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December 1, 2022 62 mins

Kava is a psychoactive beverage from the South Pacific that has a growing international market. Chris Kilham is “the Medicine Man,” an author, educator and TV personality who has conducted medicinal plant research in over 45 countries. We discussed the scientific evidence behind claims that kava is effective at reducing anxiety , alleviating pain and addiction, helping with sleep and generally improving mood and clarity of thought while presenting few risks to health. Chris also talked about his time in Vanuatu and other South Pacific islands, where he learned about kava’s history, cultivation, culture, and its potential to compete international with coffee, tea, alcohol and other psychoactive beverages.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hi, I'm Ethan Edelman, and this is Psychoactive, a production
of I Heart Radio and Protozoa Pictures. Psychoactive is the
show where we talk about all things drugs. But any
views expressed here do not represent those of my Heart Media,
Protozoa Pictures, or their executives and employees. Indeed, Heed, as

an inveterate contrarian, I can tell you they may not
even represent my own and nothing contained in this show
should be used his medical advice or encouragement to use
any type of drugs. Hello Psychoactive listeners. So today we're

gonna have a real adventurer as a guest. His name
is Chris killing and Chris kill Um has been studying
plant medicines for fifty years or more. He's written over
a dozen books. Um, he's trying of all the world
and uh, you know, the very first guest on on Psychoactive,

Andy Wile, says this about him. He says, Chris kill
him is a trustworthy guide on the medicine trail, full
of enthusiasm, wonder and respect for the wisdom of traditional cultures.
I respect his mission to make these plants and their
uses better known in our culture. So in looking over
the books that Chris has written, I mean the one
that struck me was when he wrote actually quite a

while ago in late nineties on cava. Cava the plant
medicine that is growing commonly in the South Pacific, and
I've been wanting to do an episode about cava and
so for a deep dive on cava and how it
relates to other plant medicines, I asked Chris tell them
to focus on that. So Chris, welcome so much to Psychoactive. Well, thanks, Ethan,

It's a great pleasure to be on with you. I've
been looking forward to this since you first suggested it,
and I'm glad we're finally making this happen. Yeah, I
mean I've seen that, you know, you did this can
Cava going to you know, one of the South Pacific islands.
Is it Vonatua? Is that how you pronounce it? Vona
Watu is the name of the country, and it's a

group of about a hundred islands stretching north to south
in the middle of the Pacific. So if you went
to Australia and then you flew by jets a three
hours east into the middle of the ocean, you dropped
down on Vana Wattu. But yeah, it's in the middle
of the South Pacific, and Vana Wattu is where kava

first originated. It's spread from as far east as Tahiti
in the Society Islands, to all the way west to
um you know, Melanesia and people of a more kind
of Asian Pacific descent. But kava really is the big
psychoactive agent among all of the Pacific islands. So that

counts with Fiji and Samoa, maybe Hawaii, what else, Yeah, Tonga,
the Marquesses, New Caledonia, you know, sure, all of them. Um.
Cava has played an extremely important role in culture, and uh,
certainly nowhere more so than Vona Wattu. So when I

first decided to take a very deep dive into cava,
which I already knew about in nine, I went to
Vona Watu and through a series of strange encounters, was
told to go to a very very very far out
outer island and look for a guy with tattooed legs.

And that led to a long friendship and ridiculously amazing adventures,
and together with other people, we started the international cova trade.
We we actually did that, and uh we were wonderfully
successfully in our efforts to popularize cova for a time,

and that stimulated um enterprise all over the Pacific Islands.
And I got to spend a lot of time in
Vonawatu and continue to this day. I was there in
two thousand nineteen, just a week before all travel stopped
due to COVID. So's it's an activity and a connection

that I keep up very closely. Well, so let's just
get down a basic first. I mean, the first question
we have to ask, since I imagine a good part
of our audience well not to the answer is what
the hell is cava? Well, cava is a bush ethan
and um. It is in the pepper family. Uh, it's
a piper species, and it's the root and the lateral

roots that come off of this large sort of football
shaped rootstock that are are taken out of the ground
and pounded, cleaned and pounded and made into a very
very strong drink that you drink out of coconut shells.
You drink it fresh, it's not fermented, it's not alcoholic,

and if cabba is properly made, you get a relaxing
feeling in seconds. I don't mean minutes, I mean seconds
as it's going down your throat, you feel this wave
of relaxation. And so cava it goes way way back
into antiquity with these different Pacific island communities and they

all have traditions around cava. And in Vanuatu, where I
have spent, you know, the majority of my time, though
I've done a lot of work in Hawaii. Um, you know,
we drink cava in the evening. It's pretty funny actually,
because you'll be out, you know, maybe somebody's working on
their taro patch or whatever, and somebody will say, hey,

what time is it, and somebody else says, it's cava time,
and they just stop in mid machette swing and they
just walk back to the village. And that starts the
reparation of cava, which is very physically demanding and labor intensive.
And this is an agent of kinship and community. It
brings people together and you sit and talk about your

day and you know, hang out for a while and
after drinking a few coconut shells of cava, you go
off and have dinner. But um, it said, don't miss
there's never there's never a day that passes where there's
no cava it's central to kinship and community in the Islands.
Now meanwhile, of course cava has become a not super popular,

but it's spreading in popularity in the U S. In Europe.
I was just looking up. There must be a couple
hundred cava bars around the country. So it's getting around
and why are people using it? Well, it imparts a
very specific feeling of relaxation and tranquility, and very quickly,
I mean very quickly, just as you know, one good

