When we hear of a supplement, such as kava, that can reduce anxiety and improve sleep, we want to start taking it right away.
It can be discouraging, though, when we take it, and nothing happens. Why isn’t kava working for me like it is for everyone else?
The issue could be kava reverse tolerance.
What Is Kava Reverse Tolerance?
Some people can take a sip of kava and notice the calming effects immediately, while others don’t notice a change days or even weeks after regular consumption. There’s a difference in how our bodies process what we eat.
For those of us who experience kava reverse tolerance, it’s as if the body has rejected the substance from the very start. The effects aren’t adverse – they just aren’t there.
To get results, we have to drink enough kava to start building up a reserve of kavalactones, the chemical compounds in kava that produce a psychotropic effect.
From then on with increased use, you actually get more of an effect (hence “reverse tolerance,” where typically your tolerance increases with use. The opposite happens with kava sometimes).
Can We Build a Tolerance to Kava?
It isn’t uncommon for people to develop a tolerance for a drug or supplement after they’ve been taking it for a while. The same goes for some people regularly drinking kava.
To see consistent effects, they need to keep increasing the dosage because the body has created a mild immunity to the substance.
How Long Does It Take to Overcome Kava Reverse Tolerance?
Unfortunately, overcoming kava reverse tolerance won’t happen overnight. For some people, it can take a couple of weeks before they notice any changes. For others, it can take over a month.
How quickly we can overcome reverse tolerance depends on:
- The amount of kava we drink
- Body chemistry
Since kava is considered a non-addictive substance, it’s safe to increase consumption temporarily to overcome reverse tolerance and start seeing some benefits.
Is It Worth It?
The Benefits of Kavalactones
The kava plant can:
- Reduce pain
- Reduce anxiety
- Promote better sleep
Approximately 20 minutes after drinking kava, most people feel their muscles relax and stress seems to melt away. Soon, people start to feel euphoric. However, they don’t have an out-of-body experience or altered reality, as with some drugs. It’s just calm, ease, and happiness.
The kavalactones affect our neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers released by our brain) – not the brain itself. A sedative drug, on the other hand, relaxes the body by slowing down the brain. Therefore, while kava has sedative-like properties, it’s not technically a sedative.
For example, desmethoxyyangonin, one of the major kavalactones, is responsible for the euphoric feeling we have after drinking kava. Desmethoxyyangonin boosts dopamine levels but it doesn’t alter the central nervous system. We feel calm and euphoric, but we can still think clearly – a combination not experienced by those who take sedative drugs.
Because kava is effective as a relaxant, we’ve seen people use it instead of benzodiazepines. They get the same results without the risk of dependence or addiction. Additionally, some studies have shown that taking a supplement with 70% kavalactones can work as well as prescription anti-anxiety medications for some people.
Though Safe, Caution Is Needed When Drinking Kava
Not everyone can tolerate kava, especially the higher doses needed to overcome kava reverse tolerance.
Possible side effects include:
- Worsened Parkinson’s symptoms (it doesn’t cause the disease but can make symptoms worse)
- Can increase the effects of certain drugs, including surgical anesthetics
- Kava dermopathy (flaky, dry, discolored skin; red eyes; puffy face)
- Weight loss
- Impotence/low sex drive
- Potential liver damage
There’s always a risk for side effects with any food, beverage, drug, or supplement that we consume. For most of us, kava is a harmless yet effective way to reduce stress and has been used safely by people for millennia.
(A note of caution: Make sure to avoid operating heavy machinery after drinking kava. The calming effects of kava can lead to slow reaction time.)
How to Quickly Break Through Kava Reverse Tolerance
As was mentioned, various factors will influence how quickly we can overcome reverse tolerance. However, there are some ways to carefully speed up the process.
- Choose a traditional preparation of grounded kava root instead of other forms
- Drink on an empty stomach
- Start with a cup a day Gradually drink more until we get the desired results (increasing to twice a day if there’s no nausea)
Reverse Tolerance Means People Need Less Over Time
Most people we’ve heard from who have finally broken through the kava barrier bask in the calming effects but then they wonder – will I have to drink this much forever?
No. Once we’ve crossed the threshold of kava reverse tolerance, we can start reducing the amount we consume.
One of the best ways to ensure we achieve the wonderful effects of kava is to invest in quality products.
Check Amazon for products with the best reviews, especially from customers who have overcome a reverse tolerance to kava. Another option: check out our products page to find curated high quality kava teas and supplements from reputable sources.
Would you like to receive a package of various kava products each month? Be one of the first to sign up for our upcoming service: Kava Club.