Kava: an alcohol alternative.
A growing sober curious movement is driving people to look for an alcohol alternative and eliminate drinking alcohol from their lives all together. Previously, people often made a decision to stop drinking alcohol just for a limited period of time. Such decisions were either a New Year’s Resolution, or a commitment to a ‘Dry January’ or ‘Sober October’ and sometimes linked to a fundraising effort or good cause. That has changed.
And, while in the past, it was mainly recovering alcoholics who chose to adopt a sober lifestyle. Today, a much broader group of health conscious individuals are making the decision to remove from their life, food, drinks and activities that have negative side effects on their mind and bodies. The activities that leave them feeling less than optimal. And that includes drinking alcohol.
Comparing Kava and Alcohol
Below we look at alcohol’s negative side effects and how they are driving the growing ‘sober curious’ movement, we compare alcohol and kava and we explore why drinking kava is a great alcohol alternative for social relaxation.
Alcohol’s Negative Side Effects Prompt Sober Curious Movement
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a nice cold beer or glass of wine or two after a long, stressful workday. It can feel amazing to finally collapse onto the couch, turn on your favorite TV show, and have a drink or two to unwind….
The problem can come later that night when you have trouble sleeping and the following morning when you wake up with a hangover. That’s when the regrets about turning to alcohol for social relaxation kick in and you start thinking about an alcohol alternative.
Similarly, if you suffer from social anxiety and use alcohol as a means to overcome that, there can also be side effects. When you go out drinking, it’s to relax and have a bit of fun. But it is easy to drink too much and become drunk. With excessive alcohol drinking comes impaired mental clarify and slurred speech. And conversations characterized by fuzzy brain thinking and incoherent dialogue rarely make for great social interactions.
Alcohol affects people differently. Some people become happy, giggly drunks, chatting, smiling and tumbling onto people. Others become more amorous and affectionate, but are prone to quickly falling asleep. Unfortunately, excessive consumption of alcohol can also make some people angry, aggressive and quick to start a fight. And it’s not uncommon for people who get drunk to awake the next morning with no memory of the previous nights’ escapades or drunk dialing calls. Again, this is when people generally know it is time to seek out an alternative to alcohol, one without the negative side effects.
Kava and Alcohol: Similarities and Differences
Kava is a great alcohol alternative. While they have some things in common, they differ in important ways. Kava is a natural, nonalcoholic drink made from the ground root of the plant Piper Methysticum.
Switching from your favorite alcoholic tipple to a relaxing nonalcoholic, plant-based alternative drink may not be as strange as it sounds. Remember many alcoholic drinks have their origins in plants too. For example, tequila is made from agave, gin with juniper berries, beer with hops, and wine with grapes. Kava and alcohol have that in common.
Kava and alcohol can both give you that happy buzz. They are both great for social relaxation. The key difference is drinking kava has none of the negative effects of drinking alcohol. Kava has none of the drawbacks that come with drinking beer, wine or cocktails.
When you understand the origins of drinking kava for social relaxation and the multiple benefits of kava, it’s easy to understand why people are switching from alcohol to kava, and why it is a popular alcohol alternative. Below we look at the history of kava drinking and provide a detailed overview of the benefits of drinking kava instead of alcohol.
A Long History of Drinking Kava for Social Relaxation
While the dominant drinking culture in many parts of the world may evolve around alcohol, this is not the case everywhere. In the South Pacific islands, the dominant drinking culture is centered on kava. Drinking kava has has been common practice for centuries there and is part of ceremonial, cultural and social occasions. Some are convinced that regular Kava drinking is mainly responsible for the happy, aloha vibe of the South Pacific islands and the reason why people of these islands are often thought to the happiest and friendliest people in the world.
In Fiji, going to a Nakamal, (kava bar), in the evening to drink and hang out is the same as going to a pub or bar for a beer or glass of wine with friends here in the U.S. In that way, in that part of the world, kava already is the alcohol alternative. Here are just some of the benefits of drinking kava.
- elevates your mood without the brain fog
- relieves stress, washes away worries and quiets an anxious mind
- can make you more talkative and feel more social
- eases muscle tension
- promotes relaxation and sleep
Reasons to Choose Kava As an An Alcohol Alternative
Drinking kava has the same positive effects of alcohol without any of the downsides. Similar to alcohol, Kava relaxes mind and body. After a glass you feel lightweight and all the stresses of the day start to fall away. And a drink of kava will certainly give you a happy buzz. It will relax you, reduce your inhibitions and make you feel more social. Research has linked kava to an increase in a women’s libido or sex drive and there are traditional stories of kava as an aphrodisiac. But one thing kava will never do is make you more aggressive. Quite the opposite, at ceremonies to mediate disputes in the Pacific Islands kava drinking is common as it promotes peaceful dialogue. Tom Harrison, in his book “Savage Civilization” (1937) said that “You feel friendly… never cross…. You cannot hate with Kava in you.”
Kava Won’t Give You A Hangover
And perhaps the biggest advantage of drinking kava as a natural alcohol alternative is that there is a much slimmer chance of a hangover in the morning. When alcohol is metabolized in the body it is first converted into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is rather poisonous and can cause vomiting, headache, rapid heartbeat and flushing. Along with this, Alcohol disturbs the quality of sleep, leads to less Rapid Eye Movement (REM) or deep sleep, and can lead to early waking. These sleep disturbance might contribute to the tiredness and cognitive dysfunction associated with hangover. On the other hand, kava consumption produces no acetaldehyde and actually improves REM sleep with the result that many kava drinkers feel refreshed the morning following a kava drinking session.
Sober Curious? Try Kava
The negative side effects of alcohol are prompting a new generation to be ‘sober curious.’ They are thinking about whether to just accept the normal invitations to ‘go out for a drink’. The are questioning social expectations of friends who imply that ‘you can’t have a good time unless copious amounts of alcohol are involved.’ Today, health-conscious individuals are rejecting alcohol and looking for healthier, nonalcoholic alternatives.
Fortunately, the businesses are responding to this new and growing sober curious movement. New trends are emerging. They include kombuchas’ increasing popularity as a healthy beverage, the addition of innovative, craft, ‘mocktails’ to bar menus and the opening of sober bars where only nonalcoholic beverages are served. And the number of people turning to kava as an alcohol alternative as well as the rapid expansion in the number of kava bars throughout the U.S is another reflection of the change in social behavior.
So, if you are ‘sober curious’ and looking for an alcohol alternative, make sure to try kava.
Note: While kava is an alcohol alternative, mixing Kava and alcohol is not a good idea. Similarly, drinking Kava may hinder your motor functions because it is a mild muscle relaxant, so, as a safety precaution, it is best to not drink kava if you intend to drive later. While there are no laws associated with drinking kava and driving, it is not advised. In some states there are laws about driving under the influence of any substance. As with any herbal product, if you are unsure about taking kava, consult your doctor. Most will be happy to discuss how it may fit into your lifestyle.