solid hit from a great joint of amazing ganja will
get you high momentarily. Um, drinking well made cava, you
will feel it almost instantaneously, and people like the sense
of tranquility that it promotes. Um, you don't lose neuromuscular coordination,

you don't become drunk the way you would on alcohol,
you don't lose your sensibilities. If you can remember your
friends phone numbers when you haven't drunk cava you can
remember and when you have. And um, it's really something
that just plane makes people feel good. And I think,
especially now considering that so many people are stressed out
and anxious, cava is sort of an of our time

agent of peace. Really, you know, as one anthropologist said,
you know, you cannot hate with cava in you. Uh,
It's it's an agent of dispute resolution. Let's say you
and I have something going on between us. You know what, ever,
you're piste off at me, I'm piste off at you.
There's something wrong. We get together, we sit down, we

drink cava. We just hang out for a while and
do that, and then afterwards we talk it through and
when we leave, it's done. It's finished, it's over, it's settled.
Maybe I owe you a pig or something, but it's over.
And so it's an agent not only of kinshipping community,
bringing people together, but it's also very useful for dispute resolution. Uh.

You know, you want to honor a dignitary or a
visiting chief, you throw a really wonderful cava celebration, or
you bring a big beautiful bundle of cava roots to
a wedding, you know, to give to the bride and groom.
All of these things show the real central importance of
this plant and it's culture. I mean, people love cava

and it makes them feel terrific. So the extension of
that to cava bars all over the US and Europe.
It just makes sense. Although I really do I do
prefer the island experience I can. I can imagine you
know a lot of what you're saying saying Chris, it
sounds like what I read in here and learn about,
say coca um in Bolivia and Peru and parts of Colombia,

or what one might hear read about, you know, tobacco
and more traditional uses in the Americas, or may be
caught in uh in Yemen and East Africa. You know,
the same thing you hear about coca being given to
the pope or the queen or the visiting president or
what have you. So in terms of I mean, how
would you compare it to those sorts of things in
that context? Quite similar? If you have chewed coca leaf,

you know this. You can't get high doing that. You
can try, you can try with all your might, but
you're not going to get high on it. Um. You
may feel a little bit more clear minded, you may
adjust to altitude better. Um, you know, feel kind of
like you had a cup of tea, perhaps, but you're

not going to get a different state of mind. If
you drink good cava. I mean good cava, I don't
mean the dishwater thin stuff that some people prepare from
dried cova powder. But if you really drink good cava,
you feel it, You feel it significantly, and it lasts
for a couple of hours. And uh, it isn't it

isn't comparable to coke. I mean, I've chewed coca hundreds
of times and drunk the tea many many times, you
know in the andies especially, and um certainly have you
know been in and out of ceremonies where tobacco is
uh widely you know and specifically used, But they don't
compare to cava. The effects are just utterly different. And

when you first have that cava wave that as it's
going down your throat you feel your entire body and
nervous system just kind of just spreading out through your
entire body, you realize, oh, this is a different thing.
It's not like anything. M h. Now, So what was

your first encounter with Well, my very first encounter was
at a dinner party in nineteen seventy nine in a
very elegant neighborhood called Fisher Hill in Brookline, Massachusetts. And
I was in this baronial manner that this rich friend
had and um, his brother was there, and after dinner,

his brother took out this jar and stuck a chopstick
in it and pulled out this big black ball of
goo about the size of a small marble, and he
handed to me and he said, try this. We were herbalist,
you know, so we did they like, you know, somebody'd
always be pulling an extract out of the pocket, like hey,
I just made an amazing you know whatever. Uh, you know,

ginger and be pollen extract, Try this or something. So
I said, well, what is this and he said kava
And I said, okay, you know what's it going to
do to me? And he said, you know, you'll feel it?
And so I put this ball of black goo in
my mouth and my tongue started to numb and uh.
In moments, I was pleasantly and delightfully high. Um. The light,

which was low in the dining room where we were sitting,
was had more sparkled to it, my hearing was more acute.
I had this delightful sense of relaxation and peace. And
I said, is this stuff legal? And he said, yeah,
it's legal and um. But it wasn't until nineteen ninety
five that I actually got to Vona Watu and began,

you know, my my real serious path with it. But
after that dinner party, I found the entity that had
supplied him with that little jar of goo and got
some myself and experimented with it over time. But when
I finally went to Vona Wattu, I was taken pretty
promptly into an Aka mall, which is a place we

had drink cava, and I had a couple of shells
of cava, and I then I got it was like,
oh right, okay, you can go very very deep at
this stuff. This is this is not some sort of
like little light buzz that you get from a ballago
in your mouth. This is this is you know, pretty
much as deep as you want to go, frankly, And

so that turned me onto cava. And I think that
we are certainly in my case, I'm drawn to certain plants.
I'm drawn to Oshawa Ganda, I'm drawn to the Ayahuasca plants.
I'm drawn to cava, to coffee in a huge way.
I've researched coffee all over the world, maka um you know,

Rodeola many other plants have really pulled me in in
a big way. And cava is certainly very very high
on that list. And why did it take so long?
I mean, why the fifteen or sixteen years before the
first time you tried it and you're going to find
a want to? I mean, what would prompted I visit
in Well, it was actually hard to uh for me

to find out as much about Cava as I wanted to.
I only got a little bits of information here and there.
And I was not familiar at the time with some
of the better botanical libraries where I could have gotten
much more. Frankly, I could have gotten good anthropological information
on Cava, but I didn't know where to go. And

then in ninety I was basically hired by a couple
who had purchased a massive botanical extraction facility in New Jersey, gigantic,
largest in North America. And they hired me because they
wanted to know what to do, uh, And I said,

