November 20, 2021
From podcast :https://BenGreenfieldFitness.com/podcast/the-natural-drug-and-alcohol-alternative-that-may-transform-the-future-of-mental-health-everything-you-need-to-know-about-kava-with-cameron-george/
[00:00:51] Podcast Sponsors
[00:03:24] Kava in Hawaii
[00:06:36] Meeting Cameron
[00:09:17] The benzodiazepine (benzo) epidemic, and the plant renaissance that is sweeping the land
[00:14:50] Cameron George and the personal slice of hell suffered at the hands of benzodiazepines
[00:23:26] How he path of desperation leads to that of inspiration
[00:32:24] Why kava kava is not kava in its purest form
[00:33:03] Podcast Sponsors
[00:35:12] cont. Why kava is not kava in its purest form
[00:39:20] Concerns About The Effects Of Kava On The Liver
[00:50:58] The Cultural Significance Of Kava In The South Pacific
[00:54:53] Positive Benefits Of Kava On The Body And Mind
[01:05:04] Where Tru Kava Is Sourced
[01:09:07] Why Ben And Cameron George Are So Excited About Kava
[01:14:52] How To Obtain TRU KAVA For Yourself
[01:20:33] Additional Quick Notes
[01:23:12] Legal Disclaimer
Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast.
Cameron: There's some of the most addictive substances that you can take, and we hear a lot about the opiate epidemic. There's a benzodiazepine epidemic too that's really proliferated. Trying to basically medicate my symptoms downstream and not get to what's going on with me. And, taking the pharmaceutical route, that's where I ended up. Kava has this amazing balance that it captures a lot of the effects of a lot of these things while not knocking you off of your center or compromising your faculties, your functionality.
Ben: Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
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Alright, folks, I know nootropics are a big thing these days. How can you get more focused, and maybe better mood, and social ability, and often better creativity? And, at the same time, I'm seeing kind of especially in the health industry taking the world by storm or all these ways that one could kind of get some of the stress-relieving social lubricating. Even mildly entheogenic or psychedelic effects that one might get from, let's say, alcohol without the debilitating effects or potential toxicity of said substance. Just like anybody else, I like me a good margarita every now and again. But let's face it, if there are other alternatives, then great.
Now, I have one compound that I've been familiar with for quite some time. I used to go and race Ironman triathlons down on the island of Kona in Hawaii. And then, after about 10 years of racing Ironmans down there, I started bow hunting in Hawaii. And, every time I go to Hawaii, there's little bar back behind the sand volleyball courts in Kailua-Kona where I would go. It's called the Kanaka Kava. And, Kanaka Kava is this place that not only serves you up like this wonderful Hawaiian beverage called kava, that's almost like this halfway Z thing between alcohol and weed that a lot of Hawaiians will use at night to relax. Got this really, really cool earthy taste. And, they walk you through at this particular place, this special ceremony where you drink it out of a coconut. Like an old coconut shell, it's got this earthy flavor to it. Then you clap your hands and say some certain things, I forget. It's been a couple years since I did it. And then, you toss a little bit of it back behind you for good luck. And, anyway, it's a whole ceremony behind this stuff because it's actually an integral part of a South Pacific islander type of diet or medicine protocol. And, they also, of course, serve up wonderful squid, and pork, and sweet potato, and taro. And, the place is pretty cool. If somebody gets a chance in Kailua, you got to go hit up Kanaka Kava.
But anyways, every time I've been in Hawaii, I have actually used kava. I love it to help me get to sleep at night, to help me relax, kind of turns the mouth just a little bit numb, which is pretty interesting. And, my wife and I once drove all the way across the island in Hawaii to another little town outside of Kailua called Hilo. And, we went to three different kava bars in Hilo because we were just like, “Oh, let's go try all the kava here.” And, I remember both of us driving home. We were just chilled. It was like we'd been smoking weed all morning but honestly without a lot of the couchlock, the appetite craving, some of the other stuff that goes along with weed.
So anyways, I've been familiar with kava for quite some time. I've also been familiar with some of the issues people talk about regarding its potential for liver toxicity and some other things that get brought up a lot. And so, couple years ago, I met today's podcast guest Cameron George. We were at a party at some kind of a health event. And, he was there and he was actually behind the bar serving up these little kava tinctures and kava drinks that he was making. And, they were actually really interesting. It was kind of cool. It's like kava instead of alcohol. And, since then, Cameron and I have gone back and forth because he keeps coming up with these cool shots, and cans, and tinctures that he makes using kava.
And, about three months ago, he sent me a batch of some of his latest stuff, and it just clicked with me. It was like holy cow, this is actually really, really cool product that all use at night as a cocktail alternative. Or even during the day if I'm a little bit amped up, or even if I take too much of a substance like caffeine or some kind of nootropic. It seems to kind of take the edge off of it. Almost something like L-theanine might.
And so, Cameron has a really cool story. I love his passion of other stuff. And, it's actually super interesting, I think more people should know about this really interesting root, plant-based elixir. So, Cameron, what do you think? Should we geek out on kava for a while?
Cameron: Yeah, always down for that.
Ben: Sweet. And, you're in Arkansas right now, right?
Cameron: Only one that I know of–
Ben: I was going to say freaking A. Yeah, you and what, the Clintons?
Cameron: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Ben: Of course, me living up in Spokane, I don't run into a lot of people in our industry appear in Spokane. It's probably how I'm so productive as I just don't have a lot of people to hang out with up here and don't get invited out to many parties, or people who want to pick my brain and do coffee meetings. So, I just sit at home and chat with folks like you and write books. So, it works out.
Cameron: No. I mean, yeah, I think we're pretty much in the same boat because I'm kind of in a mountainous region, locked here in the Ozark Mountains. It's beautiful. There's lots of amazing things to do out here. There's fishing and hiking. And, the Ozarks are mountain range that a lot of people don't really know about as being this beautiful sort of landscape that's hidden down here in the South in Arkansas and Missouri. But it's a really amazing place. It's amazing place to live. But I definitely get my privacy down here and a lot of people ask me, kava, Arkansas? What's the connection there?
Cameron: And, it's totally serendipitous.
Ben: It's the secret to health in the fitness industry is move to a boring place that not many people know about, that slightly rednecky where nobody is going to ask you weird questions about health and you get a whole lot done. Versus living in Venice Beach and having to go to Air1 every day or going to where else everybody has moved right now, Austin.
So, you have an interesting story because from what I understand, you've told me a little bit about this. You were hooked on benzodiazepine and drugs and alcohol. And, I would love to hear a little bit more about your back story because I know it wound up with you actually kind of getting into kava as a way to save your ass. And, it's kind of funny because I recently interviewed another guy who makes like–he makes a drink that's a combination of kava and kratom. His one is called Feel Free. Same thing with him. It was the thing that saved his ass from drugs and alcohol was basically kava to a certain extent, kratom. And so, it's kind of a story that I see repeatedly popping up. Someone kind of screws themselves over with pharmaceuticals and then winds up finding this natural plant-based alternative to rescue them from that.
What happened in your case?
Cameron: Oh, totally, man. Yeah. And, I think we're really kind of in the middle of what I call kind of a plant renaissance. And, it's been going on for probably the last eight to 10 years. I mean, obviously, all your listeners are really familiar with compounds like CBD, and hemp, cannabis, all that. And, that's sort of gotten its sort of second wind as sort of all this research has come out. And, it's sort of become the darling of the industry. And, there's some issues with that. But that's exploding, now we're seeing research come out with the psilocybin and moving towards medical legalization in multiple states, and even recreational eventually possibly. And, obviously, there's ketamine therapy.
So, we're really kind of having this sort of rediscovery of some of these ancient principles and strategies in these plant medicines and understanding that they have a broad spectrum of intelligence as a living organism that is not present in some of these isolated synthetic compounds that have their use in acute circumstances but have their problems with addiction, driving the body out of balance. And, benzodiazepines are certainly in that category of something that has its place, but I mean, pretty much any you know psychiatrists knows, anyone who has worked with these medications substantially knows that there's some of the most addictive substances that you can take.
And, we hear a lot about the opiate epidemic. There's a benzodiazepine epidemic too that's really proliferative.
Ben: Yeah. And, for people not familiar, they'll be like Valium, right?
Ben: Or diazepam. I mean, I used to have a prescription for Valium back when–Speaking of Ironman triathlon, when I'd race Ironman, for two reasons; A, at a lot of times have super long-haul flights. And, this was before I adopted the trick that I use now, which is just basically take a 40 to 50 milligram edible bomb of THC and pass out in the play and you wake up feeling a lot better than you do after Valium or benzodiazepines. But I would use it for long-haul flights. Tell me to sleep when I was like going to a race. And then, I would also use it the night after I've had these big competitions where you're sucking down glucose, and caffeine, and energy drinks and stimulants all day racing for 10 hours in the hot sun, and you finish up, and you'd think you'd pass out and be in like a coma after something like that. And, your body is just completely wired up.
And so, I'd always have a Valium on hand just so I could sleep and be able to get on the plane the next day or whatever. But man, so many side effects like constipation and drowsiness, the addictive potential. But yeah, there was a time in my life where I kind of screwed around with benzos a little bit. I was never addicted to them, but I definitely got to experience some of the deleterious side effects.
