Overcoming Reverse Tolerance: The Key to Mastering Kava’s Effects

Overcoming Reverse Tolerance: The Key to Mastering Kava’s Effects

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Reverse tolerance, also known as sensitization, is a phenomenon where someone becomes more sensitive to the effects of a substance over time — even if they continue with the same amount or even less than what they originally started with. 

In some instances (like with kava), this can actually mean that on the first, second, or even third attempt, people don’t feel the expected effects at all. Only with prolonged exposure do effects gradually develop in the body. 

Reverse Tolerance vs. Tolerance: What's the Difference?

It may be easier to understand reverse tolerance by considering our conventional understanding of tolerance. Usually, tolerance refers to weakening effects over time. The more frequently we consume something, the less we feel the impact. 

Caffeine is a prime example (and cannabis is another). The first time you have a cup of coffee, the effects are profound. You'll immediately feel a sensational clarity, energy, and stimulation that's helped spawn a $100 billion industry.

Yet, over time, you'll likely reach for a second or third cup of coffee throughout the day just to feel the same initial effects. This is because you've slowly built up a resistance, or a tolerance, to these effects.

As the name suggests, reverse tolerance is the exact opposite of traditional tolerance. Over time, you'll find you need less and less to get the same payoff. 

Reverse tolerance is also experienced among those who try something for the very first time. They may report feeling nothing instead of the immediate effects they were expecting.

In most cases of reverse tolerance, including kava, all it takes is perseverance. Over the course of a few days or even a week of daily enjoyment, the effects will clarify and become much more noticeable. Then, as kava-lovers report, they find their bodies respond faster to the effects. In some cases, people may even reduce the serving size for the same impact. 

Reverse Tolerance and Kava

What is Kava?

Kava plant leaves from Polynesia

Kava, also called Kava Kava (Piper methysticum),  is a plant found across the South Pacific. For millennia, island communities have prepared the roots of kava in a ceremonial drink. It's deeply intertwined into traditional celebrations and the fabric of everyday life. 

Clarity, gentle euphoria, and chattiness are just a few of kava's effects, which scientists attribute to the plant's active compounds called kavalactones.

Unsurprisingly, because of its established safety profile and pleasant effects, kava is rapidly becoming a favorite daily routine for people worldwide. 

But, for some people, it can take a while for these effects to kick in, thanks to kava kava's reverse tolerance tendencies. 

What We Know About Kava Kava Reverse Tolerance 

As a pharmacological phenomenon, reverse tolerance is well studied in other substances, but frustratingly, when it comes to kava, there is very little research about it. 

Yes, some people have reported these gradually increasing effects, but science hasn't caught up to people's real-life experiences. Instead, we have to rely on the experiences shared among kava-lovers. 

First, not everyone is going to encounter kava reverse tolerance. It seems to be a relatively rare occurrence.

Second, the working assumption is that reverse tolerance relates to how our bodies process kavalactones. Kavalactones are a diverse group of compounds called lactones, and they are largely responsible for the plant’s desirable effects. They interact with our brain’s neurotransmitter systems, like dopamine and serotonin receptors

With a first or second serving of kava, our bodies are still unfamiliar with how to process and interact with kavalactones. Gradually, after several days of exposure, the effects become apparent as our bodies adapt to these compounds. It may also have something to do with our bodies building up to a certain level of kavalactones. 

Again, there isn't any significant research into this reported tendency, just reports from everyday people trying kava. Most of the available information comes from anecdotal evidence rather than any robust clinical trials.

The good news is that despite the lack of research into the specific phenomenon of reverse tolerance, researchers agree that kava kava is generally effective, well-tolerated, and non-addictive. It's only with high exposure over extended periods that side effects become a potential concern.

How to Overcome Reverse Tolerance

Tanoa fai`ava (kava bowl) is used to mix the kava powder

Are you one of the few people who tried kava and felt nothing? From the many personal experiences shared online, it is possible to successfully overcome an initial reverse tolerance. Here’s how:

Start Low

Always start with a lower-recommended serving of kava. Clinical trials have found a recommended daily range for kavalactones between 20 and 300 milligrams. An easy place to begin is with a piece of our Kava + Ashwagandha Dark Chocolate Bars, which sit well within this range, with 50 mg per piece. 

If you don't feel any effects (typically, they should appear within 45 minutes), avoid the urge to double down on the same day. Too much kava can lead to discomfort. 

Repeat Daily

The following day, repeat with the same small amount of kava. Keep up the repetition daily until you feel the effects. Over several days, you can also gradually increase the serving size. Again, you will want to stay within the recommended guidelines to avoid overdoing it. 

Stay Patient

You might feel the effects as soon as the second or third attempt. Or, in rarer cases, it could take a week or two of repeated exposure. In this case, you'll need a bit of patience, but the results will be worth it.

The key takeaway here is that everyone is different. Your experience with kava will feel uniquely your own, including whether or not you experience a reverse tolerance.

Kava Kava Reverse Tolerance: The Wait Is Worth It

Whether enjoyed on its own or paired with other naturally derived ingredients, like in our Kava + THC Dark Chocolate Bar, kava is taking the world by storm.

Don't get discouraged if you happen to be one of the few people who didn't feel anything from your first interactions with this plant. With patience and a bit of daily dedication, you can gradually and safely overcome reverse tolerance. 

Until next time, happy exploring, and mind your mind.

FDA Disclaimer: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.

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