Kava Reverse Tolerance and How To Get Over It

What Is Kava Reverse Tolerance?

The term “Kava reverse tolerance” or “reverse tolerance to Kava” is a state whereby a new kava (or kava kava, awa) user often feels nothing for the first time or first few times of trying the root drink – this can last from days to weeks. The psychoactive properties of Piper Methysticum are well known and documented; however, many first time users of kava often report no apparent or noticeable effects in contrast to longer term users or others without the tolerance who report the full spectrum of kava effects including the more common feelings of well-being, calmness, relaxation of mind and body, anti-anxiety and reduced social inhibition.

It seems that there may be some mechanism (present, perhaps, only in a proportion of the population and possibly dependent on personal body chemistry) that does not allow the user to feel the effects of Kava until a sufficient (variable) quantity has been ingested. As with other drugs that exhibit reverse tolerance traits, it’s as though the user needs to “lay down a foundation” of the active kavalactones within their bodies and let them build for a while before the effects of Kava will make themselves known at all.

Having trawled forums, blogs and discussion boards about Kava for longer than I can remember, and having experienced the phenomenon first-hand, I can safely say that the reverse tolerance effect in Kava is a real thing – but is by no means experienced by all Kava users – and comes in a number of forms.

Some users (such as myself) feel no noticeable effects, whatsoever, the first time they try Kava. Apart from the bitter (to some, unpleasant) taste of kava and perhaps a numbing of the tongue, throat and mouth (usually a good sign of a decent, noble kava!) there may no psychoactive effects at all.

Reverse tolerance, tolerance to Kava Kava
Kava Reverse Tolerance – Getting Through It! (CC by 2.0 – Dave Lonsdale)


How Long Does it Take to Break Through Reverse Tolerance?

In my own case, I did occasionally feel strange, almost gleeful fleeting glimpses of what may lie ahead, after my fifth or sixth shell of relatively strong kava. From not feeling anything in particular, to getting the odd sudden rush of happiness or joy that was very short-lived as I went about daily life. I might find something particularly funny or experience a quick thrill of the natural world that went above and beyond the norm as I walked a coastal path, for example, in my first week of trying kava every night. At that point I was trying both instant “Green” kava from a reputable vendor of noble Kava and also kneading Fijian kava in the traditional way, Perhaps 4 or 5 tablespoons mixed with a cup and a half of water per night.

As with any new substance, there is often a tendency to feel nervous about taking it and you start with small amounts and build up. Some of the discussions I read at the time online, e.g. at Kavaforums.com, hinted that perhaps I should go with a bigger amount. After a week of still feeling slightly jaded, and wondering what all the fuss was about with this root, I decided to double my daily intake and ensured that I took it every night without fail. I had read enough about this reverse tolerance effect by now and the miraculous or magical Break-through” moments that some were having, like some kind of epiphany, that surely not everybody could be pulling my leg?

And so it went on for a good three weeks. I went through a good two to three pounds of medium grind root and a couple of tins of instant, but when I broke through (just as folk had been telling me) it was indeed an epiphany. Like everybody had been saying (and I was getting more and more sceptical about!), when you break through “You Will Know It”.

Kava Breakthrough!

I remember exactly when it happened – it was right on my birthday! I had downed a morning shell at about 10:00am on an empty stomach and it was a sunny summer day. I walked out into the garden and struck up a conversation with the neighbour, whom I would normally shy away from. One of my slight social anxieties usually manifested itself in my ducking away under a fence if I heard the neighbour’s approaching footsteps! The fence was not quite head-height so without the ducking down, eyes would invariably meet and conversation would normally ensue! On this occasion, I actually felt myself WANTING to talk. This was when I knew something was happening! A long good conversation about all manner of things was had, the longest and most interesting I think I’ve ever had with this neighbour of twenty years. I honestly felt that he was probably trying to get away from me by the end. And all through the conversation a relaxed, casual air, drifted over me. I felt totally at ease and calm. The sun was warm, the birds were singing, everything felt more vibrant and colourful than normal and all was right with the world… and I couldn’t shut up!

So it probably took me about a month to break through kava reverse tolerance and for many others it can be longer or much shorter. There probably is something in the idea, of those versed in this phenomenon, through personal experience or having walked and cajoled others through it, that amount of root ingested (in hindsight I would have upped my dose and I believe I would have got through quicker), newbie prepping methods and our unique body chemistry can all have a part to play in the longevity of kava tolerance.

Some lucky souls never experience this bane and can feel those awesome effects of kava on the body and mind from the get-go. But I have read enough about and experienced, personally, what kava reverse tolerance can mean to know that it indeed exists.

How To Break Through Kava Reverse Tolerance as Quickly as Possible

Here’s a quick break down of what I would recommend in order to make the reverse tolerance to Kava period as short as possible:

Use Noble Kava from certified vendors – forget about Yogi teas, herbal remedies and other natural pill claptrap like you might find on Amazon (NB there are some GREAT noble Kavas to be found on Amazon nowadays!) or in Natural Cure type herbalist shops.

All forms of the above are good but the instants might break your bank account! Traditional preparation with a well-recommended ground root would probably give the best bang for your buck – and help you to reduce Kava RT significantly.

Try to drink on an empty stomach. Many users find that the best effects occur with an empty stomach of at least 3 to 4 hours but this is very subjective. Eat a small meal afterwards or chase with a small portion of fruit if you feel any nausea. If you can’t abide the taste, here’s an article that I wrote with plenty of ideas about how to make kava taste better.

Make sure your preparation is effective. I will be posting guidelines on the various methods of preparation and my personal favourites that to me seem the most effective, beneficial for kavalactone extraction and give the best value-for-money extraction with your chosen Kava.

Consider upping your dose and try to take it regularly at least once, if not, twice a day.

Persevere – it will happen! And when it does YOU WILL KNOW IT!!

Good luck and Bula!

Comments 3

  • For me, there was a reverse tolerance and a breakthrough. But there was also a pleasant sensation in a half hour or so beginning within a half hour or so. And it was fun talking to others to learn that while they felt nothing, there were observable effects on their ability to walk or dance gracefully. I had been sharing about 50 gm out of the 100 gm Tourism Fiji packets with my family at a sitting. The second 50 gm of the second packet (my fourth evening drinking kava at home after returning from Fiji) was largely left to me alone and it pushed me solidly over the edge before I’d half-finished the kava I’d mixed.

  • There is no sensation with Kava. These people are looking to get high. Just go smoke some weed. Kava is for what it takes away not what it gives. I completely takes away anxiety. That’s it! There is no high feeling. It’s all a placebo effect in your headS it simply takes away panic attacks and anxiety. That’s all. These people are chasing a euphoric feeling, so they should just go get high on something. A bit annoying.

    • Not true, Lisa. I can first-hand attest to the fact that there is a euphoric feeling, as can many thousands, if not millions, of others.

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