I think you should develop cava And they said, well,
what do we need to do to do that? And
I said, you send me to the South Pacific and
they said, okay, when can a start And I said,
like now and they said great. And that began actually
a twenty one year engagement in which I have investigated

medicinal plants and food crops and spices all over the globe. Uh,
you know, and it really um threw me into what
I wanted to do mostly, which was be an explorer,
helped to develop sustainable chains of trade, make a difference
with indigenous native people, and in the process have remarkable

and extraordinary experiences. I mean, you describe at one point
cava as the main religion of the Melanesian people? Is it?
In fact? I mean akin to a religion way we
think about it, Well, it's not akin to a religion,
and that there's no dogma, and there's no central person.
You know, there's no oh, follow the teachings of Saint Cava.

You know, that's not happening. But what does happen is
a type of behavior, a type of listening, a type
of consideration that is engendered by drinking cava with others.
I mean, I've sat in Um a couple of times
and these magnificent cava ceremonies with like a whole crowded

knock them holl just full of chiefs, you know, and
everybody getting called up in turn and drinking this insanely
strong cava they called stone cava, which is minced with
a coral head, so that you erupture every last cell
of this really fibrous cava root, giving every little bit

of the relaxing compounds out there and into the water,
and um, you know, it's magical. It's just plain magical,
a breathtaking li So and then you go out underneath
the stars, or you know, in case of my so
called home village, staring across the bay at a live
volcano that's lighting up the sky purple and orange and gold,

and you just stand there and it's breathtaking, and you
get a sense of the the absolute tiny nous of
us and the absolute gigantic nature of everything else. When
it was it that Westerner's first encountered cova, I think
Captain Cook was one of the first to encounter it,

and he found the habit disgusting and didn't want it
to take place on his boat. Um, and that did
not endear him to island people, for whom cove is
the central, most esteemed artifact in their culture. But in general,
I think the fact is that European invaders did not understand,

mostly didn't care to understand, and found alarming almost everything
about Native people, you know the basics of how they lived,
what they did, and didn't seem to know, how they behave,
what they ate, how they ate, what they drank, how
they drank. I mean it was it was a disgust
and a loathing that went out in all directions. And eventually,

of course Captain Cook was killed because he was just
playing an idiot and he you know, had no consideration
for the native people, and he suffered terribly as a result.
We'll be talking more after we hear this ad. You

describe in the book the role of the missionary showing
up in the eighteenth and ninth lad eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
and you know, las Captain Cook's crew take sort of
down on the whole Cava tradition and just say a
little more about that role of the missionaries. And you
know what they did around Cava, well, missionaries as they

went through the various Pacific islands, tried their best to
get um, you know, native people, to stop being heathens
and to become good Christians. And so that meant, of course,
you know, learning Christian doctrine and following certain prescribed roles,

including of course tithing, you know, giving resources that they
didn't have two people they didn't know for purposes. They'd
never find out about UM as somehow part of their
salvation plan. And it is really a big con job
from beginning to end. UM in some cases. In many
cases the missions though at the very same time provided

education and medicine. It's a very confusing mixture of elements.
You know, if you want to seduce people and dissuade
them from their tragedi sational path and their traditional knowledge,
then you have to offer them something. You can't just
sort of walk around with a stick and demand that
they changed their ways. And so, you know, they showed

up with trinkets and education that is useful for sure,
and medicine that is valuable in other things. And UH
in the islands to one extent or another greatly depending
on the dundun denomination that they represented UM, they either
tried outright to ban kava or to somehow modify it.

The Catholics were kind of the smartest of all because
their approach was sort of like what they did in Mexico,
you know, with the yeah yeah, yeah, yeah, you know data,
the dad's fine, no problem, no problem. But you know,
here's how you need to worship and here's what you
need to do. And I think with uh kava, certainly
in Bonawatu um to the extent, I mean, to the

greatest extent, it wound up being a better preserved Cavia
culture uh than let's say in Fiji, Samoa, Tongua, Tahiti
um and and continued to flourish. There wasn't the same
attempt to ban it outright, and any attempts that did
start were quickly just eliminated. Um. And So how the

Catholic missionaries really got a hold in Vonawatu was by
saying yeah, yeah, yeah, you know, drink your cob every evening.
Sure that's fine, blah blah blah blah blah, but do
this as well. Be good Catholics this way. So lots
of different influences, because you know, everybody's got their own
idea of what of what religion is, and every Christian

missionary has their own idea of what they're actually representing.
So it's a largely confused, ham fisted affair out there. Right. Well,
you make me think, on the one hand, of some
of the Catholic missionaries, you know, seeking to ban affect
banning co in Latin America and punishing people for coca chewing.
And then the other hand, I think about the Protestant
missionaries and figures who played a big role in sort

of banning the opium control UH monopolies in Philippines and
elsewhere to later points. So, you know, and I guess
the similar roles played oftenized by some of these missionaries
and colonial governments in Africa of Vius of the traditional
alcohol use. So it's a fairly global phenomenon. But they
actually do ban it, right, I mean in some of
these islands, and they punish people for using it. They

have in different islands for a time. Yes. On the
other hand, there's a wonderful photograph of UH Pope John
Paul the Second drinking cava and Vona watu um, you know,
And yeah, I mean it. It depends on the denomination,
It depends on the missionaries. It depends on how zealous

