Some who have enjoyed the beneficial effects of Kava root have awakened the next day, only to discover that physical and mental effects are still present. These effects are commonly known as the kava hangover. The effects are usually in a thoroughly different arena than alcohol hangovers, and on the whole much less negative.
This article explores the causes, symptoms, impacts, and details of the kava hangover.
Kava Hangover Symptoms
Kava hangovers can have a vareity of symptoms, many of them not unpleasant.
Some find that they have a bit of a woozy headache. Often anxiety will remain in a lower state than what would typically be experienced, and the body will feel tired. Lethargy and lack of motivation are not uncommon.
Rarely, users will feel nauseous the next day after a large session, though even this is typically much less intense than what can occur if too much alcohol is consumed.
Some of these effects may be impacted by the type of kava consumed, the amount of food eaten, and of course, the amount of sleep!
Tudei Kava and Hangovers
The most typical reason for a kava hangover is that you have imbibed some Kava containing Tudei root. Tudei, aka “Two Day” or Isa kava, has a longer effect duration, as well as a variety of negative connotations. Tudei is considered inferior to Noble kava. It is banned from export from Vanuatu, and is not cultivated in Tonga or Samoa. It is not typically consumed in the pacific islands where Kava consumption is heaviest.
Tudei tends to be weaker in its effects than Noble kavas, and have a larger portion of the DHM kavalactone chemotype, one of the lesser-desirable kavalactones. Additionally, Isas usually contain significant amounts of flavokavain b, the kavalactone most associated with hepatoxicity.
Isa kava has a higher concentration of double-bonded kavalactones than typical Noble kava contains, and it takes the body longer to process these double-bonded molecules. Therefore, Tudei kava stays in the system for a longer duration than pure kava.
However, short of testing every batch of kava that travels around the world, it’s virtually impossible to identify Kava containing Tudei root. Exporters can make more money by bulking up their Kava with some portion of Tudei, similar to the way that Italian olive oil companies mix in inferior olive oils for more profit. Many suppliers test their Kava, and whenever possible I will include those results when talking about various suppliers.
But the reality is that most people are not going to test every batch of kava they purchase, and have to trust the suppliers that there’s no Tudei in their kava.
And many suppliers give no information regarding Tudei at all!
How much Kava will cause a hangover?
It is very difficult to identify a threshold amount of kava that will trigger lingering symptoms into the following day. Kava potency is heavily impacted by the quantity of food eaten prior to and during the kava session, and the interaction of food with kava can significantly reduce the effects of kava, and can also prolong the effects of kava.
Preventing Kava hangovers
One of the best ways to diminish potential for a kava hangover is to drink a good deal of water while enjoying a kava session. Personally, I find that sparkling water (such as La Croix Passionfruit) works as an excellent chaser for those terrible-tasting kavas.
After a few shells I typically switch over to a hot, strongly flavored tea with a light meal. Ensuring I get plenty of water, and of course no alcohol, typically lessens kava hangovers.
Kava acts as a diuretic, and replenishing that water as much as possible is a huge benefit.
Sleep and Kava
Kava is a natural sleep aid, and many use it to help transition to sleep. But others find it stimulating, even only to the brain, and will stay up later than normally after a kava session. Add to that the constant exposure to screens and bright blue-cast light, and you have a recipe for a drowsy, blah feeling upon waking.
To avoid hangovers, be sure to get as much sleep as possible when drinking kava, and put those screens down, or at least use f.lux or similar systems.
Kava Alcohol Interaction
I follow a very strict policy of not mixing kava and alcohol, due to the potential liver issues associated with that mixing. If I am enjoying kava, I stay away from any alcohol, and vice versa. This seems to be generally a good policy, and is quite common among those who regularly drink kava, but it is not universally held.
In the South Pacific, it is common to drink alcohol and kava during the same evening, though typically not enough alcohol to get drunk. There seems to be little evidence of elevated liver problems among those who live in the Pacific Islands. And some traditional ceremonies even feature alcohol as part of the kava experience.
Still, there have clearly been several severe negative reactions to kava over the years, including multiple deaths due to liver failure. Given the fact that kava and alcohol both stress the liver in different ways, prudence suggests that it is unwise to consume both at once and tax the liver.
The Bottom Line on Kava and Alcohol
You have to make your own decision on whether or not to mix kava and alcohol. The difficulty in identifying clear causes in previous kava-associated liver failures makes definitive conclusions impossible at this point.
The bottom line is that it is probably best to keep alcohol and kava separate, and while scientific data could change that conclusion tomorrow, I would still wait to see proof before I mix the two, and give 24 hours before you switch between kava and alcohol.
Solutions to Kava Hangovers
If you find yourself with a kava hangover, the most effective course of action is generally a little caffeine, along with some water. Hydration, caffeine consumption, and a hot shower will all help get rid of the brain fog associated with kava hangovers.
If you find that you’re frequently having kava hangovers, it may be time to switch up to a different kava.