Cameron: Oh, totally. Anything that ends with an “am” is a benzodiazepine like diazepam, clonazepam, alprazolam, lorazepam. That's Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, any of those, there are these anxiolytic substances that their main mechanistic sort of target are the GABA receptors. The GABA A receptors, specifically, which elicits this, obviously the GABA pathway, which is the main breaks of the nervous system from a biochemical standpoint. And so, that's why it has this huge sort of influx in the activity of that particular pathway which calms down the cortisol, it calms down. The glutamate response and all these excitatory neurotransmitters and stuff.
So, those drugs are highly–they call to a lot of people because we live in a very stressed traumatic time obviously from every standpoint that you could possibly look at it. And so, a lot of people just fall in love with them pretty quickly because it's sort of an easy shortcut but within easy shortcut like that or alcohol. There's a very fine line between acute therapeutic app that has now sort of taken hold of you in a really negative way. And, the side effects, the cognitive dysfunction that you can get, it muddles up your brain chemistry at the same time. Whenever you take high doses of benzos, it kind of suppresses your personality. And, it can also lead to drowsiness the next day. And, of course, like you said, the constipation and a bunch of stuff.
So, they're very problematic for a lot of people. And, there's a lot of people very addicted to them. And, just like with my story, which I'll get into, the withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines can be so severe when you've been on them for an extended period of time that you can actually die from the withdrawals. I mean, they are some of the hardest drugs to get off of. You can have everything from seizures to even heart attacks and strokes during the withdrawal process on the severe end. It takes a lot of times like a year and a half to even do it slow like taper from the drugs. So, it's really bad, those drugs are.
Ben: Okay, cool. Well, not cool. Sad, scary. Help me to wrap my head around this. You were addicted to benzos? Or, what was going with you?
Cameron: Yeah, yeah. Okay. So, with me, I mean, I always give people kind of a truncated version of my story because it literally unfolded how I got into this over about 15 years. I kind of called a pain-to-purpose journey. A lot of us that end up in this industry have sort of this, I guess, some people call it a wounded healer journey. Or you get into it from a standpoint of really having your back up against the wall and really being in a pretty deleterious situation.
Cameron: I can't imagine any normal scenario in which I would have just dove head first and niched out on this highly specified route from the south pacific and dove as deeply as I have over the past decade had I not been forced into it from some sort of desperation.
From my standpoint, there's two primary ways that people grow and progress in their life. There's the inspiration path and there's the desperation path. The inspiration path is a lot more fun because you witness something that inspires you like the death of a loved one or something. And, it can inspire you to go down a certain path to learn and grow. And, the desperation is you have your back up against the wall. Someone is dying and it forced you to go down it.
But for me, my situation, I became horrifically sick with one of these sort of–It's starting to become more explainable, but at that time, completely unexplainable, sort of neurotoxic autoimmune syndrome illnesses where I just had a complete collapse of my health that I couldn't pinpoint to anyone isolated diagnosis. Whenever you have these situations, especially in a young guy because this happened to me when I was 21, and I was a very high functioning person at the time. I mean, you and I have some stuff in common because my life at that period totally revolved around endurance sports. I was an endurance athlete.
Ben: Oh, really?
Cameron: I was track cross country athlete at the University of Arkansas. And, Arkansas is a track dynasty, so they've got 42 national titles there. And so, that consumed my whole life at that period of time. And, that played into my process. But I was really high functioning. I was working multiple jobs, I was a senior in college at the time, and I was running, I was racing, so I was running cross country in the fall. I was running indoors from January to March. And then, outdoors from March to June. And then, during the summer, I was racing marathons, triathlons, and then even got into ultras.
And, during that period of time, I came to this point where I started to get really fatigued and I wasn't recovering. And, just like anyone in that world, you think, “Okay, I'm overtraining. I back off.” I backed off, nothing got better. And, I ended up in this situation where I start becoming overwhelmingly fatigued. It started to affect obviously my training. I had to kind of step back. I was kind of unable to even focus in class. I was just losing a lot of these basic functions and was starting to get very depressed and anxious and ended up on the couch and ended up playing incredibly–have these ridiculous cravings for sugar and stuff just to keep me going and was living on stimulants.
So, I ended up in this situation not knowing much outside, from a biological standpoint, outside of what could give me acute performance boosts at the time. I mean, I thought I knew a fair amount about the human body and how to get it to run faster, but I definitely didn't know anything from a longevity standpoint. Basically, I ended up in a psychiatrist office and I was prescribed a plethora of different drugs and medications. The primary one being an amphetamine-based drug called Adderall that most everyone is familiar with.
Cameron: And, that took my situation from chronically fatigued and I was in a bad situation that was headed to something worse. And, it obliterated me. So, I, apparently, had this perfect storm going on that we know now. And, the perfect storm, meaning it was a bunch of things that came together and just kind of exploded. I probably had susceptible genetics to not having some poor detoxification function and stuff, got exposed to a few toxins. I was in an apartment at the time that I had black mold. I found out later some stachybotrys. I obviously got on the drugs. I was exposed to a lot of other things. I was eating Taco Bell four times a day as a college kid.
So, there's a lot of things that probably came together. But whenever I threw the drugs and the Adderall, and even some of the benzodiazepines and some different things, it just totally changed my personality and it completely wrecked me. The idea of using Adderall to try to supplement your energy that's not there, it's sort of writing hot checks with your body. It's not creating any more energy as a psycho stimulus, it's just stealing from your deep stores. It's borrowing from tomorrow to pay for today. And, I learned that lesson the hard way.
Basically, when I got on this, not only did it make me deteriorate physiologically, but mentally it changed my personality. I basically went into a psychosis for almost a year where my personality changed and my life went from being a high functioning person that was an athlete thing and working three jobs too. I was living the life of a meth addict where I started doing all these crazy impulsive things and charging hundreds of thousands of dollars of money and credit. And, I had businesses where I was flipping electronics. I look at an electronic store and I was doing really obsessive crazy things.
And, I ended up doing impulsive things. People always kind of laugh at this part of the story. But I bought a bunch of exotic animals. I had an apartment full of exotic animals like monkeys, and parrots, and a bunch of crazy stuff. And, this was something that was totally a manifestation of this amphetamine binge that I was on. I was delusional from it.
So anyways, long story short, my life deteriorated completely. I was connecting with all kinds of unhealthy people as well and ended up in some situations where I got all my money stolen from me by drug addicts. It was a total disaster. And, my health completely collapsed because as I had all these animals, I was using a bunch of cleaning products and the animal feces is building up in my environment. It was a complete nightmare. It was kind of a crossover between “Ace Ventura” and “Breaking Bad,” this apartment that I was living in.
And so, it was truly stranger than fiction. Obviously, my life completely got obliterated. Not was I only hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt by the end of this, but I completely lost my health. It completely crashed at one point where the drugs weren't even working anymore and I had to get off them because my family basically did an intervention on me.
Once I got off the drugs, I became me again. I spent two years being somebody else in this sort of amphetamine-fueled psychosis. And so, it was literally probably one of the worst outcomes a person could have with a drug like Adderall.
Cameron: I tell that to kind of depict where my core philosophy of not only giving up my health to a third party totally which was the psychiatrist and not sort of doing my own due diligence getting multiple opinions. But trying to basically medicate my symptoms downstream and not get to what's going on with me and taking the pharmaceutical route, that's where I ended up. And so, that gave me the framework that then I had all this healing to do. I basically was handicapped after all this. I had severe cognitive deficits from all the neurotoxins and the Adderall. I ended up getting a SPECT brain scan at one point like they do at the Amen clinic.
Ben: Right, right. That's like a blood flow scan for the brain?
Cameron: Yeah. And, I got one of those and the radiologist, this was post-Adderall, post all this. They were totally flabbergasted. I can't believe that you can talk as well as you can talk because this scan is comparable to what I see in 80-year-olds with dementia because they treat a lot of elderly people with dementia, with hyperbarics where I was at. So yeah, it was crazy. So, I basically started on this odyssey of trying to rebuild my health, rebuild my brain, my psyche, my neurological function. And also, I was in a situation at that point that I was deteriorating and I was kind of falling apart because I was just tanked metabolically, and I was becoming more toxic and my gut was wrecked.
And so, it was just this complete disaster. But it started me on this long 10 years sort of journey where I basically did nothing for this entire time, but scour medical and scientific literature, travel around, engaging in medical tourism, basically exhausting the rest of the allopathic model medications and stuff just got worse, ended up in the functional medicine paradigm. Just talking to doctors and researchers and scientists. And, going in the country and abroad trying different therapies and eventually got hooked up with some different networks of doctors. One, Dr. Dan Pompa who you've had on the show, who's one of my closest friends now who really helped me to sort of put together and assimilate a lot of these pieces that I had already sort of found into kind of a systematic plan not only for detoxification, which really helped a lot, but also to kind of approach this from sort of fix the cell to get well, approach it at its base.
So, that was how I eventually got my life back through combination of ancient healing strategies, detoxification, and all these different things with the microbiome and stuff, fasting. But then also, layering in these modern-day technological strategies like stem cells and peptides, and hyperbarics, and PEMF, and different things like that.