and out of touch with reality they are. I mean,
you have to be out of touch with reality to
go to indigenous native people who have lived a certain
way for long, long, long, long time and tell them
that they're completely out to lunch in their approach to
their very mortal existence. And they ought to be worshiping
some guy they never met before previous and never heard about,

and start giving money to these people who they also
never heard never never heard of before, I never heard about. Oh,
and stop doing all this stuff you love. That's a
big Pilda swallow, right, you don't say if that Tahitian
prince you mentioned earlier, Paya was maybe the most fascinating
contemporary character. The most fascinating historical one was who fell

you write about named John From? Yeah, John From is
a legend. Um, He's a cargo cult messiah. The deal is,
you know, cargo ships travel all around the world, right,
and they constantly lose cargo, and cargo cults have evolved

and developed around found cargo. And John From was supposedly
this very tall, dignified, mysterious black man in a white
suit who showed up and would demand that they like
kill and roasted chicken for him, and just this mysterious
character overall, and he promised great riches. And they are

actually some people I don't know if there are anymore,
but up until certainly the eighties who were waiting around
for John From to come back. Um, you know, sometimes
what happens is there's a person you know, um, and
over time that person becomes a legend, and then that

legend becomes a magical person, and then the you know,
the who they are, that what they do, the how
they do it all gets greatly exaggerated, and you've got
something like John from I mean, I don't know if
we'll ever know the real the earliest possible beginnings of this,
but yeah, he's a legendary character who brings riches through

lost cargo. That's so Chris, now to bring this up
to basically the latent end of the last century in
the current century. So when you come back from Vanuata too,
and you're and you're you know, you're being hired by
this company that's interested in taking plant medicines and making
them more widely available, um, you know, for commercial purposes, um,

and health benefit purposes. UM. So what happens then, I mean,
I know, there's a period when it starts to spread,
and then there's a scare over the feared of toxicity
to people's livers of consuming it. I don't know, in
great amounts or in combination of the things. And that
seems to just tell us that that general story globally

as well as your role in it. Well, when I
came back from Bonawatu in nine, the company that had
hired me, Pure World, promptly started to develop a cava
extract and within a year as time we had a
really remarkable, profoundly effective cova extract that could be either

a liquid or a powder. And um then that jump
started real imports from von Owatu. And you know, when
you do something like this, you realize you've got people
in native villages in far flung islands all over the place.
Maybe they got boats, maybe they don't. Maybe they're hiking

from one village to another on foot all the time. Um.
And and there are many, many hundreds of thousands of
tons of cova in the ground all over these islands.
But how do you move some of that um, you know,
and get all the things you need like phyto sanitary
certificates you know for shipping and clearance from f d A,

and you know, all the right import licenses and all
of that stuff is behind and pretty much every herb
that exists. You know, if you're bringing Oshwa gande in
from India or rodeola from China, or you know, cava
from Bonawat, you have to set up a whole infrastructure.

So we had to do that. We had to do
all of that, um, you know, working together with people
all over the Islands and in the United States and
shippers and all of that, and um we got a good, good,
good business going for about ten years. And then, Um,
the toxicity thing was was very very sad because it

was complete bullshit from beginning to end, and none of
it was true. Uh. Really, it's not even a matter
that people consuming in large amounts or in interactions, whether
the drugs was There's really nothing to it. You could
uh not begin to take enough supplementary cava to approach

at any time what the Natives drink every single night
of their lives. If it were bad for you, they'd
all be dead. Um, they'll drink um the equivalent of ten, fifteen,
twenty times the most you could possibly consume in a
supplementary manner every single night. Um. No. I mean the

the story to that is Classic Politics on an ABC
television special that I helped to land about cava back
in their early days, right after we'd gotten this huge
feature in the Wall Street Journal and everybody wanted to
know about cava. Um. The director of the National Institutes
of Mental Health, having reviewed several European cava studies on anxiety, said,

if we have American studies that show these same results,
will have no choice but to recommend cava. And for
the pharmaceutical entities who were selling Ben's oar diaz appeene drugs,
um you know of all different kinds, an ax er ax, halcyon,
you know the works. That was the most terrifying thing

that guy could ever have said. And one week before
the release of the publication of the Duke University Medical
Center studies showing that cava quote is proves every bit
is effective in the treatment of mild to moderate anxiety
as benzo diazepine class of drugs. One week controlled double

blind studies basically showing that cava was as good or
double blind controlled human Yeah, double blind, placebo controlled human
clinical studies conducted a Duke University Medical Center. Exactly what
the director of the Institute National Institutes of Mental Health
had been talking about one week before that came out

all of a sudden, overnight something nobody had ever heard about.
Twenty one cases of talk cava related liver toxicity, and
it tanked Cava overnight. And what happened from that time
was that several groups of medical researchers and specialists went

through that report and discovered that of the twenty one cases,
twenty of them could be summarily explained away. It was
people using benzo diazepines and a lot of alcohol and
then subsequently also taking some cava, and one woman who
was anomalous that they don't know anything about her previous

liver history. But basically the job that was intended to
be done to just blow cava out of the water,
it worked, and insurance companies wouldn't ensure companies for having
cava anymore. And you know, there were some class action
suits and all the usual ambulance chasing and that gravely,

gravely damaged the cava market and gravely damage the income
of indigenous people all over the Pacific. And you're talking
about the period roughly the first decade of the two thousands,
like two thousand two to two thousand and six, seven eight.
I mean it was not just in the US, right,
I mean you had I think Germany and Switzerland, the UK, France,
you know, all banning it for a while, is that right? Right?

