Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kava Hot Cocoa

Kava Hot Cocoa
Kava (Piper methysticum) comes to us from the Pacific Islands. It has a long traditional and ceremonial use, dating back thousands of years. 

The root of the kava plant is used as a beverage and it was traditionally prepared by mastication or chewing of the root. When Europeans made contact with the Pacific Islanders they discouraged this practice. We now know that mastication and fermentation of kava root makes a potent brew. 

Kava can be a little tricky to work with. It doesn’t like heat and the alcohol percentage in a tincture is very specific. The recipe below calls for kneading the powdered root in cold water which is an effective means of preparing this root. 

Kava is a wonderful relaxing nervine. It can relax muscles and give a sense of calm. A friend recently described drinking kava to getting a luxurious massage. That’s a pretty good description! 

Kava can also be used for acute pain due to spasms. Kidney stones or menstrual cramping are good examples. 

Chocolate is a good source of magnesium. Magnesium can stop muscle spasms and also promotes a sense of calm. The two go together quite well! 

If you’ve never had kava before you’ll quickly notice a very distinct acrid taste and numbing sensation on your tongue. If the kava doesn’t produce this effect it probably wasn’t prepared correctly. 

Recently kava made the sensational news headlines as being a dangerous herb. It’s true that kava contains some potent alkaloids. However, in all cases where injury was established it was from extracts that had potentiated certain constituents of the kava root (Kavalactones). There have been no injuries associated with appropriate use of the whole plant. However, it is contraindicated in pregnancy, breastfeeding and those with liver disease. If you visit jim mcdonald’s incredible article index and search for “kava” you’ll see many articles on the safety of kava.

Kava has been over harvested in the wild. Please do not buy wild harvested kava. Get it from a sustainably cultivated source. 

Kava Cocoa Recipe
1/2 cup powdered Kava
1/2 cup fair trade cocoa powder (I use 100% cacao)
6 cups water
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Honey and cream to taste

Step One: Make the Kava
Place 1/2 cup of kava powder into a muslin bag. 

Place the bag in a large bowl along with 4 cups of lukewarm water. 

Knead the bag for an extended period of time. How long? 20 minutes should do it, although longer could be better. 

Once you are done kneading you can start making the cocoa. The kava mixture should look cloudy. 

Step Two: Make the cocoa
Combine the cocoa, cinnamon and water into a small saucepan on medium high heat, stirring constantly. Once the cocoa has dissolved and the temperature is fairly warm, remove from heat. Add the vanilla. 

Step Three: Combining the two

I like to mix equal parts cocoa to kava, but you can mix it up anyway you like. 

I add cream and honey to taste. 

You can buy Kava and Cacao at Mountain Rose Herbs