But how kava came into it though was in the middle of this process, I had deteriorated to a point. And actually, it was right after I met Dr. Pompa.
Ben: And, by the way, I should mention. For those of you not familiar with Dr. Pompa, I've interviewed him a few times and the shownotes for the show you're listening to right now are at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/kavapodcast, K-A-V-A podcast. And, I'll link my interview with Pompa. Now, I think it was actually one of his events where I'm at that I recall.
Cameron: Yeah, I was. Yeah, we were there and it was at the kava bar there in Vegas, one of those.
Cameron: So, kind of smack dab in the middle of this process. I was several years into it and I was pretty much at my lowest point whenever Dr. Pompa and I met. We were introduced through someone. And, I had reached out and we got to talking. And, he had taken on a lot of extremely complicated neurotoxic cases. And, it was a really bad situation because I was at a point where I had developed this kind of sensitivity spectrum syndrome as a byproduct of this autoimmunity. And, this is becoming increasingly common today where you have people that are basically in a form of PTSD, a spectrum of PTSD where they're so neurotoxic, liver toxic, their guts are so wrecked. They have such systemic autoimmunity that they start to develop primed both nervous system and immune system reactions to a host of things in their environment as part of the body's process of trying to protect itself from being so traumatized and essentially confused, and the gut being leaky and a bunch of this stuff.
So, I started developing severe reactions to obviously medications, but supplements and even foods, and got to the point where I was reacting to almost everything that I was eating. And, they started kind of mild, but then ended up in a situation by the time I got hooked up with him where I was having seizures from almost everything that I was eating. I would eat a food and I would go into a full grandma seizure or I would go into anaphylaxis. I would have different reactions based on different things.
Ben: Oh, my gosh.
Cameron: And, I got to a point where it just became absolutely terrifying. Not only could I not think and I was having trouble functioning and stuff, and I had to move back in with my parents and couldn't walk at one point. I even got to the point whenever Dr. Pompa and I met where I even started reacting to water, which I didn't even know was possible. Literally, I was in this clinic in Dallas, Texas that was basically like a hub basically for some of the most chemically and environmental offensive people in the world autoimmune diseases. It's called the Environmental Health Center. And, people come there from all over the world and they're basically quarantined. I had to be quarantined because if I got exposure to certain things, even fragrances that people would wear or just chemicals, cleaning products, even got a whiff of some of that stuff, I could go into a seizure. And, it became so madding that I had to be quarantined in these tile rooms. And, I had to wear masks and stuff.
It was just kind of funny because everyone in this community was wearing masks and was quarantined back before the world was like years before that.
Ben: Yeah, you got your practice early.
Cameron: Yeah, exactly. But I ended up in this situation. And, for whatever reason, I got to a point where I would literally–we had bought every water, bottled water on the market and was trying all these. And, some I would react worse to than others. Different mineral composition, I don't know. I got to where I could put a drop of water on my tongue and I'd go into a seizure. And, this is just something that completely blew my mind. I had no idea that that would even be possible. I was so reactive to almost everything. And so, it was just this crazy situation. And so, obviously, that became dangerous. And, by the time he and I met, I ended up in this long forced dry fast where Dan basically told me, he's like, “Well, you have to fast, basically.” And, I had no choice too. And, to fast could help to stabilize the situation and calm down the nervous system and stuff.
And, I did it. I ended up going multiple days without water and almost died from dehydration. And, that's not something that you just recommend people do without medical supervision. But it was an extremely scary. I had delusions and hallucinations during that time. I even had a near-death experience that was very similar to what I had experienced from psychedelics at times. It was pretty crazy. That was my lowest point. But during that period of time, I was having such violent convulsions that I was put on these heavy doses of benzos. So, Xanax and Klonopin were the two that I was put on to try to control them. And, I was even reacting to them. So, I was reacting to the drug but then it would kick in and that GABAergic effect would sort of at least reduce them–
Ben: GABAergic effect just for people who–and you might hear that term thrown around a couple of times in relation to kava, gamma-aminobutyric acid like an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Same thing that just released when you have a nice glass of wine or there's some GABA precursors like passionflower extract or lavender and things like that can increase GABA. But GABAergic, that's basically what you're referring to when you throw in that term, right Cameron?
Cameron: Absolutely, yeah. You just kind of think whenever you think GABA or GABAergic, you just think calm, the brakes of the nervous system, basically things that just sort of pump the brakes, allow you to relax or shut down an excitatory response that's going on in a seizure. And, seizures are primarily driven by the neurochemical pathway glutamate to these NMDA, like receptors that are the most excitatory. They're the equal opposite to the GABA. You've got GABA and glutamate. And, that balance is very fine-tuned by the intelligence of the body. And, whenever you get favored in a sympathetic mode from stress, and trauma, and neurotoxicity, you start to get this over erratic expression of glutamate that damages the system basically. They're a process called excitotoxicity.
But anyway, so I ended up in this situation where I was having seizures from everything. And, I was on these benzos and the problem was is I knew this because I've been down this road with Adderall. I knew that this was a very dangerous situation because I was so fragile that if my seizures got any worse, they were going to become lethal. And, they already were very close. So, I was going to multiple times today just getting weaker knew that benzos elicit tolerance relatively quickly. And, if I kept using the benzos, eventually they were going to lose their effectiveness. And then, I was going to ricochet in the opposite direction. My seizures were just going to explode because again, you're not creating any more GABA with these compounds, you're basically just using up your stores and expressions, and you're getting a downregulation. The body says, “Oh, this is unnatural, we've got too much of it. We're going to go in the opposite way.” And, that's a problem, a huge problem.
And so, I was in this situation where I actually started working with Dan as a client. And, we both were talking through this and just saying I can't do any of the strategies, I can't do detoxification, I can't do the fasting, I can't do anything unless I can get these reactions under control. And so, I've got to find a way off of Klonopin. And, my life depended on it. I had a very short window of time for this. And, good thing, I had already delved into all this for years and delved into the ethnobotanical world. And so, I had a good sort of database of information to draw from. So, I went back to the scientific literature and I'm like looking, okay, I need a plant-based or natural analog or an alternative that could bind to those same receptors to kind of prop them up to allow me to safely transition off of these benzos and hopefully keep these seizures under control.
Honestly, I didn't think I was going to find it because I didn't think I'd find anything in the plant kingdom that would really meet that power. Obviously, you named some of the more subtle compounds, valerian root, passionflower, lemon balm, and even taking straight GABA, or theanine, or taurine, or magnesium. All of those things affect that pathway, but all of those things in the situation I was in was a little bit trying to shoot a BB gun at a freight train. Those things are great, but I was so out of balance, I was withdrawing from this drug. It just wasn't enough.
And obviously, I had come across kava before and I had tried what I thought was kava multiple times from multiple different supplements suppliers. Even sort of high-level physician-grade formulas that had forms of kava in it under a form called “kava kava,” which is what most people who have heard of kava think of it as. But this term kava kava is actually not kava at all by definition, in the sense that from a South Pacific islander's standpoint where kava comes from, kava kava is an extract. And, that's a name that was given to it in the United States, basically in other places around the world where they use solvents to extract it. They apply sort of modern extraction methodologies.
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I was coming on the extraction technologies because that's, I think, one of the big issues when we look at a lot of these sacred medicines from around the world. It's pretty easy to bastardize them, especially using harsh solvents or extraction processes that can oxidize them. Or sometimes I know you wind up not getting the full spectrum of alkaloids in the plan, which can be difficult on the liver. But yeah, I think that's a huge issue with a lot of these medicines is the processing and the extraction, it's subpar.
Cameron: It's massive. And, for some plant compounds, some plants and fungi, and all these different biological organisms are exactly that. They're living organisms. They're much more biochemically complex than a drug that's just one singular molecule that's isolated usually ripped off from a plant or synthesized from a plant. And, it has one linear mechanism that pushes the body in a direction very powerfully. But these plants are living organisms like humans are living organisms that have hundreds, if not thousands of active constituents that all work in sync, in harmony in each active constituent is, say, an instrument in a musical orchestra that you can isolate one instrument that, say, plays the melody, that sort of plays front and center, the most powerful ones, and you'll get the effect. But if you have the entire orchestra, you'll get an experience. It's much more full and has more depth to it and therapeutic value.
Some medicines though extract better with solvents because they have more of their overall effects comes from just a few compounds that you can extract with a solvent. And so, you can get more of those therapeutic effects and not bring it too far out of balance. And, there's a lot of herbs that extract okay with ethanol. Kava is not one of those. You can use ethanol or other egregious solvents like acetone, which you're really bad. But kava is one of those that has a very, very unique composition that when it's extracted with solvents, you actually lose about somewhere between 80 and 90% of the depth of the overall effects profile. And so, you end up with something that's just a small shade of what kava really is. And so, that's why, by definition, all of these products that are called “kava kava,” virtually all of them are either one of two extraction methods. They're ethanol extraction methods or CO2 extraction methods.