Because of this one study that wasn't a study, correct, Chirse.
I'll tell you it's reminding me. We did an episode
a little while back about Cratum creatum or what they
call in Southeast Asia kreaton, and a very similar thing
where a study comes out saying fortis or whatever, and
then when people start digging, it turns out that every
or virtually every claim is bogus. Uh, you know, knocking

out some product that seems to have real promise coming
In both cases, I mean from you know, another part
of the world, you know, either Southeast Asia and in
your case South Pacific. You know, it's like it's like
when the New York Times put out a study went
forty years ago, you know, front page, the LSD splits
your chromosomes. And then I think of how many people
I knew were in the middle of lst trip and
they started freaking out that their kids were going to

be born to foreign because there's chromosomes are going to
be split and turn will be totally bogus. But it's
those kind of scary stories that get so well publicized. Well,
in the case of protecting at that time a twenty
billion dollar pharma sector, the benzo diazepine drugs for anxiety.

It was a matter of self preservation for whoever, you know,
whoever was hired to do this. It was a hit job.
And yeah, I mean I remember very well when it
was you know, LSD would damage your chromosomes. So let
me ask you this, why do you think kava did
not take off until you show it up given the

beneficial property associated with it. For one thing, cava doesn't
taste good. Okay, nobody drinks cava and goes, God, that's
delicious cava, whereas you might have an enchanting cup of
coffee and just go, wow, this is a beautiful cup
of coffee. I mean, the different agents you described are very,
very different, one from another. Coffee is something you can

have any day unless you're caffeine intolerant. It is fragrant
and delicious if it's well made. And cava still nobody
really set up an infrastructure for cava trade until the nineties.
But in addition to that, it doesn't taste good, you know,

and the more you drink it, the worse it tastes.
So you know, like you have a couple of shells
of cava your first time, you go wow, this is
great stuff, and I tell you what, by the third
or fourth night, you're just going gun. I hate the
smell of this stuff. It really does not enchant you.
I don't know any Native guys who love the taste
of cava, none of them. When you think of the

overall properties of something like you think of cannabis, okay um.
For most people and not for all people, if you
consume cannabis in some manner, you're going to get this
delightful or pleasant you for a sense. It's going to
feed your endocannabinoid system in hundreds of different ways that

we know are valuable for harmonizing organ systems between each other.
It's going to do all kinds of intrinsically good things.
And the fragrance of it, and hopefully the flavor of it,
if it's cured right, will make it something that you're
happy to go back to again and again. Um cava,
you know it's a tougher it's a tougher fight. I

don't expect cava ever to be huge. I just don't
think that will happen. And I think that cava's chance
to play a significant role in UM. The relief of
mild to moderate anxiety was very, very badly damaged by
that study. And I do think that cava will continue

to slowly creep on back somewhat, but I don't think
we'll ever see the very very high popularity of it
that we saw initially, and and part of that is
due to the flavor barrier for sure. So in all
these cava bars, I mean these a couple of the
cava bars around the US, and I guess a whole
bunch around the world. I mean, are people kind of

holding their nose and like, you know, kind of grimacing
as they drink this stuff, or are there are flavors
being added, or are people consuming in ways which remove
the offensive elements of smell and taste. Well, you can't
remove the offensive elements of smell and taste. You can
mask them. You know. You can put cava into say

a coconut pineapple drink, as some places do, and that
will make it more tolerable. But yeah, for the most part,
I mean that the good cava bars like Kanaka Cava
and Kyle Lua on the Big Island of Hawaii. You know,
they got a great big cava bowl there and they
just keep stirring it and stirring it and they fill
up a coconut shell and you drink it, and yeah,
it's full on, boy, this isn't delicious kava, that's what

it is. Yeah, you know there are people out there
who will drink Yeagermeister. Now, Yeagermeister is one of the
most offensive, nasty tasting boozes on the market, Okay, and
yet you have people who favor it, who gravitate toward it,
who have Yeagermeister parties, who drink a lot of it

and go figure or look at red Bull. I mean,
red Bull is just plain nasty. It's not good tasting
at all. Uh, they make no pretense of it being
good tasting. People get a buzz and a lift from it,
and it doesn't stop them from using well over a
billion dollars worth a year. So you know, it's an

odd thing about flavor and all of the organ elleptic
properties of these things. I mean, tobacco fundamentally tastes just
horrifyingly bad. And yet because it it does what it
does in terms of you know, suppressing uh, certain emotional sensitivities,
it's highly desirable among a lot of people. And you're right,

it has a major central role in the America's as
a sacred medicine. Um. You know, in in ayahuasca ceremonies,
and I've sat in about a hundred thirty five ceremonies
in the Amazon, there's always tobacco. Always. Usually the shamans
are smoking mapacho, which is the Amazonian broad leaf tobacco,

which contains twenty to twenty four times the nicotine of
the Virginian tobacco that you know gets used to make
cigarettes here in the US. And um, sometimes they'll do
what's called the soap lar. They'll they'll sit down in
front of you and they'll take a mapaco, a cigarette

made of this Amazonian tobacco, and they'll blow it at
your face, and they'll blow it on the top of
your head and down the back of your shirt and
into the palms of your hands, on the soles of
your feet. You know, this whole ritualized thing. And I
have to say Ethan that even though I hate the
smell of tobacco and I don't want to be around

people smoking cigarettes with something like a soaplar, I find
it amazingly enjoyable and very much in keeping with what
I want to have happened during an ayahuasca ceremony. So
it's that's interesting to me because I really don't like
tobacco at all. I've done the tobacco snuffs thing and

