Citation: elsewise. "Great With a Community: An Experience with Kava (exp113885)". Erowid.org. Jan 17, 2020. erowid.org/exp/113885
||3 - 7 glasses
As a Westerner, I have been lucky enough to be part of a community of Kava drinkers. I regularly go to a "nakamal" (or as close to a nakamal as one would hope to find in North America), where I drink kava in a communal setting with friends I have met there.
First, a brief diversion to describe my usage and dose. I have been using Kava Kava regularly for about three years.
I have been using Kava Kava regularly for about three years.
During each session, I usually drink three, 8oz shells---though I can drink as many as six or seven shells if I'm really trying. I drink Kava three to four times per week, and I try to keep at least one day between sessions (though it doesn't always work that way...).
I *always* drink kava in one gulp. At the nakamal, we partake in the Fijian tradition: one person claps, we lift our shells (with two hands) and yell "BULA!," then down the entire shell. Upon finishing, we place down our shell and clap three times. It is considered polite to grimace after drinking. If you don't, it's a signal that you don't believe the kava is sufficiently strong.
The communal experience of Kava-drinking is sublime, and not at all like being a regular at an alcohol bar. No one gets into fights. Kava makes me, and others with whom I've discussed this, eager to share their experiences---both speaking and listening. I have had incredible conversations with people of different political persuasions from me, something that was previously very difficult for me to do. My experiences using Kava with other people, especially those who are different from me, has expanded me beyond where I thought I could expand. I am a much richer and broader person for having shared these experiences at the nakamal.
I believe there is a good reason for the nakamal format and atmosphere. Kava is really a plant of community. It helps heal differences, and is ideal for sensitive, political discussions. It can help you see from another perspective, a true entheogen, but leaves the drinker clear-headed, with inhibitions entact. Kava has never made me do or say something I later regretted.
I'll go on to describe various other details I've learned about Kava over the years.
First, the elephant in the room is always Kava's flavor. Kava is bitter, and the tongue-numbing effect can be offputting to some. My body now associates these sensations with fun, so they no longer bother me. As I get used to kava, I even discover flavor characteristics between varietals. I generally find Kava's flavor to vary along two dimensions. First, how "peppery" is it? Second, how "creamy" is it? These dimensions are mostly orthogonal, and can help to place the flavor of varietals relative to one another.
That said, no one drinks Kava for the flavor. The fact that it's traditionally chugged indicates, at least to me, that in 3,000 years of recorded usage, no culture has developed a taste for it.
Next, the experience. The effects of kava can vary considerably between varietals. In general, Kava varietals can be divided between "stump"---the main trunk of the root---and "lats"---the lateral, exploring tendrils of the root. There are also whole-root blends, which can have various effects. For me, Lawena is a classic "stump" feeling, whereas Waka is a classic "lat."
Even within this classification, there can be considerable variation in effects, especially notable in whole root blends. For example, Pouni Ono and Samoan Awa are both whole-root blends, but I can tell them apart by their effects. Pouni Ono has a more disorienting, hazy "drunk," whereas Samoan has a euphoric, crystal-clear "high."
Across all kava varietals, one effect is the same: the high begins with a buzzing euphoria, a desire to talk and socialize, and tapers of into a deep, relaxation. I have heard the sensation likened to the feeling of lying in warm sand on a beach; that's as close a descriptor as I can hope to come up with, so I will leave you with it.
Kava is often described as having a "reverse tolerance:" tolerance *decreases* with continued use. This is counter-intuitive, but the effect is consistent across individuals, at least in my own observations.
My nakamal uses bubble hash bags to prepare kava. Dry, noble root is pressed in 100 degree water in these hash bags, then let to sit, then the bags are pressed and drained out. The resulting goop is let to sit in a refrigerator until cold.
I find that Kava suppresses the appetite. With chronic use, especially at high doses, I can expect dry, flakey skin. However, these symptoms disappear once I lay off for two or three weeks.
One very annoying symptom that many at the nakamal have experienced are styes. I always feel that Kava dries the eyes, and I assume that dry eyes can cause styes to emerge as particles block pores without being washed out by tearing. I started using lubricating eyedrops (without redness relievers), and have not had a style in over a year. Decreasing dosage also helps.
Personally, I experience the Kava spirit as a man: a jovial, overweight man sitting cross-legged. He laughs and wags his head. He's tremendous fun to be around, and I have never had the slightest sense that he meant me harm, or meant to entrap me (unlike the spirits of Cannabis or Nicotiana...). At one point in my Kava usage, I decided very consciously to take a break from Kava.
At one point in my Kava usage, I decided very consciously to take a break from Kava.
I wrote a break-up letter to Kava, explaining my position and why I felt the way I did. I experienced the Kava spirit being completely understanding in return. He truly wanted what was best for me. This experience is night-and-day from my experiences breaking up with Cannabis and Nicotina.
Kava medicates boredom, like any drug. I believe the Kava spirit *wants* to help me regulate self.
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