Cameron: CO2 is a little bit better, but it does not capture the full array of active constituents in the plant. And, kava very much relies on that entourage effect. So, what I thought at the time whenever I first sort of came across and I was in this dire situation, I thought, “Well, I've tried kava, it doesn't really do much. I'm not going to waste my time with it.” Until I sort of reconnected right in the middle of serendipitously with a friend of mine who I had met, who was a South Pacific indigenous islander who is from Vanuatu, which Vanuatu is where kava has been used the longest. Its usage has been traced back 3,000 years. That's where most of the world's kava supply comes from. That's where farms are and everything.
But anyways, I asked him about this–or no, no, he actually brought up to me. He said, “Well, how come you haven't tried kava?” I said, well, I have. I tried this. He's like, “Okay, would you try?” I told him and he kind of snickered. He laughed at me a little bit because he was like, “That's not real kava, man,” like, “that's kind of a joke to us.” It's like we've–
Ben: That was one of these westernized extracts that had the extraction method you were alluding to. And, I know a lot of these, one of these common products that are imported that you'll find in a lot of health food stores that says “Kava Kava” like the capsules, and liquids, and the pace, and the tea bags, and everything you find because I started to look into this. You've got mold. You got mycotoxins. You got industrial chemicals. You've got a bunch of low-grade varieties. I think you told me how a lot of them and you kind of alluded to this just now. It's non-root aerial plant parts so you don't get all the different parts of the root.
And, I think that's why a lot of people have noticed nothing from kava. And then, I don't want to totally derail your story. I want to get back to what this guy told you, but just because it's something that I get asked repeatedly–and again, I don't want derail your story, but this is important, I think. What about the part about kava being bad for your liver in terms of increasing liver enzymes or cases of liver toxicity? That's probably the question I get the most about kava and one of the things people are most concerned about.
Cameron: That's totally relevant because the situation with kava and proposed liver toxicity or reported liver toxicity was basically one of these issues that totally revolves around ignorance and misperception. And, it's a context issue. So, everything that we've been talking about so far with kava and the spectrum of quality and the spectrum of the effects, your profile that you can get from everything from the kava kava solvent extracts with toxic plant aerial parts, and solvent extracted, and mycotoxins the whole thing versus your full spectrum drink elixir that's made through traditional preparations of only the root material that's been drink every day by 90% of the population of Fiji and Vanuatu for 3,000 years with no reports ever in the anthropological accounts of deleterious effects on the liver or even on the body. It's seen as one of their most sacred medicinal substances that they use daily. They use certain strains daily.
But anyways, this whole belief system around liver toxicity is something that if you google “kava” or “kava kava,” it's starting to get better. A lot of the work that we're doing and others, starting to get better through Google. But you'll still find a huge number of articles of people who claimed this proposed danger on kava in liver toxicity. Every one of these claims is all quoting the exact same source and the exact same origin of this particular story. And again, it was a context thing.
So, basically what has happened is back in 2001, there was a series of small studies that took place that was funded by one pharmaceutical company in Germany and a couple in Switzerland. And, at the time, kava was at the precipice of a huge boom, because people were really starting to realize like this was this sort of untapped commodity that could be as big as coffee, that it was this really amazing medicinal substance. And, it was starting to be put in capsules. And, of course, people didn't know how to deal with it. Westerners were kind of doing their thing, not paying attention to the traditional preparations, trying to do what they do.
And, pharmaceutical companies were trying to do what they do as well too. They were trying to create patentable forms of it, so they were trying to use aggressive extraction methods, solvents, and things to isolate what they considered the single compound or the series of single compound, the kavalactones as they're called. And so, they were trying to make a patentable drug out of it. And, it ended up in the series of studies that was carried out actually of all types of people, on people recovering from alcohol addiction. So, people already who had very compromised liver functions, high liver enzymes. And, most people in these studies actually, when the investigation was gone back and sifted through were on high doses of acetaminophen and other things as well too. That increases liver enzymes.
So, there are a few factors there. But, this is one of those things that has been fully unpacked. And, it's really not even a dispute in the scientific community anymore. Even the WHO is a lot of times behind on things has taken a full position after reviewing all the scientific literature on this subject. And, over the last 15 years, this series of studies has been fully unpacked and the conclusion has been very clearly demonstrated that it was completely a quality control issue. So, what happened was is that this one pharmaceutical company was just looking for kava and they were looking for kavalactones specifically, a few of the actives. They're trying to isolate them, and they went, and they didn't know what they were looking for as far as kava material. They didn't pay attention to traditional methodologies that the indigenous people have always utilized with. They were looking for just kava material. They bought up some of the cheaper kava material they could find. Some unscrupulous large-scale farmers in the islands were selling them, what we now know as aerial parts of the plant. So, waste product that still contain kavalactones because the full plants of kava contains kavalactones. But the indigenous people sent for the last 3,000 years have only consumed the roots of the plant.
Ben: And, the aerial parts in what I understand, even though they're less concentrated, and a lot of beneficial compounds. That's less expensive for a manufacturer to actually harvest and sell. It's almost when you get an expensive supplement and you read that it has something really nice in it like, I don't know. It's like NAD or something like that. But it says proprietary. [00:43:43]_____ amounts and they're legally allowed in the industry is called fairy dust, a very, very small amount of that into the product. Kind of reminds me when people are using like plant medicines like this and using just the aerial leaf parts of a similar type of problem.
Cameron: Exactly. And, they're much cheaper because in the islands, in Vanuatu, and Fiji, and the other islands, they're considered waste product. So, they'll sell unscrupulous farmers, which now there are much less of those than there were because smart farmers understand that's bad for the whole industry because it perpetuates negative reputation in this non-contextual type of discussion. But there's still a lot of people doing it where they'll sell their waste product for very low costs and next to nothing. And, they'll grind it up so you can't tell. Because they'll grind it up with some root product. So, it comes to you in just in this powder form and you can't tell the difference unless you do a specific type of testing that we do called chlorophyll testing where you can test to see if it has any of these aerial parts in it.
So, basically, this pharmaceutical company wasn't paying homage to either the source material. Okay, so the aerial parts, the reason why you're not supposed to consume them is because the roots are the underground portion of the plant. So, they're not exposed to the deleterious attacks and effects of animals trying to pick away at it and pests and things. The aerial parts over generations obviously of kava's lifespan as an organism in the South Pacific, it's developed these plant defense compounds in the aerial parts to defend itself from being attacked. And, it plays a protective role in the environment, it's very protective, that's why it has protective effects. But the protective effects are added degree into a level and have certain chemical compounds that we see as these plant defense compounds. It's the same conversation that we see around lectins in some of these things except for these are very egregious alkaloids. There's one called pipermethystine. It's in the leaves of kava. That is essentially a mitochondrial toxin. It's not something that you're going to get a hormetic effect off of, it's something that it actually hasn't even been shown to be like–
Ben: it's called pipermethystine?
Ben: Okay. Well, that's important because I think the actual name for kava is piper methysticum. If you see piper methysticum, that just means it's kava. But what you're saying is if it's very concentrated, it's pipermethystine. That could be problematic for the liver. And, that's what you see in a lot of these leaf extracts.
Cameron: Yes, exactly. And, that alkaloid is only present in the leaves and in some of the stems. It's not present in the roots. So, the roots are below ground. From an evolutionary standpoint, from an adaptable standpoint, it has no reason to develop these plant defense compounds for a part of the plant that's underground because it's not being attacked. So, basically, it has a full vast array or the highest level of kavalactones and the active medicinal compounds in the plant, but it has none of these toxic alkaloids, and it has some of the certain strains, even of the roots have some of these other compounds. These chalcones that actually are medicinal, but in high doses can cause some side effects. That's why certain strains that are in a certain range of even these flavokavains that are in the roots are the ones that are considered adequate for daily use. And, they're not toxic, they're actually medicinal. But you can get certain more wild strains that aren't for daily use, more acute medicinal use that have high levels of these flavokavains, these chalcones that are highly, highly medicinal. But in high doses, they can cause stomach upset, and some things that people associate with high doses of kava that actually on a kava issue, they're more of a specific strain issue. But you definitely don't want the aerial parts.
So, there's a lot of context to understanding how to form a relationship with a plant. It's like certain plans have to be prepared in certain ways. There's certain plans like rhubarb that you can eat a certain part of the plant, make a pie and the other part is toxic. There's trace amounts of cyanide-like compounds in apple seeds and different things people know about. There are some mushrooms that you can take and they'll help to modulate your immune system like reishi, and cordyceps, and lion's mane. And, there are some mushrooms you pick up off the ground and they'll kill you in a half hour. These medicinal plants, it's learning basically which ones you can form a relationship with and then how to facilitate that in which parts of the plant to use.
And so, this pharmaceutical company obviously wasn't taking any of that into account. They ended up purchasing a lot of aerial part material that also wasn't these daily use strains and things. Then on top of that, they applied acetone extraction, which not only do you get a percentage of acetone, this toxic solvent in the final extraction, but you also get this isolation in this concentration. So, these alkaloids like pipermethystine are 10 times more soluble in ethanol and especially in acetone than they are in water, which is what the traditional extraction is. So then, they ended up with something that by definition was not kava at all, it was a kava-like drug basically that was totally taken out of its natural context. It ended up listening only even a couple dozen, two or three dozen cases of liver toxicity, a couple cases of liver failure, and people coming off alcohol.