that just made me puke and crap my brains out,
and I don't want anything more to do with that. Um.
But people react differently. There's a tobacco preparation called bomble,
and it's this. You cook the tobacco down until you
have this black tar and you just put it your
fing your tip just to touch into the ombile, and

you put it on your tongue and in pretty short
order you're very high. And I've done that bombile in
ceremony and that was pretty pleasant actually. Um. But you know,
tobacco is extremely toxic, extremely So if you were to
take a cigar and put it in a glass of
water and leave it overnight and then in the morning

drink the glass of water, you'd be dead in about
half an hour. Let's take a break here and go
to an ad. So let me just read a paragraph

from your book The years Ago and see would you
would you correct any of this or not? But you
basically say, you know, here's the recap. What we know
about Calva's pharmacological activity. The nature of the effects that
cover producers depends on the variety of cava plant being used,
the age of the plant, and the rage ratio of
cavalact tones. I guess the key ingredient found in that type,

the potency of the cova preparation, whether it is consumed
on a full or empty stomach, the set in the
setting of the user will all influence the actual effects
each user will experience. First and foremost, it's a local
anesthetic with potency similar to that of cocaine and procaine.
It numbs the tongue and the throat when drunk in
its traditional form or when taken orally as a liquid extract.

It's a first rate sedative, producing a state of calm
and promoting sleep if taken in sufficient quantity. Cobb is
an excellent analgesic, but its mode of activity as a
pain reliever has yet to be determined. It's superior to
aspirin and its analgesic effects, and less potent than morphine.
Cobb is an excellent muscle relaxing and can make the
pain of an aching back, a sore neck, or any

other cramped, sore, injured muscle disappear as an aid in
the relief of both systitis and go out gonorrhea. Cava
appears to be beneficial, though the exact mechanism for this
action is not yet fully understood. Some researchers believe that
this action is due to kava's anti fungal activity. The
cavalac tones have demonstrated significant anti fungal activity against some

human pathogens. Unfortunately, appears to have no effect on Candida
albacin's yeast. I no idea what that is. It also
possesses anti convulsant properties. Promising studies with epileptic show that
cova enhances control over grandmall seizures. While colba produces no
side effects when taken in moderate doses, its abuse can
immediately lead to health problems. There was one study in

the late eighties among Aboriginal showing excessive consumption leading to
deteriorating health. So would you stick by all of that?
Add to it does take away any of that? Well, no,
I would stand by that. The only thing I would
add but I do think that I covered that otherwise
in the book is that you know, in the right set,

in the right setting, I mean, this is a wonderful thing.
You know. I taught ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts
for fourteen years, and every semester we would have a
class where we would make cava and I had cava
shipped in, uh from Hawaii. I'd have it shipped in
fresh and or or I also had some freeze dried

cava that was not commercially available, and we would go
out outside. The students in my class and I we
would sit around and we would make cava and we
would drink cava, and we would do it as close
to island style as you could on the grass outside
of an engineering building on a college campus on a
sunny day. And the students loved it. They just loved it.

They loved everything about it, the feeling of it, the
fact that they were you able to consume this plant
and feel it right away. They enjoyed it very much.
Nobody ever had a bad time. Um. You know, some
plants just confer more delightful properties than others, and cove

us one of those. Okay, so, Chris, so, so now
we've been talking, so our listeners are here, and this
thing go Wow, this could help with anxiety. It's already
been demonstrated. It appears to help with sleep right. It
relaxes you, makes you feel kind of tranquil, but your
mind stays clear. It can be kind of fun. So
what's your recommendation, and please get as specific as you

feel comfortable doing so in terms of how and where
people should be getting this, you know what forms should
be they consuming it in. What are the brands? Are
the websites that you'd recommend, what are the dosages? What
can you tell us? Well, okay, I think that two
companies who are doing cova right out there are both

making liquid extracts. One is Gaya and one is Herb
Farm and that's pH A r M. And they're both
very fine brands. They're both using bonawa to cova. They're
both doing a good job. If you want to have
the cava experience that is that wave of relaxation, um,

you know that that really feeling the cava, then those
are two good ways to do it because you can try, um,
you know, as much as you want until you get
that relaxing feeling. What I would do with something like
the Guya or the Herb Farm um extracts is take

a little paper dixie cup, a little one and put
about an ounce of water in the bottom of it,
squirt in two full droppers full of the cava extract,
and drink it on the spot. I mean, bang it
right back. And the reason you do that is that
if you don't, the relaxing compounds will stick to the

bottom of the cup and you won't get the effects.
So you want to put that in right away and
just throw it back. You'll have the cava experience. And
if you do that and then you want more, you
wait twenty or twenty five minutes. You don't do shots
or shells of cava back to back. If you have
the opportunity to go to Vanawa to South Pacific, then

you can drink real fresh cava and cava bars. But
most people can't do that. So I would say Guya
and herb Farm are excellent ways to go. And if
just for anxiety or sleep, same thing, or the capsules effective,
or there are other forms of consuming it. Yeah, I
think that Guaya has some cava capsules as well. Basically,

