Throughout history, human populations have used botanicals for various medicinal and recreational purposes. While some ethnobotanicals are more widely used than others, cannabidiol — or CBD, a cannabinoid found in the hemp plant — and kava have recently garnered significant popularity and media attention within the western world.
Now some experts are predicting that CBD and kava will become the relaxing drinks of the future. But, do these botanicals truly have the plant-power to establish a long-lasting legacy or has their popularity merely blossomed due to an abundance of marketing hype?
Let’s find out!
CBD is one of over a hundred cannabinoids present in the hemp plant. In comparison to THC — cannabis’s primary psychoactive cannabinoid — CBD interacts with a different set of receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system. When ingested at moderate doses, CBD has relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties without causing grogginess, fatigue, or inebriation. As a result, the best CBD products, like CBD oil, are commonly regarded as being therapeutic and “non-psychoactive.”
Unlike kava kava drinks, CBD has only recently gained traction as a relaxing drink product. For decades, isolated CBD was rare and difficult to produce, making CBD beverage production non-viable. However, today’s manufacturers can create CBD-infused beverages with ease — a feat only made possible by advancements in CBD extraction processes.
Now, the CBD beverage industry is booming, with some analysts predicting that the market will reach a $1.4 billion valuation by 2024. The burgeoning CBD beverage industry has even managed to capture the interest of beverage-giants Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors, with both companies expressing desires to develop non-alcoholic CBD beers.
The interest in CBD-infused relaxing drinks has also extended to sodas, waters, and teas. New Age Beverages Corporation, purveyors of the Marley Mellow Mood brand, debuted a line of canned teas infused with 25mg of CBD per can in early 2019. Similarly, the fast-growing Alkaline Water Company announced its plans to introduce a CBD-infused alkaline water product sometime in 2019.
Kava (or “kava kava”) is a shrub that grows throughout Hawaii, Fiji, and various Oceanic regions. Despite a long history of medicinal and recreational use, the kava herb’s first recorded discovery occurred sometime in the 18th century. Since then, the plant’s popularity has spread across the world, where it remains unregulated in most countries.
Unlike CBD, kava is traditionally prepared and served as a relaxing drink. To create kava kava drinks, farmers harvest the roots of the plant at about four years of maturity and grind them into a finer consistency with a mortar and pestle. Grinding the roots releases the kava root’s kavalactones — the source of kava’s psychoactive properties. From here, preparers either add cold or hot water to the kava powder, producing a strong and distinctively bitter kava tea beverage.
When ingested, kava has multiple psychoactive properties. The kavalactones yangonin and kavain produce sensations of relaxation, while desmethoxyyangonin provides an elevation of mood and focus. As a relaxing drink, kava is enticing to buyers, and its unique properties have cemented it as a popular commodity both locally and abroad, where it’s often served at kava bars and other venues.
CBD vs. Kava
Undoubtedly, kava and CBD share some striking similarities. Both are botanically-derived and possess relaxing, mood-boosting, and pain-relieving properties; however, some fundamental differences between the two could affect their mass-market popularity.
History & Traditional Use
Kava drinks have been traditionally prepared and consumed as a relaxing drink for centuries. Due to kava’s deep historical roots, the plant has built a strong cultural relevance in its home countries and abroad.
On the other hand, CBD beverages are emerging products only made possible by technological advancements. As a result, CBD beverages don’t have the cultural resonance of their kava-based counterparts. That being said, over the years to come — and with the aid of supportive global legislation — CBD might be able to establish itself as the relaxing drink of choice for many consumers.
Industry & Regulation
Kava kava drinks are legal to buy, sell, and consume in most countries, and kava is generally defined as a dietary supplement or food. The lax legislation surrounding kava is likely a byproduct of its history, as kava has been used, sold, and exported for hundreds of years. That said, kava hasn’t become a mainstream product of interest in most countries outside of its native regions.
Meanwhile, CBD has skyrocketed in popularity within the last few decades alone, despite tighter global regulation. CBD-infused relaxing drinks are already appearing on store shelves, and the cannabinoid has generated a thriving e-commerce scene — a formidable level of progress considering that the cannabinoid was first discovered less than a century ago in 1940.
Given current trends, both CBD and kava are positioned to become lucrative sectors within the beverage industry. Both botanicals, however, will undoubtedly face numerous legislative and cultural hurdles as they continue to seek mass-market appeal.
In 2018, the United States sanctioned industrial hemp growth with the farm bill — a boon for relaxing CBD drink manufacturers whose products would otherwise be considered cannabis-derived, and therefore, illegal. Now, many farmers throughout the US are shifting their agricultural focus to hemp production to meet the growing demands of CBD product manufacturers.
Outside the US, CBD’s favorable legal positioning seems to support the continued growth of a broader, global CBD beverage market. Although new forms of regulation will likely be introduced to guide and inform manufacturing standards, the future of cannabidiol (CBD) relaxing drinks looks bright.
Despite a long history of use, kava kava drinks haven’t managed to capture the buzz and excitement of their CBD equivalents. Some countries — including Canada — have expressed concern over the plant’s health ramifications, but these concerns largely indict non-noble kava, a lesser variety of kava deemed harmful by the scientific community. Nonetheless, legislation hasn’t significantly impeded the industry’s global growth, and the market remains fruitful in most countries. For now, kava is continuing to enjoy modest success as the focus of niche bars and restaurants, but it may be some time before prepackaged kava relaxing drinks hit store shelves in full-force.
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