And so, basically, it was a disastrous situation that then got a bunch of media press. There may have even been some pharmaceutical tinkering of there are people in this industry that truly believe that a few of these companies were trying to take a shot at kava that may or may not be true. But anyways, it led to countries being scared and just parroting this story over and over. And, this entire belief system that spread around multiple countries, there were bands all over the place, was all stemmed from this one situation that if you look at it from a surface level standpoint in Vanuatu, Fiji, in the South Pacific, the traditional preparation of the brew has been consumed by 90% of the population for 3,000 years as a regular food with no anthropological reports of this. And, it's never been demonstrated that traditional kava has any deleterious effects on the liver. In fact, clinically, we've used it on hundreds of patients and seen improvements in liver function many times. So, it's a very interesting thing. It's very similar to what happened to tryptophan in the early 1990s, it's just kind of one quick point on this point.
Back in the early '90s, tryptophan was banned because there was one group that basically synthesized a version of it that wasn't chemically tryptophan that had neurotoxins in it because it was a quality control thing, and it hurts some people. Then, the entire industry banned tryptophan, the United States for a period time until they realize, “Oh, there's context here.” Right?
Cameron: It was that thing. The WHOs take a position on it after reviewing the literature. It's not even really a debate anymore. It's telling this story about the difference between CBD and marijuana. There's a difference between kava kava extracts and traditional kava.
Ben: So basically, with the liver issues, what we're looking at is some pretty rare instances when individuals consume contaminated kava products like the toxic above-ground, aerial parts of the plant. These nonnoble varieties or kava extracts that get denatured through solvent extraction. That's the biggest issue when it comes to kava. And, you were talking with this guy. What was the name of the island you were on again?
Ben: Okay. So–
Cameron: So, Vanuatu is an island chain. Yeah, yeah.
Ben: Okay. So, I interrupted you when you were talking about what this dude on Vanuatu was filling you in on when he told me he'd used kava and not notice much. And, what was he saying to you?
Cameron: Yeah. So basically, he was like, “Well, this is an obvious try for you because kava is our most sacred substance.” It's like this. In its traditional form, it has like these entheogenic effects that are almost psychedelic. It's used as the core foundation of the social fabric of our country. It kind of holds a social fabric together. It's used for weddings, funerals, spiritual ceremonies, social gatherings. And, I've read a lot about it–
Ben: So, it's like beer in America, but better.
Cameron: Exactly. In fact, in the islands, they have kava bars and Vanuatu and Fiji, they have 20 times as many kava bars as they have regular bars because they prefer the experience, they prefer the community atmosphere that it creates because it puts you in this kind of state of calm enhanced focus where you're opened up. It kind of opens up the heart center and has some of these what I kind of alluded to as subtle psychedelic effects. I'm starting to call it the sober psychedelic because it kind of gives you this background psychological sort of underpinning effect of fully integrated systems thinking where you get this sort of left-right brain hemisphere interaction or hyper-communication where it allows you to kind of look at things from a more broad-spectrum, big picture perspective like people experience with psychedelics where they can kind of zoom out and kind of look at the circumstances in their life on a broad spectrum timeline. And, they can reflect on kind of the big picture instead of being in sort of a stress-induced beta state where you're kind of locked into what's right in front of you in this fight or flight, which that's where people kind are their lowest animal self. This will put you in more of kind of this alpha state that allows you to kind of relax, and reflect, and open up, and have deep authentic conversation with people. It just creates amazing environment. It allows people to connect and induces empathy amongst people.
Ben: Yeah, it reminds me a little more chill laid-back version of a microdose of psilocybin. And, I've kind of been messing around because I know you've got these shots, you've got even a canned drink which I love. That's my favorite. And, I don't think it's available yet, but you're working on. You've been sending me some betas. And, I absolutely love that. And then, you've got the tincture. And honestly, sometimes and I have no clue if this is kosher or not, but all sometimes if I'm at a restaurant and I don't want to order a cocktail, I always have a bottle of your tincture in my fanny pack now. And, I'll literally just order some bidders on ice with club soda and I'll put a few dropper fulls of the kava in there. And, it's basically the same cocktail feel, again, with none of the acetaldehyde, or alcohol-based toxins, or anything like that. So, it's kind of a way to squeeze in a cocktail at a restaurant without actually having an actual cocktail. I mean, it's super versatile stuff, but I also could have taken some right before this podcast have been fun, not feel like I've had a couple of martinis or anything like that.
Cameron: Absolutely. And, that's one of the best things about it and why they prefer, and why there's 20 times more kava bars in these islands as there are regular bars is because it gives what most people are seeking from the alcohol experience without the drunkenness, addiction, deleterious effects and kind of suppression of human consciousness that you can get off of taking high doses of alcohol.
Ben: Which is why it's also kind of good for getting off of alcohol. Well, let's say you have two or three drinks in a day now and you want to cut yourself down the one, just have one and then switch to kava. And, I mean, it's remarkable as far as that goes. But there's some other stuff that you were filling me in on with kava that goes beyond like the focus and kind of the mental clarity combined with the social lubrication effect that's similar to what you might get with alcohol come out the nootropic or a plant-based psychedelic or something like that.
For example, it's got some pretty good anti-inflammatory effects, kind of similar to CBD, right?
Cameron: So, kava is actually one of the most well-studied herbs in the scientific literature. It's just one of those things that it continued to be aggressively studied to try to work out this enigma of why this claim of liver toxicity had come about. And, outside of cannabis, ginseng, reishi mushroom, and a couple others. it has pretty large body of literature around it that have looked at and it established multiple mechanisms. And so, basically what kava has been known for, its signature from an energetic standpoint or from an organism standpoint in the natural ecology where it grows and where it's used. kava is known as a protective substance. That's kind of its identity. It plays a protective role in the natural ecology. And so, therefore it's [00:55:41]_____ as a living organism. It's developed a broad spectrum of biochemical adaptive processes that have led to almost like a complete subset of biochemical compounds and molecules that elicit adaptation and protection basically against all forms of stress.
And so then, whenever you take this organism into your body and form a relationship with it, it transfers that adaptability to you from a biochemical standpoint. And, you feel almost like this biochemical shield that allows you to adapt to stress and reduces the limbic system and different things. But because it's a full living organism, just like the human body is a living organism, it doesn't just hit on one neuroprotective mechanism, it seems to hit on almost every neuro and tissue-protective mechanism that we know of to some degree and some more than others. So, the GABA effects are what it's most known for because that's what gives you the illicit feeling. And so, that reduces glutamate levels and excitotoxicity calms the limbic system, puts you in a parasympathetic state. It's very protective in that sense. But it also has effects on ion channels. So, sodium-calcium channels, which is the same mechanism that antiseizure drugs work on.
Obviously, even in discussions about the possible deleterious effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation with Martin Pall's work in looking at the activation or influx in these calcium channels, you get this influx of calcium into the cell is part of kind of the inflammatory toxic response that could be happening there and leading to hydroxyl free radical production stuff. And, it appears to definitely block this. And actually, I was EMF sensitive too during my process. And, that was one thing that I noticed. I could tolerate a lot more exposure to things and recover. But aside from that, so it helps to calm those systems down, and sort of calm the cell and calm the systems around it. It also is a COX-2 inhibitor, which is very similar, the same as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories but without the toxic effects on the gut lining and the kidneys and things. And so, we see a reduction in inflammation, it has powerful hormetic effects on Nrf2, N-R-F2, which is the antioxidant response that stimulates kind of the production of glutathione and catalase and superoxide dismutase, and those things.
And so, [00:57:58]_____ neuro and tissue-protective mechanisms. And then, it also has really amazing metabolic effects too. It's a really powerful AMPK activator. So, AMP-kinase, it's basically the fat-burning cellular autophagy pathway.
Ben: Really? Okay. So, there's a little bit of an anti-aging longevity component too as far as cellular cleanup.
Cameron: Yes, absolutely. It certainly appears so. And actually, some of the most exciting study around kava right now and has been for the last while and in the scientific community, what it's most looked at as far as excitement, even more than its nerves. Nervous system effect. Is the effects that it could have on the process of developing in managing cancer. Because not only does it have this effect on really powerfully suppressing mTOR and activating AMPK, and this cellular cleanup of senescent cells and things, but it also has selective apoptotic effects to senescent cells that can adapt to these flavokavains that I mentioned earlier. So, in the highly medicinal compounds of kava, these are actually seen in the scientific literature as natural chemotherapy agents that actually control unnatural or unhealthy cell differentiation within a plant. And so, you take those into your body and it appears to have some of those effects. And, there may even be powerful antiviral and antimicrobial effects from them as well too. So, it has kind of this one-two punch.
And, there are studies that that range across almost every form of cancer that we know of right now with these flavokavains isolated and with the combination of kavalactone. One, particularly called yangonin and these flavokavains as well that has this one-two punch that kavalactone was shown to help to sensitize bladder cancer cells against the apoptotic effects of the flavokavains, which then in an apoptotic mechanism.