I'm not sure who else does right now. I actually
haven't looked at that side of things in a little while.
There are also some concentrated cava pastes out there that
you can find that will deliver a good, strong cava experience.
But I think for capsules, yeah, I think you can
get those through Guya as well. And if you want

to take it every night for sleeping, what do you
suggest in Well, you probably would want an encapsulated cova
just so you don't have to deal with the flavor barrier.
And um, you know, cova is interesting. It does help
a lot of people to sleep better. It doesn't help
everybody to do so, but it does help a lot

of people to get a deeper more uh, you know,
just relaxed rest really really relaxes your muscles in a
big way. M h. And you know, I did an
episode about micro dosing and a lot of episodes about
you know, quote unquote macro dozing. And then in between
is something you know, I've called mini dozing, but I
saw you were writing you were calling it. I think

MENI dozing right, but the middling dose. And so I'm
just wondering what about with cava um and what about
if people are trying to treat anxiety. What's your recommendation
about that. Well, here's what we know. In cava. There's
a group of compounds called the cava lac tones. And

if you look at a standardized cava extract, whether it's
in a capsule or a fluid, it will give the
caval actone value. Okay. Um All of the human studies
are done in increments of seventy milligrams of caval act tones.
So and generally the studies that show the best anti

anxiety effects are three or four times that per day. Um. So,
let's say two hundred ten to two hundred eighty milligrams
of caval act tones a day that is sufficient enough
to significantly quell mild to moderate anxiety. Won't do anything

for extreme anxiety, just like we don't have anything for
extreme depression other than you know, heavy duty tripping under
supervised conditions. Um. So, that's what I would say. You know,
you look for an absoluated cava product that, let's say
per capsule, delivers seventy milligrams of caval actnes per capsule,

and you do three or four of those a day,
and that will put you in the clinically verified zone
for helping to manage mild to moderate anxiety. I see.
And is it correct to say people do not build
up tolerance to cava in the way they do to
some other drugs. Well, I mean I never have, but

you know, I'm I can't be a clinical study of one.
I mean, I think if you drink cava in large
quantities every single evening, the way they do in the Islands, um,
at the very least, you build up a little bit
of a tolerance. But in terms of people managing mild
to moderate anxiety, we haven't seen that in any of

the studies. And what about combining it with alcohol or
cannabis or CBD or do we know anything about the
drug interactions. Yeah, I'm not a friend of combining cava
with alcohol. I think the cava accentuates the alcohol and
the and the alcohol accentuates the cava in weird ways.

I don't think it's a good combination cava and cannabis.
That's these days very common. Um. You know, the cava
adds extra relaxing dimension to the cannabis, and the cannabis
gives an extra lift to the cava. That's the way

I would describe it. And it can only grow in
this part of the world, or could it grow in
many other places? Well, cava needs to be in an
an equatorial tropical environment and it favors very easy to

drain bulk anne soil um. So for example, in Vanawatu,
where all of those islands are volcanic, every last one
of them, uh, the soil is really ideal. And you
have similar things in Samoa and Tonga uh and other
parts of the Pacific Islands where those islands themselves are
volcanic and so the soil is right. You know. Uh.

Kava grown in in Hawaii for example, which I have
a long involvement with. It's very very good uh and
that owes to the soil. But you know, if you
were to try it, like say, to grow it, you
know you see Davis or something where they have you know,
phenomenal agricultural geniuses, you couldn't. You just couldn't do it.

And Vanuatum, how is this business working out for them now?
Are they making more and more money? I mean, obviously
COVID you know the first the uh you know, the
liber disease thing, and then COVID you know, we're obviously
major knocks and typhoons as well. But are they doing
better and better in this area and is it having
a generally positive impact done people in the islands or

is it bringing some unwashed Well, look that the steady,
the steady on slot of multicultural influences from all over
the world on any place is disorienting for people no
matter where they are. But I will say that in Vonawatu,
the wonderful thing that has happened with the cova trade

is that the cava growers and the cava shippers are
making far far more money than they ever did, and
that means that you know, more of them can afford boats.
The kids are dressed better, They have things they need,
like you know, cooking pots and washing basins and stuff
that we take completely for granted, and newer bush knives

and stuff like that. And it has really, uh frankly
transformed their lives in very positive ways, you know, from
an access to goods and services ways. Uh, they're doing
better now, and you know it's it's in that sense,
it's what my friends and I hoped for in the beginning.

You know, wouldn't it be great if these people could have,
you know, take this tradition of theirs, uh, you know,
and earn a living and be less at the mercy
of forces all around them because they have some economic
stability and power, and thankfully that's exactly what has happened.
You know, not everybody in Vona Watu or in the

Pacific Islands is in the cava trade, so not everybody
um is equally benefiting from that. But that's true all
over the world, no matter what trade you're talking about.
So in the case of h Vona Watu cava, it's
been a big success. And you're right that COVID and
other things over time have harmed it, but the overall

condition of the trade and of the growers and of
the cava bars and all of that, it's gone way
way up in very gratifying ways. And there's not un
any problems of over harvesting or endangering access the ability
of locals to get quality cova. There's the market would
have to grow much more substantially before that was a concern.

