Kavalactones. That is, how Kava Kava works
Where does the unique effect of Kava come from? How is it possible that Kava can simultaneously calm the nervous system and increase dopamine and serotonin levels? At the same time, provide inner peace and restore energy for action?
The answer lies primarily in the roots of Kava and the action of its active ingredients, the kavalactones. Or to be more precise: in their interaction. It is the particular composition of the kavalactones – the natural chemotype – that determines the way in which a particular Kava affects our body.
Each type of Kava is characterised by a different composition and concentration of active ingredients, so the better we know their natural properties, the more accurately we can select Kava to suit our needs and preferences.
What are kavalactones?
Kavalactones are the active ingredients in Kava Kava – methistine pepper. They are also called kavapyrons. We know of 18 kavalactones, six of which are responsible for approximately 96% of the action of Kava Kava. These are:
Each type of kavalactone acts differently and has a different effect on our body. At the same time, almost every variety of Kava Kava is characterised by a different composition of kavalactones.
Therefore, no two Kavas are alike: some varieties have a more calming, stimulating, relaxing effect (e.g. on tense muscles), increasing the feeling of satisfaction, sometimes even euphoria, or the opposite: they have a sleep-inducing or meditative effect. So what are kavalactone compositions?
Chemotype Kava Kava
The numbering of the above list is not random. Each kavalactone has been assigned a different number so that their proportions, or chemotype (six digits), can be determined in a simplified way.
Thus, for example, Kavaha VULA KASA LEKA from Fiji (the place of origin also determines the composition of the kavalactones) has a chemotype of 463251. This means that kavaina has the highest concentration, followed by methysticin (6), then yangonin (3), and so on.
It is generally accepted that the chemotypes of the best Kava types indicate in their initial two or three digits: kavaina (4) and dihydromethysticin (5) or methysticin (6).
The chemotype with a predominance of kavaina (4) is great especially during the daytime, when we lack energy and positivity for daily tasks. The predominance of dihydrocavain (2) fits perfectly in the evening, when we are looking for calming and restorative sleep.
How does Kava affect the body?
Kavalactones and GABA
Kavalactones are renowned for their effects on the GABA system – the main neurotransmitter that can ‘calm’ the nervous system by reducing over-stimulation (the amount of excitatory impulses). Kava increases the binding of GABA and enables the potentiation of gamma aminobutyric acid, naturally produced in the brain. As a result, it lowers stress levels, overstimulation and relieves tension.
As a Pacific adaptogen, it allows you to adapt to stressful situations. It soothes nerves, clears the head of a flurry of nervous thoughts and helps to regain inner balance.
Kavalactones and dopamine & serotonin
Kavalactones are evaluated as MAO inhibitors (it is assumed that the most potent MAO inhibitor is yangonin).
What does this mean? An MAO inhibitor reduces the action of monoamine oxidase, which itself reduces levels of dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline and norepinephrine, among others. In short: it protects dopamine and serotonin levels from what lowers them.
MAO inhibitors are used, among other things, in antidepressants or to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
But what’s interesting about Kava is that Kava functions by increasing GABA – this inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain […] So it seems to increase GABA, but is also increases dopamine. And that’s a somewhat unusual compound. I’m not aware of many compounds that simultaneously increase GABA and increase dopamine.
– dr Andrew Huberman – neuroscientist, Stanford University School of Medicine [source]
Of course, as we have already mentioned: every Kava is different. It’s worth checking out the different varieties and chemotypes. Adjust to your specific needs. It is worth experimenting. And, of course, remembering to choose only Noble quality Kava from reliable sources! Because Kava Kava is, above all, a unique world of sensations worth discovering!
The kava pyrones are believed to have anxiolytic, analgesic, muscle relaxing, and anticonvulsant effects, mediated by effects on the limbic system, the part of the brain linked to emotions. The mechanism of action of the pharmacological effects of kava has yet to be elucidated. Research has demonstrated that several factors, including concentration, type of preparation, kava pyrone content, and kava variety used may affect pharmacologic activity. Therapeutic uses of kava include the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and stress. [source]