Cameron: So, it's very fascinating and those mechanisms, I mentioned all that because that's another protective mechanism too. And so, we see a pattern here of this recycle mode of the body. There's this kind of seesaw. You either go into this kind of recycle and repair would be like mTOR, would be like growth or autophagy and stuff. Putting the body into this recycle mode is a protective mode that helps you survive during times where there's not food present, clears out bad cells that become harmful to you, toxins. And then, the other detoxification and self-stabilizing effects, it's all neuroprotective.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. You even told me about some recipe for accelerating the fat burning in autophagy pathways with kava. You were mixing stuff in there. I think you said you had a little bit of coffee, the kava, and was it like C8 or MCT oil to amp up the effects.
Cameron: That right there is an amazing–that's an amazing stack that a lot of people who we've done promotion podcasts and different things with have started to really take too.
Ben: Yeah. Well, I'm going to step it up a notch because what I've found to work really well is if you go to a HVMN, or Ketone Aid, or any of these folks have like ketone esters, a shot of ketone esters with kava. And, I've actually been throwing a little bit of kratom in there as well. That is just for hyper focus productivity in a relaxed state for a long period of time. That is an awesome combo. It's the three Ks. It works perfectly. Kava, kratom, and ketones, that's a really, really good stack if you haven't tried that before.
Cameron: Yeah, exactly. And, you can throw a little bit of–there's a lot. You can go all day with this stuff. I mean, there's a similar story around another plant called kanna that actually is really synergistic with kava, but–
Ben: I haven't used kanna. It sounded like druggies. But yeah, kanna. I've used that for plant medicine ceremonies before.
Cameron: Well, yeah. Yeah, I don't want to go off the rails too much with that, but it basically is another one of these plants that is highly dependent on the source. And, you can get really weak kanna that doesn't do much. You can get really strong kanna that you can use in smoke blends. And, it actually has some entheogenic effects that affect the serotonin pathway as well. And, it also suppresses appetite and it's a PDE4 inhibitor. It can be a nootropic.
Ben: Kanna reminds me a little bit of Salvia divinorum. Kind of falls into that same category. Either of those are pretty nice. Kanna is spelled two Ns, right? K-A-N-N-A, I believe.
Cameron: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Kanna, Sceletium tortuosum, it's a South African plant. It's a flower that's been used even longer than kava actually. And, that one is another one of the up-and-comers that is sort of in this wheelhouse of things you can use to taper off of antidepressants and other kind of compounds as well too. But all these things and the kava-MCT-coffee combination is a really easy one that almost everyone has access to coffee and MCT now especially your listeners, of course. The good thing about that is not only do you get a sort of compounded fat-burning sort of cellular autophagy effect and nootropic effect but both MCT and caffeine also act as amplifiers or facilitators for the absorption of kavalactones into the brain. So, MCT acts as kind of this lipid carrier that sort of push things. It's an amplifier. It's a facilitator in caffeine because the effects it has on blood flow and things to the brain that you get a noticed increase in the euphoric hit that you get from kava when you mix caffeine with kava for sure.
Cameron: So, those two things together are really, really nice and really, really good whenever used together. So, the oil goes well like a bulletproof style coffee that caffeine MCT thing.
Ben: Right. Because of the GABA effects too, a lot of times I'll recommend people wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. I've recommended Quicksilver Scientific's LipoCalm as a GABA precursor, or even like a chamomile or a passionflower extract. Kava also falls in that category. Your tincture works well for this. You can keep on your bedside. And, if you wake up at like 2:00 or 3:00 am with ruminating thoughts and can't get back to sleep, you do a couple dropper fulls of that. Hold on the tongue for 60 seconds. Seems to work pretty well because that GABA component. And, I haven't found kava to deleteriously impact sleep architecture at all. If anything seems to help it out quite a bit.
Cameron: Tremendously. That's one of the things that it's best for and what we see in the studies. But also, I've gotten the opportunity through the network of doctors that I work with, total work with several thousand around the country. And, I've gotten the opportunity to see a lot of clinical observation and anecdotal accounts too just from things that haven't been looked at super thoroughly. We definitely see in our patient population with the doctors that are using these products that we definitely consistently see improvements in both deep and REM sleep in a large percentage of people who take it. I've really never seen a case of interrupting sleep unless someone has a bad reaction to it, which people could react to anything. It's one of those things that, unlike cannabis, definitely not CBD, but like marijuana or alcohol, that both can knock you out but then kind of screw up your sleep cycles if you measure it with an Oura ring or something.
Kava has an amazing effect on sleep. And, you'll actually get more vivid dreams a lot of times whenever you take out doses of kava because of the improvements in some of those cycles. So, that's something that's really nice about kava for sure.
Ben: Yeah. So, you're basically taking kava. Are you somehow sourcing it in a way that's getting rid of a lot of these issues that we discussed earlier? Where do you actually get this stuff?
Cameron: Well, actually here in a second, I can go back to the rest of the progression of my particular story. But this ties in–
Ben: Oh, yeah. We got to finish your story. I know we're getting long in the tooth where we don't have a ton of time. So, I want to make sure you get a chance to finish that story.
Cameron: Yeah, exactly. And, it's all interwoven together, so it's all relevant, and my experience to it and exactly how this stuff was demonstrated to me. But anyways, I spent about seven or eight years developing a supply chain and relationships in the South Pacific with the indigenous people, and I felt that I needed to. I mean, I became extremely inspired through my process to just invest in full immersion into the context of this plant so that I understood it, I understood its particular role not only in the environment but potentially in modern culture. I wanted to pay respect to the indigenous people that have helped to facilitate the development of these strains of this plant. And, the origin sort of home not only from an environmental soil standpoint and everything where it comes from, I wanted to make sure that I was going to do this right and that we could produce product that we could scale to the masses. Because I believe from the beginning that eventually with the work that us and others that are doing in this industry, that kava can eventually become as common as a cup of coffee if the supply is scaled to the degree that it can be because it's a commodity that really has some of the best effects of alcohol, coffee and CBD wrapped into one like we discussed.
So, I've been developing this supply chain that's scalable in mass for the last however many years here. Actually, get a consistent standardized supply of a good combination, balanced combination from an effects profile standpoint of strains that we can produce at scale, that every batch is tested not only for biological but industrial contaminants. Everything is grown organically, although we don't have the organic certification yet because it's grown in Vanuatu. But everything is grown without the use of pesticides or anything. And, everything is tested for mycotoxins and mold.
Ben: So, you say you are growing up there in Vanuatu.
Cameron: And so, we've secured and developed harvesting and drying methods as well too that prevent mold growth. And, we're even working on some in the future that will take the potency up a notch that we're looking at stabilizing fresh kava, which right now is traditional kava, but it's traditional dried kava.
Fresh kava is even more potent. If you pull it out of plant in Vanuatu and make it right there, and it still has all of the fresh active enzymes in it, even above all of the regular active constituents, it has a next level of immediacy that's undeniable that can be to five times stronger and everything. So, we're working on a method. It's fresh kava in a more premium product line. There will be more as an alcohol alternative and less of a standard retail product.
So, there's multiple tiers to this of what we're working on. But the supply chain has been very, very important. We had to control every step of the process and we had to have full transparency available at every step of the process because it's so subject to contamination because of the strikes to kava's reputation. If we're going to do this, we had to do it right. We've been working with regulatory agencies, WHO, Codex. There's an international quality standard that we're in a group that send a proposition for or proposal rather that's set to be inducted this year into Codex that outlies these series of criteria for kava for it to be classified as a food. If it meets these criteria, then we'll be able to get food classification just like coffee.
And so, we've done a lot of stuff with the regulatory agencies to create a framework to where we can help usher this into the modern world and into American life in the most credible transparent way. It's possible to protect it from any of the negative misrepresentations, basically. So, our sourcing is incredibly important in that sense.
Ben: Yeah. And, I think what's kind of interesting too is the idea that with–and I've noticed this with yours, and it's kind of back to the whole issue with the psychedelic component is this idea that, I think you described it to me as a systems-based thinking approach that through the chemical pathways that kava seems to be targeting. You get almost this hyperconnectivity and communication that's enhanced between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. So, for creativity paired with productivity, for me, because I've been doing a ton of writing. And, for some reason, because this is the second podcast I've done I think in the past couple of months about kava, it's just become one of my go-tos really I absolutely love it for especially long deep work sessions or nighttime relaxation as alternative to cocktails. But something about it just work. Maybe it doesn't agree with everybody, but it seems to just shift me into this alpha state for maximum creativity and then learning new information. And, I don't know everything that's going on. It's probably multifactorial, but I'm pretty stoked about my use of it. Especially now that I know I can get access to a source is going bad for my liver, for example.
Cameron: For me, I always describe it like this. I've worked with almost every powerful and subtle plant medicine that's available. I mean, no one's worked with everything, but I've worked with a lot. I've worked with all of the heavy psychedelics, all the tryptamine-based psychedelics, psilocybin, the DMT-based compounds, LSD, all of those. And, I've worked with all of the standard adaptogens that have very subtle effects and that are more for the body and less for the psyche, and the spirit, and the mind.
And, kava has this amazing balance that it captures a lot of the effects of a lot of these things while not knocking you off your center or compromising your faculties, your functionality. Meaning that it has probably the greatest therapeutic effect to drawback ratio of any medicinal plant that I have come across. Meaning that there are some that are stronger like psilocybin mushroom side dosages will take you into a completely altered state which has its time and place but needs to be carefully facilitated and you can't use it every day and those dosages, of course. But kava is something that sometimes the best medicine is not the one that hits you over the head with a hammer, but it's something that can be taken regularly that can be controlled that can really be used and integrated into your life in a regular way.