There is so much cava in the ground it's unimaginable,
you know, I mean, we're we're really talking many hundreds
of thousands of tons um. You know that, because what
happens ethan you pull a cava bush, okay, and so
you're after the route and the lateral roots, but you

pull up this bush and it has maybe thirty five stocks,
not one thirty five, and you cut each stock at
an angle and you stab it into the ground, and
that grows a cova plant. So at a certain point
you can't even grow anymore, you know, because over hill
and dale, as far as you can see, under every tree,

and further and further and further and further, it's cava.
So at this point in time, there is no concern
about it being endangered, no concern about it being over harvested. Uh,
no concern at all about any of that. So your

prediction is that this is going to be a slow
growth in the US and around the rest of the world.
There's more and more people appreciate it, but ultimately inherently
limited because of the smell and taste issues. Well, yeah,
I think so. But also think about it this way.
I mean, let's say that we have all kinds of

foods in our kitchen, right, you know, we have things
that we eat every day, we have things on occasion,
we have things that we eat every once in a while. Um,
all of these plants, whether you're talking creatum, whether you're
talking Salvia divinorum, whether you're talking cava, they're all part
of this vast buffet of psychoactive plants, and some are

just naturally more appealing to people than others and something
that they want to turn to more often than they
do with others. That's just the way it is with plants,
with different items of clothing, with foods, with music, it's
no different. Um Cava, you know, it will never be
as big as alcohol. Cava will probably hold its sort

of moderate place in society, and maybe we'll see the
European bands eventually go away because they're fool harded, eat
fool hardy and based on non reality. Um but I
don't think it's going to be huge huge. I think
it's just part of the psychoactive buffet. Just as you know.
I used to direct my students in class to go

to this particular place that made hot chocolate, and I
would say to them, I don't care what hot chocolate
you've had in life, I don't care where you've been.
Go to this place, drink a cup of it, come
back and tell us about it. And they would all
come back and go, WHOA man. I was high for
hours on that, and this place just had a particular

way of doing it so that it was as concentrated
a coco elevating experiences you could possibly have, um, you know,
and that's something that people will go back to taste good,
really amazing, love the effect, you know, all of that.
People are going to reach for that more than they're

going to reach for cava for sure. So Chris, just
to finish up here, I mean, you've spent many decades
being a quote unquote medicine hunter, traveling the world, you know, finding, discovering, uh,
you know, figuring out whether these things could be brought
to broader markets. So what are the other ones in
your decades of travel and investigation that you're most excited

about and why? And I really you could go on
for hours about this, but if you had to give
me the highlights, what would you say? I would say
that my involvement with Maka, which is a highly nutritious,
stamina promoting route in the Andes, which I started working
on in ninety eight. Um, that's been a very big,

deep involvement that I have loved tremendously. And the kava
market didn't exist before my friends and I got involved,
and now cove is everywhere around the world. I mean, Marca,
excuse me, Um, Rodeo la Rosa, which I've investigated in
the central south of Siberia and the Shinjong region of China,

is just remarkable for its overall health and vitality promoting properties.
And I've worked with that extensively for years, and that's
an involvement. I'm very proud of um Oshawa Ganda, which
is also a vitality enhancing route from India and a
key part of the ira Vedic tradition over there. I

work with that to this day. I work with commit
commercial entities with Ashwaganda to this day, and and and
other things like coffee, which I've investigated around the world,
coco or that is cacao, the source of chocolate um
and you know Amazonian plants. I mean, I've gone very

very far and deep with the ingredients of ayahuasca, so
both the vine that's used to make it and also
the leaf and my Peruvian team and I did the
only real legitimate survey on ayahuasca that's ever been done.
Took us two years to do it. These have been

some of the major plants. But you know, I've been
fortunate to research rosemary and time and hawthorne and olive
leaf in Morocco, and um, you know, work all over
Africa and the Middle East. You know, in Malaysia, I've
worked with tonkat Ali, which is a humongous plant over

there that almost nobody over here even knows. And many
Thai plants in Thailand. Um, you know, the plants call
to me and I get to go work with them,
and sometimes I get to make a real and profound
difference in the livelihoods and the and the fortunes of
other people. And I love that. That's you know, that's

the greatest reward reward I could possibly ask for. Well, Chris,
on that note, I mean, god, I've loved this conversation
with I've learned a hell of a lot, and I
think our listeners must have as well. So listen, thank
you ever so much for joining me and my listeners
on Psychoactive. Well, thank you Ethan Yet you ask great

questions and I've enjoyed the time immensely. I'm glad we
finally connected after sort of kind of like you know,
rubbing or us at different conferences over time. It was
nice to make a more of a real connection in
New York, and I wish you continued success with this
and to all of your listeners. Thanks for tuning in. Okay,

thank you very much. If you're enjoying Psychoactive, please tell
your friends about it, or you can write us a
review at Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
We love to hear from our listeners. If you'd like
to share your own stories, comments and ideas, then leave

us a message at one eight three three seven seven
nine sixty that's eight three three psycho zero, or you
can email us at Psychoactive at protozoa dot com or
find me on Twitter at Ethan natal Man. You can
also find contact information in our show notes. Psychoactive is

a production of I Heart Radio and Protozoa Pictures. It's
hosted by me Ethan Naedelman. It's produced by Noam Osband
and Josh Stain. The executive producers are Dylan Golden, Ari Handel,
Elizabeth Geesus and Darren Aronofsky from Protozoma Pictures, Alex Williams
and Matt Frederick from my Heart Radio and me Ethan Edelman.

Our music is by Ari Blucien and a special thanks
to a Brio s f Bianca Grimshaw and Robert Deep.
Next week I'll be talking with Dr Gabor Matte, the

Hungarian Canadian physician from Vancouver who's influenced millions of people
with his writing about addiction, trauma, pain, and the power
of healing. I've always argued that addictions are rooted in trauma,
and the reason the book is subtitled traum Ileus and
Healing in a Toxic Culture is because the very conditions

of life in modern day global it's corporate capitalist society
actually traumatized people. Um they hurt people, they wound people,
and that diseases of mind and body in this environment
are not abnormal, they're normal responses to what is an
abnormal culture. Subscribe to Psycoactive now see it, don't miss it.
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