kava plant is “very much considered a sacred and ritualistic substance,” and not only is it valued for its traditional significance; it is perhaps more enjoyed because of its euphoric and harmonic nature.
We are constantly being reminded of the cultural benefits of harmony and togetherness, experienced through the use of psychoactive plants. They are one of the few things in existence that hold the potential to bring people together.