Cameron: And, kava allows people to sort of grasp what they're trying to get from microdose putting up the mind and allowing you to access more of who you really are as a person in opening up the heart and allowing you to socialize, but without taking you into an altered state compromising your faculties, making you drunk. And so, it's this amazing alcohol without the drunkenness but also elements of the entheogens.
And so, what [01:11:54]_____ and this is what I'm so excited about with kava is that I see this as much more of an important project than just supplying something that just relieves anxiety on the surface or something, which it does, and that's how a certain percentage of people understand it. But if we look at any culture from an anthropological standpoint, from a historical standpoint, some of the highest values and inspirations of any given culture are largely contributed to by the altered states of consciousness that they use to connect with each other and form the basis of their community and their perspectives.
So, in a lot of times, that involves plant medicine rituals or other rituals. But it usually has some form of altered state induced by plant medicine. So, some ancient cultures, indigenous cultures use more psychedelic-like compounds like ayahuasca as part of the core fabric of their culture. Some cultures like the West have embraced alcohol. And, you see that reflected in the collective mind, the perspectives, the behaviors because they help to shape how we look at reality, how we look at each other and connect with one another because the quality of the time spent connecting with other people and with ourselves and reflection dictates the quality of how we develop as humans.
And so, when you talk about something like kava and possibly sort of integrating it into the culture, it could possibly have really a large-scale positive net impact on the collective mind or perspective of the culture. Michael Pollan wrote a book. He was on Rogan's podcast not too long ago. He was talking about how coffee helped to shape the collective mind of US during–
Ben: Yeah. He has a really great little, short book on Amazon. I think it's called Caffeine or something like that. But yeah, his writing on coffee is really interesting.
Cameron: No, exactly. And, what it helped to do is it helped us shape this productivity side of us. That's where coffee breaks came from is your industry wanted to give coffee breaks to get more productivity out of their workers, so they would give them these times where they could be put in this state where they'd be more highly productive and elicit certain kind of cognitive function that helped to sort of create the framework for how people function and can have its pros but can also have its cons where you end up in this sort of beta and do sort of rat race type of mind sometimes. If you go too far in that direction, kava offers something that, I think, that we need in the culture, a perspective, a state of mind, state of being an alternative to dangerous substances. It can help to shape new forms of a social fabric that look like they do in the islands where you see very, very high levels of psychological health and mental illness and low instances of depression in the places that have used it.
And, the island is actually in these villages in some of the more rural parts of the islands were the chief still has final say over everything. If there is a dispute among two parties in the village, even a marital dispute or a dispute between two villages or something, the chief will force the two parties to sit down and settle it over kava. Because it's seen as that good of a strategy for conflict resolution and stuff as well too.
Ben: Yeah, probably easier for them than MDMA too. I would imagine.
Cameron: Yeah, exactly.
Cameron: Because it's tolerable when you use it.
Ben: Yeah. Well, that's crazy. It's just so cool how, I mean, your story of being on random buying sprees and addicted to benzos and buying exotic animals and recreating your life to be Ace Ventura animal detective. And, what kava did for you is actually pretty cool.
And, just because I know people are going to be interested in getting their hands on some of your unique formulations, you've got the tincture, which I think is available right now. You've got these little shots. I keep them in the fridge. I actually like to dump the shot into a little bit of sparkling water. And then, I also like doing some of these mixes that we've been talking about blended with a little bit of coffee, or MCT oil, or ketones, et cetera.
But basically, what's available for people right now is they can get from your TRU KAVA website. And, I'll link to it in the shownotes, folks. Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/kavapodcast, is they can get the little tincture and the shots. Those are the two main things that you got available like the oil and the shots.
Cameron: It's so important because with our product line, we kind of have–and this is kava in general from traditional extraction standpoint. It has sort of a tiered sort of staggered spectrum of effects that are all relative to concentration. And, what I mean by that is that there are 200 different strains of kava just like with cannabis. Some are more sort of heavy nootropic entheogenic, some are more heavy sort of sedative. We wanted to create and we want to keep it focused to avoid confusion, especially in the beginning. And so, we created mixtures of strains that are really balanced that don't put you to sleep and that are not overly activating at the same time that sort of give that calm focus that allows for sort of the best effects profile that most people would be looking for to get this balance, this activated calm sort of focus and engagement that people are looking for.
So, the oil is our baseline product. And, that is the one that's–it's basically a good sort of entry point for people just getting it.
Ben: Yeah. It's like a tincture. And, there's two different strains. You have one that I noticed. You've got one that you marked it as a nootropic version. And then, it's kind of the regular version. Is the difference between a regular and nootropic just the strain that you use?
Cameron: Yeah, exactly. So, the strain that we use in the regular one, the main strain is called “borogu.” And, it's a really balanced strain that's sort of the broad-spectrum effects of kava. That's the core product. And, the Kavaplex is actually pressed with a specific pressing method that gets the full spectrum of kavalactones, but at a concentration that's more subtle than the drinks. Meaning that it gives effects that we wanted to be most versatile and tolerable at any time of the day for all ages, even kids. So, we have kids taking the product for multiple applications. And, that's a good entry-level product that is almost kind of an all-purpose food you can add it into. You can put it on salads. You can put it in your coffee. You can take it any time of the day. And, it's just so versatile and very, very smooth.
The other oil is that same concentration but just a different strain that's from Tonga that is more sort of euphoric, more of that dopaminergic effect that we didn't really get to touch on, but that's where the actual engaged part of kava comes from, that nonaddictive, non-depilatory dopaminergic effect from the monoamine oxidase inhibition. So, those are the base products. And, that's what a lot of people really, really start with to kind of dip their toes in.
The shot and the drink. The drink isn't released yet. It will be in the next two or three months, it'll be made available. And, that's the one that we're going retail with. But the shot and the drink are the same product, it's just they're made at the shot concentration and then, there's more liquid in the drink. But they're the same product, the shot is just more concentrated into almost what equates a five-hour energy shot, except for the calming effects of kava and things. But it's going to be that next here. That's more of what you'd find off of a more subtle dose of what you'd find at a kava bar. More of the euphoric effects, more of the social enhancing effects that you get off of the shots and the drinks.
Ben: Okay, got it.
Cameron: And, we want it to be at a concentration that's pretty controlled. You can continue to consume those for higher effects.
Ben: Okay, cool. And then, we've also got a discount code for people on these. It's BenGreenfieldFitness.com/trukava, T-R-U KAVA. Not with an E, just T-R-U, TRU KAVA. And, the code, I think it's BEN10. Does that save 10% for people?
Cameron: Yup, yup.
Cameron: BEN10, yeah. 10% off.
Ben: So, BEN10. Seriously, try combining it with some stuff like we talked about. And, I'll try and put a few of the favorite recipes in the shownotes. Or, Cameron, if you have anything else you want me to add to the shownotes, I will, as far as some cool kava recipes. And, if you guys yourself have used kava and you're listening in, or you have your own tips to add, or the ways that you found to really synergize or amplify the effects, feel free to drop into the comment section at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/kavapodcast, K-A-V-A podcast, and leave them over there.
Cameron, it's so cool though that you figured out a way to get this out there and make it healthy for people. So, I appreciate you coming on the show and sharing all this stuff with us. And again, if folks want– if they have follow up questions or anything like that, just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/kavapodcast and leave them there. And, I'll link to some of the other stuff we've talked about too like my previous interview with Dr. Pompa, and the TRU KAVA website, and a whole lot more.
So, Cameron, anything else you want to share [01:20:33]_____?
Cameron: Just a quick kind of couple little notes here because a lot of people ask about this. And, there's so much to cover. I didn't totally finish the story of my progression kind of thing. But–
Ben: I know. We never finished the whole story.
Cameron: But it's totally fine.
Cameron: I mean, people get the gist of it, but basically, it allowed me to get safely off of benzodiazepines in a very short amount of time with little to no withdrawal symptoms, which is miraculous. And, a couple of months, normally it takes a year and a half and it was miraculous for me. And then, that opened me up to being able to tolerate all of the other things, all the other therapies, and eventually get my health back. And so, it really did come in as kind of saving grace for me. And, we get this question all the time about people withdrawing from drugs. Obviously, we can't make any recommendations or tell people to come off their medications, you have to consult your physician for that. But as an interesting anecdote, we've seen this clinically so much. And, this is where a lot of the research is going. That and PTSD as well because of the perspective kava puts you in that we talked about, it helps you over time to sort of get in this reflective state that allows you to reflect on past experiences from a place of complete calm limbic safety, which helps to rewire the brain over time. This is why the indigenous people always thought as a psychological medicine. And, a lot of the research is being looked at with PTSD as well too. And, I had both of those things.
So, those things were very powerful for me. We see those a lot clinically. And, I'm really excited about kind of the ushering in of a lot of these plant medicines into the sort of not only the biohacking sphere, but into the general public. And, kava is one of those that I think unlike some of the stronger ones like psilocybin that everyone including grandma can even tolerate. And so, it's exciting for me that there are natural compounds and then there are tools and strategies that work with the intelligence of the body that can be used in times that are so necessary that we need every strategy that we have against stress, and trauma, and toxicity. And so, it's another one of these really powerful tools that I really see as being part of the future of this industry.
