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Hey US Military Members, Thank You For Your Service. Now, Do Yourself A Favor and Drink Some Kava

America’s military servicemen and women come back from combat with a range of issues, from PTSD to chronic pain and mental health problems.  Many of them are researching alternative modalities to treat these conditions since psychiatric meds do not always work with every patient and masking these problems with alcohol only aggravates them.  Pain medications such as oxycodone can be addictive, making the solution worse than the problem.  Thankfully, there is an alternative, a traditional drink from the South Pacific named kava.

Islanders have used this plant for thousands of years in traditional ceremonies, and for recreation.  Kava is a drink made from the root of the kava plant, a small shrub and a member of the pepper family.  It just so happens that the plant’s effects make it a promising remedy for many issues combat veterans face.  Combat is one of the most stressful situations a human being can endure; it is literally a life and death scenario that leaves many troops emotionally scarred.  Thousands of troops have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe cases of PTSD, which stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Symptoms of PTSD include socially isolating oneself, an inability to sleep or concentrate, and hypervigilance.  Those suffering from PTSD often have recurring nightmares and flashbacks stemming from the traumatizing event.  Fortunately, kava’s sedating effects can help with the insomnia many PTSD sufferers face.  In one study including 24 participants, kava was shown to be effective in treating insomnia compared to placebo.  A later follow up study also indicated kava’s effectiveness in aiding sleep.

A side benefit of consuming kava is that it is typically consumed at special bars called kava bars.  Going to a kava bar can help military veterans break through the self-isolation caused by PTSD.  Kava bars tend to be warm, laid back and down to earth establishments where people from all walks of life are welcomed.  There is a community atmosphere in a kava bar that is often absent from alcohol bars.  Many kava bars feature a midnight shell slam, where everyone says “Bula” in unison before downing their discounted kava shell in under a minute.  (“Bula” is the Fijian word for “cheers!”)  There are group events and activities held, like musical acts, comedy routines and other happenings that help people come out of their shell.  Some kava strains, such as those from the island of Fiji, have euphoric and uplifting effects that are conducive to socializing.  Military veterans often have difficulty re-integrating into civilian society after combat tours.  Getting out of the house and going to a kava bar can help.

Aside from emotional wounds, combat can cause physical scars and chronic pain resulting from injuries sustained in war.  Using pain medications can often result in debilitating addictions that are difficult to overcome.  Many kava strains produce a relaxing effect in the body that is effective for chronic pain.  It has been used in the Pacific as a traditional analgesic for thousands of years.  Kava has been shown to relieve muscle spasms and soreness, making it a potential replacement for muscle relaxants.

Colorado Springs’ large military community can benefit from the salutary effects of kava, by going to Ohana Kava Bar.  Ohana has two locations, one in downtown Colorado Springs near Boulder and Tejon, and a new location on Academy Boulevard.  If you have served your country and would like to inquire about kava as an alternative remedy, come down to Ohana and feel free to ask the owner Matt Clark or one of his many knowledgeable bartenders, known as “kava slingers.”