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Last updateSat, 25 Nov 2017 12am

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    Friday, November 24, 2017-9:29:56A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Pacific sakau compared to Western coffee

SAKAU — also known as kava, ava or ‘awa — is considered a sacred drink in many Pacific islands that often use it during special occasions.

Traditionally, the roots of the sakau plant are pounded, releasing a kavalactone-containing liquid which is mixed with water. Drinking the bitter root extract produces a pleasant effect — mild euphoria, amicability, greatly reduced anxiety and crystal clear mind.

Click to enlarge
Sakau ceremony.  Photo by Donna Lee Ling

However, experts say liver damage can result if the kavalactones are consumed in a highly concentrated form or when mixed with pharmaceuticals or alcohol.

The healthy way is to drink the pure extract derived from fresh roots, mixed with water. Overconsumption is not recommended.

In Germany, sakau is recommended for the treatment of anxiety, stress and restlessness. Sakau is sold in pharmacies, but it is recommended that a person interested in investigating the use of this plant for his or her health do so only under the supervision of a trained healthcare professional.

As for coffee, scientists found that people who drink it appear to live longer. Drinking coffee was associated with a lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, respiratory and kidney disease for African-Americans Japanese-Americans, Latinos and whites.

But according to Veronica W. Setiawan, lead author of the study and an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California: “We cannot say drinking coffee will prolong your life, but we see an association. If you like to drink coffee, drink up! If you’re not a coffee drinker, then you need to consider whether you should start.”

Coffee contains a lot of antioxidants and phenolic compounds that play an important role in cancer prevention. Although the study does not show what chemicals in coffee may have this “elixir effect,” it is clear that coffee can be incorporated into a healthy diet and lifestyle.

After 25 years of labeling coffee a carcinogen linked to bladder cancer, the World Health Organization last year announced that drinking coffee reduces the risk for liver and uterine cancer.