Ben: Well, awesome. I'm super stoked about getting this out to people and make them aware of its existence. I just think it's really cool what you've done. And, I'm super grateful for you adding a little thing to my pantry. That's just made life just a bit better.
So, Cameron, thanks for coming on the show. And, for all of you listening, and again, shownotes are BenGreenfieldFitness.com/kavapodcast. And, until next time. I'm Ben Greenfield along with Cameron George signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.
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Cameron George, my guest on today's podcast, is a researcher, writer, entrepreneur, and the founder of TRU KAVA, a company that is striving to set the industry standard for quality, safety, and education around kava within the mass market.
TRU KAVA is focused on developing scalable user-friendly products that deliver the full therapeutic action of the traditional kava drink, which is the only form that has been highly prized in South Pacific islands for over 3,000 years.
Since discovering the amazing effects of traditional kava during his own chronic illness, Cameron George spent many years investigating every aspect of kava and has collaborated with many of the most prominent experts in the world within the fields of kava research and historical kava use. The goal of this project was to provide the safest and most effective kava products on the market, as well as educate the public on the complex story surrounding kava, explaining some of the myths, the massive variation of quality on the market, and the many amazing benefits that kava can offer to the modern world when it’s used correctly in its traditional form. Cameron's work is an initiative to educate on the clear distinction that the scientific literature and historical accounts have made between safe and questionable kava products, as well as to advocate for the use of only lab-tested safe kava varieties.
Kava is commonly known as “the great protector” because it is one of nature’s most profound and complete protective substances. This means that when humans consume kava, it helps both protect the body from stress and rid the body of all forms of built-up stress (physical, chemical, emotional). Most of kava’s many effects stem from this fundamental characteristic about kava and are part of this multifaceted protective process. These protective mechanisms include:
- GABA A receptor binding
- Calcium channel blocking
- Nrf2 upregulation
- COX (cyclooxygenase) inhibition
- AMPK activation
- MAO B inhibition
- Psychedelic properties (Very strong classic psychedelic medicines such as Psilocybin mushrooms, LSD and Ayahuasca have been used to induce highly creative introspective states of mind. These amazing, altered states have been shown to allow individuals to very effectively address and heal underlying past trauma in their lives and kava seems to have similar effects!). Kava is very well known historically for its very gentle entheogenic (psychedelic) effects that bring about creative and introspective thinking, thus making users more empathetic over time. Unlike other classic psychedelic compounds (such as psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, DMT, Ayahuasca, cannabis, etc.), kava has much more subtle psychedelic properties that don’t affect a person’s ability to function in everyday circumstances.
And a whole lot more!
Cameron's formula, known as TRU KAVA, is a new patented form of traditional kava and is currently the only mass user-ready kava product on the market that has these subtle psychedelic effects on the mind. Additionally, absolutely no pesticides or industrial chemicals are used at any step of their process. Each batch of kava root is independently lab-tested to ensure that it meets all of the previously mentioned quality and safety standards. All of their products are refined and packaged in palatable forms, making them extremely versatile and easy for anyone to use.
In this discussion with Cameron George, you'll discover:
-The benzodiazepine (benzo) epidemic, and the plant renaissance that is sweeping the land…09:15
- CBD, hemp, cannabis, etc. are the darlings of the industry
- Feel Free Wellness Tonic
- Psilocybin is moving toward legalization; ketamine and others
- Benzodiazepine epidemic on par with opioids
- Anything that ends with “am” is a benzodiazepine
- These are easy shortcuts to coping with the stresses of our era
- Withdrawal symptoms are so severe they can potentially cause death
-Cameron George and the personal slice of hell suffered at the hands of benzodiazepines…14:55
- Inspiration path vs. the desperation path; desperation often precipitates the journey which leads to inspiration
- Highly functional individual; prolific athlete
- The collapse of health which couldn't be traced to a single diagnosis
- A psychiatrist prescribed a bunch of drugs which made things go from bad to worse to unspeakable
- Borrowing from tomorrow to pay for today
- Ace Ventura meets Breaking Bad living situation
- A blood-flow brain scan revealed levels of 80-year-olds with dementia
- This led to a deep dive into the realm of nutrition, microbiome health, gut health, etc.
-How he path of desperation leads to that of inspiration…24:50
- Dr. Dan Pompa: “Fix the cell to get well”
- Podcasts with Dr. Pompa:
- Kava Extract, Quantum Physics, Filtered Water, Mushroom Coffee & More: A Special Weekend Podcast Episode!
- Beyond Fasting: How To Biohack Your Fast To Accelerate Fat Loss, Stave Off Carbohydrate Cravings & Enhance Cellular Autophagy.
- Insider Secrets To Multi-Day Fasting, What Kind Of Fasting Burns The Most Fat, Boosting Your Own Stem Cells, Diet Variation, Feast-Famine Cycles & More With Dr. Dan Pompa.
- The Most Effective Detox You’ve Never Heard Of (And Exactly How To Do It).
- Sensitivity spectrum syndrome
- Develop nervous and immune system reactions as the body's defense mechanism
- Cameron George had severe reactions to food, and even water
- Dr. Pompa encouraged him to fast for several days
- GABAnergic effect after taking benzos
- Ricochet effect; eventually, a drug loses its efficacy
-Why kava kava is not kava in its purest form…35:15
- Extraction and processing
- Plants are living organisms with thousands of functioning elements
- Some medicines extract better with solvents
- Kava loses 80-90% of the effects profile when extracted with solvents (as is kava kava)
-Concerns about the effects of kava on the liver…39:20
- Ignorance and misperception; context is key
- No reports of liver issues in 3,000 years of use in Fiji and Vanuatu
- All claims of liver toxicity quote the same source
- Pharma companies used parts of the kava plant that were more or less waste products to cut costs
- Roots are not exposed to the elements as are the aerial parts of the plant
- True kava is the root, not the aerial parts
- Liver damage occurs when the leaves of the plant are consumed rather than the root
- Real kava has been shown to actually improve the liver's health
-The cultural significance of kava in the South Pacific…50:56
- The most sacred substance in Vanuatu
- Holds the social fabric together in those areas
- Vanuatu and Fiji has 20x more kava bars than alcohol bars
- Subtle psychedelic effects (sober psychedelic)
-Positive benefits of kava on the body and mind…54:35
- It has one of the largest bodies of research and literature
- Protective qualities
- Calm down cells and systems around them
- Hormetic effects on NRF2
- Metabolic effects; AMPK activator
- Potential positive effects on treating cancer
- Recipe for accelerating fat-burning and autophagy pathways
- Shot of ketone esters with kava and kratom for hyper-focused productivity
- GABA component; helps sleep architecture
- Improvements in deep and REM sleep
-Where Tru Kava is sourced…1:05:05
- Everything is grown in Vanuatu
- Organic, toxin-free, no pesticides, etc.
- Harvesting and drying methods that prevent mold
- Fresh kava is more potent than dried kava
- Working on food classification similar to coffee
-Why Ben and Cameron George are so excited about kava…1:10:15
- Greatest therapeutic effect to drawback ratio of any plant medicine
- Similar to a microdose without compromising faculties
- Alcohol without the drunkenness
- This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan
- Shape new elements of the social fabric in the West
-How to obtain TRU KAVA for yourself…1:15:15
- Kavaplex Premium Kava Oil is the baseline product; a good entry point (use code BEN10 to save 10%)
- Kavaplex Mind PremiumNootropic Oil (use code BEN10 to save 10%)
- Elevate Tropical Kava Shot (use code BEN10 to save 10%)
-And much more!
- Keep up on Ben's LIVE appearances by following bengreenfieldfitness.com/calendar
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- TRU KAVA (use code BEN10 to save 10%)
- Kava Extract, Quantum Physics, Filtered Water, Mushroom Coffee & More: A Special Weekend Podcast Episode!
- Beyond Fasting: How To Biohack Your Fast To Accelerate Fat Loss, Stave Off Carbohydrate Cravings & Enhance Cellular Autophagy.
- Insider Secrets To Multi-Day Fasting, What Kind Of Fasting Burns The Most Fat, Boosting Your Own Stem Cells, Diet Variation, Feast-Famine Cycles & More With Dr. Dan Pompa.
- The Most Effective Detox You’ve Never Heard Of (And Exactly How To Do It).
– Other Resources:
- This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan
- Hemp Oil
- Feel Free Wellness Tonic (use code BEN40 to save 25%)
- Kion Coffee (use code BEN10 to save 10%)
- C8 (use code BEN to save 10%)
- MCT Oil
- Ketone Esters
- Essential Oil Wizardry Ultrasonic Kanna Tincture (use code BEN to save 10%)
–Thrive Market: Organic brands you love, for less. Your favorite organic food and products. Fast and free shipping to your doorstep. Receive a gift card worth up to $20 when you begin a new membership.
–Butcher Box: Delivers healthy 100% grass-fed and finished beef, free-range organic chicken, and heritage breed pork directly to your door on a monthly basis. All their products are humanely raised and NEVER given antibiotics or hormones.