On a weekday I wandered around the empty booths of the Pahoa Farmers Market on the Big Island of Hawaii. I saw a large booth with a placard that read "Kava Bar." I'd heard of kava, but knew really nothing about it. I was determined to find out what it was.
I visited several websites on the internet. They all seemed to talk around the subject of what looks slightly intoxicating.
The plant is used to produce a drink that relaxes you. From watching several YouTube videos I gathered that a glass of kava resembles a glass of muddy water with a taste that isn't much better. There was some mention that one drink would make your tongue go numb. Kava is brewed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia and parts of Micronesia. They say "Kava is sedating and is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity."
At the Sunday Maku'u Farmers Market I was determined to try some kava and another drink as well, noni juice. Noni like kava seems to be more speculation than information. I did read that "Noni's potential still remains a secret." Now, what the heck did that mean?
At the market the first thing I did was order food of course. As I sat down to eat with friends at the tent-covered picnic tables, we talked with a husband and wife from Alaska. They had purchased a run-down farm and were still in the process of clearing some of the jungle away from their land. They had found trees bearing the noni fruit. My ears perked up. I had already figured out that the noni fruit is the fruit of last resort. No one in his right mind goes to a bar and orders noni juice. I read that it was extremely bitter, but it's sold at Walgreens and Walmart with sweetner added to add palatability.
I left the picnic table and set out to find kava and noni juice. I looked for long lines to lead me to the kava bar, but there were no lines. I stepped right up. The man running the booth shooed his young daughter away from a cooler containing a bowl of the brown murky liquid. He dipped in a red plastic cup, pulled it out and handed it to me as part of a $4 trade. At first sip it was . . . like dishwater without the flavor. One sip was enough for Peg, but I tried a few more to make sure. It could have been direct from a mud puddle. The color was not unlike the rinsing out of a cup of coffee with cream. I tossed the rest. A few minutes later my tongue was a little numb. I entertained no thoughts of a second glass.
I made several turns around the market until my friend Debbie Irwin bird-dogged a noni booth. She told me what aisle to look through, "There's nobody lined up." That made it fairly easy to spot.
At the booth I met Patrick Walsh. He's an easily likable Irishman. His website mentions that "He holds several European and American degrees and has published papers and conducted extensive work on Noble Proteins and Advanced Food Systems." I don't know what degrees he has, nor what papers he published, but after a few minutes of listening to him talk about noni juice I gave him $20 for a bottle and another $10 for some noni based capsule supplements.
When Walsh came to Hawaii he visited the coast and saw Kalapana Noni trees. I've been to Kalapana and seen the noni trees. Walsh said, "There was this tree next to where I parked my car. I had never seen a tree like it, and I asked an old man that was sitting beside it what was the name of the tree. He said that was a Noni tree. I asked him if I could eat the fruit. He said that it doesn't taste very good. I asked him what does it do, why do you have it in your yard? He said that it's a noni fruit that they use during famine and during drought."
I don't know how we got around to the subject of kava, but when I mentioned that my first taste of kava was probably my last, Patrick gave me a small packet of kava root. He showed me how to pick out a few roots and chew on them. I walked away chewing the kava root. I walked about a hundred yards and then spit it out into a trash can. I looked at the package. The tagline at the bottom said, "Promotes Sociability." Within minutes my tongue was numb, my gums were numb, and I was starting to worry about my throat and my mental clarity.
The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University reminds us not to chew and drink. "Over-the-counter medications and herbal preparations may also interact with alcohol, including pain medications like aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve), cold and allergy medications like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine, heartburn medications like cimetidine (Tagamet) and ranitidine (Zantac), and herbal preparations like chamomile, valerian, and kava." Now, they tell me.
Straight noni juice is not a really good idea. My sister Dee Dee is the only person I've seen take two separate sips. I add about an ounce to a large glass of Sprite Zero and/or Diet Pepsi to sip on. My bottle of noni juice (plain white plastic bottle with no title, text or information) was pressed from five pounds of noni fruit. Patrick promised me a second bowel movement with the capsules. A user revealed that an ounce and a half a day of the juice and the supplements had helped him lose belly fat. I can do without the second bowel movement . . . and I could do without the belly fat.
Only future research will tell what the health benefits, if any, of noni fruit and kava root are. Then I would expect to see dosage recommendations for different ages, as the Linus Pauling Institute does on their Supplements and Micronutrients page. Until then, if you use noni and kava, use with caution. Note the potential interactions with common drugs noted above.
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