“When the things of the mind don’t fill your heart, then there is love.” ~ J. Krishnamurti
Sometimes I forget that sex isn’t another check on my to-do list.
It’s not like an afternoon meeting at the office, but instead an energy to embody. A sacred and joyous cabin I’ve built with my lover in the wilderness of our shared emotions. I can’t just barge in, radio blaring.
How about some transition?
In our society, it seems that we often add when we should subtract. When we’re stressed and tired, we don’t give ourselves a five-minute break, but instead drink another cup of coffee and push through.
This also applies to our modern sex lives. In an effort to engage in intimacy in the age of long hours in fluorescent-lit cubicles, we look to stimulants and enhancers to push us toward the physical act. In the process, we often rush right past the best part—the connected and saturating passion of a good soul f*ck.
Kava, a potent empathogen.
I stumbled across kava as a perfect aphrodisiac entirely by accident. While long-known for its anxiety-reducing and mood-enhancing effects, the famous Polynesian root is not an immediate suspect in the aphrodisiac line-up of herbs. Some even call it a sedative!
After work one day, emotionally exhausted and physically beat, my partner and I prepared kava in an attempt to relax. As we sipped the bitter brew, the stress and anxiety of our daily grind gently lifted. The layers between us peeled away, unexpectedly leaving us energized and fully engaged with each other. From this pleasant state, organic sexual energy easily materialized.
If one digs deep into the mythology of the Pacific, it turns out kava is actually steeped in sexuality. My favorite origin tale begins with two sisters on the shore washing their recent harvest of yams. As they are squatting on the beach, a wild kava sprouts from behind a rock and penetrates one of the sisters, giving her great pleasure. Surprised and elated, the sisters take the plant back to their garden and cultivate it, thus sharing this great happiness.
Why kava for stress relief?
If tension and stress are inhibiting our inner romantic, why chose kava? Unlike alcohol and anti-anxiety pills, kava relaxes but doesn’t dull or impair. While kava, alcohol, and medications like Xanax and Valium all modify the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)—our brain’s main strategy for calming the nervous system—kava is free from the side effects, dependency, and addictive potential of the others. Several kavalactones, the most active compounds in kava, may also elevate dopamine levels, contributing to feelings of tranquility and social bonding.
A 2013 study by the University of Melbourne not only confirmed the anxiety-reducing effects of kava, but also demonstrated significant improvement in female sex drive (stress and low sex-drive are highly correlated, of course). The study also confirmed the absence of the severe side effects so common with modern pharmaceutical cocktails. I’ll opt for the herb with 3,000 years of traditional use, any day!
With all this good news, a quick caveat is also necessary. Adverse drug interactions can occur when kava and antidepressants or anxiolytics are combined. Kava also potentiates alcohol, so go slow if consuming together.
There are many ways to prepare kava, from South Pacific ceremonies to convenient tinctures. The traditional style of preparation involves chewing the fresh root, spitting it into a vessel with water and then straining it into coconut shells to drink. But, admittedly, masticated pulp and saliva don’t always set the mood. The easiest way to give kava a try is to buy a tincture at a natural grocer or make a strong tea with kava powder.
When buying kava, the most important thing is to buy noble strains. Noble status signifies the best and safest types of kava. While certified organic material is unavailable from most, if not all of the South Pacific islands, by all accounts they don’t use pesticides (in fact, the Republic of Vanuatu passed an act in 2002 making pesticides illegal in kava cultivation).
In addition, all kava on the market is cultivated, so there are less concerns surrounding sustainable harvesting and ecosystem impact. I stick to whole plant preparations instead of isolates and super-potent standardized extracts—traditional use has a track record, the other preparations don’t!
If you’re ready to make it super strong and indulgent, try my favorite recipe:
1. Place 2 oz. of kava root powder into a mesh bag (muslin, almond milk bag, etc.)
2. Immerse it in a mixture of 2 cups of warm water and ¼ cup coconut milk
3. Kneed for 5 minutes and then let steep for 5 minutes
4. Squeeze out bag and compost used root
5. Add vanilla extract to taste
6. Traditionally chugged, 4-8 oz. is a serving.
7. Settle in and enjoy
“Kava rubs the sore and weary shoulders of humanity and eases the mind of its burdens.” ~ Chris Kilham
This ancient empathogen can be a powerful tool to reconnect with yourself, your lover and the world around you. You and I desperately need these moments of peace and clarity to balance our stressful routines and lead us towards a rich and magical life.
Pro tip: Kava numbs and tingles the tongue and throat; you can have fun with this…
Author: Ben LeVine
Image: Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011) & drazz/ Flickr
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
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