Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Krazy for Kava
Most people no doubt toasted the new year with a glass of champagne, but in some corners of South Florida they downed a drink that looks and tastes like mud. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case of folks who are "Krazy for Kava."
WSVN -- These folks are drinking Kava. It is so nasty, they have to chase it with fruit drinks or candy to get the taste out of their mouths, and they're paying as much as $5 for a coconut shell full of the stuff.
Carmel Cafiero: "It looks like mud."
Jeffrey Bowman: "It tastes like mud."
You might call Jeffrey Bowman the big Khuna of Kava. He opened his Kava bar in Boca six years ago and now sells Kava on the Internet, so what's the attraction?
Jeffrey Bowman: "It has a relaxing effect or a euphoric effect."
The drink is made from ground up roots of a pepper plant that is found in the South Pacific. On YouTube we found video of Kava drinks being made by straining water over the roots. That's how its made here too. In the South Pacific, Kava has been a ceremonial drink for centuries. In the U.S., it is becoming a substitute for alcohol.
Jeffrey Bowman: "The good thing about Kava, it doesn't impair your mental ability to think. It doesn't impair your judgment. It more or less relaxes your muscles and makes you more relaxed and maybe a little slow."
But you can have too much Kava.
Ashley Franklin: "Well, that was me one day. The only thing that happened to me, I couldn't close my mouth. We call it mouth breathing, so you kind of sit there like that."
There's no regulation of Kava, no age limit of who can drink it.
Bowman says he figures if you can drive you can drink.
In California, tickets have been given for Kava: DUI, but Bowman says that's never happened here.
Jeffrey Bowman: "And we have given a lot of people rides home if somebody drinks too much Kava."
However, not everyone has good things to say.
Former Kava drinker: "My whole life was centered around drinking Kava."
This man, who did not want to be identified, says he got hooked at another Kava bar.
Former Kava drinker: "I actually felt like a junkie by the end of the day. I had to go there and drink some Kava in order to feel normal."
He says he also got sick.
Former Kava drinker: "And, when my blood test results came back, my liver was all haywire."
At the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Brent Bauer is the editor of the book of alternative medicine.
Dr. Brent Bauer: "There's some concern that it may cause some liver toxicity."
He says Kava supplements have been linked to serious liver problems, but there's lots yet to learn about the effects of Kava drinks.
Dr. Brent Bauer: "So, the question is, is there a certain amount you can drink and be safe? I think the answer is, 'We don't know for sure.'"
Back at the bar, Bowman is aware of the concerns but says he thinks the brew is quite safe.
Jeffrey Bowman: "And I've had my liver tested, and I've never had any problems with my enzymes. Everything's always been fine."
The debate about Kava is likely to continue. But there's no difference of opinion when it comes to mixing alcohol and Kava. Don't. People who have have left here in an ambulance.