Safe or not Safe?
Tudei or not Tudei , That Is the Question (for all Kava Drinkers) (By Chris Allen)
So today I want to talk a little about the effects of tudie (two-day) kava and rehash some of the history of tudei. I have been consuming kava for a long time and I have drunk nothing but Noble kava for a long time. Many years ago, a new Kava was introduced in Hawaii called Isa. This was a Tudei kava, not good for everyday drinking. So many Hawaiians including myself consumed the ISA to check it out. Some had no problems with it but most of us did have problems, including me. FYI, the culprit in tudei is the Kavalactone called DHM.
We were all used to the Noble Hawaiian ‘Awa and not the strong long lasting and unpleasant effects that the Tudei kava imparts. A long time back, I remember getting kava from other places in the South Pacific like Vanuatu and I remember how good that kava was. It was good like the Hawaiian kava but different in it’s own way. Then in the early 1990’s I noticed the Vanuatu kava changed, it was a lot stronger and had heaver effects that would last for 2 days. This was nothing like the kava I had before. So what happened?
In the early 1990’s the kava farmers in Vanuatu started to plant more Tudei kava for two reasons. There were buyers for it that wanted to make extracts and they were more concerned with potency than safety. The buyers were from around the world but most were from China. The second reason for growing Tudei is that the Tudei kava grows bigger and faster and is resistant to disease. For the farmer, this translated into a higher yield.
After a while the market for kava extracts crashed and that left only the market for kava consumers like you and me. In Vanuatu it is against the law to sell Tudei kava to the export market. The kava farmers had about half there fields filled with Tudei kava so what are they to do with that? The other half of their fields had Noble kava that they both consumed and sold. In order to recoup their investment, the farmers started to mix the Tudei kava with their Noble Kava and they sold it wrongfully as Noble Kava. Is this a problem? The Kava experts say, yes it is.
Kava Experts Not Happy with Tudei
At the Kava symposium held in Fiji in 2014, attended by Ruth Amos from the Vanuatu Department of Agriculture, the main area of concern was the use of two-day kava in export markets. The participants at that conference expressed their concern that the Vanuatu export kava markets were in dire straits on the verge of possible collapse due to questionable practices by growers, exporters and overseas sellers.
Dr. Matthias Schmidt, the keynote speaker, delivered what should be taken as a warning to all those involved in the kava industry. He said, “The export of two-day “kava” is continuing, despite the stipulations of Vanuatu’s Kava Act. These plants have the possibility of causing illnesses in drinkers, and shutting down what remains of the kava market for good.” The solution: Establishing a standard for noble kava in the CODEX with the WHO (World Health Organization), of whom Vanuatu is now a member. This CODEX would define which kavas are safe and this would benefit kava consumers world wide. Vanuatu has always known which plants should not be called “kava.”
Is Tudei Bad for You?
So we can see that it Tudei kava is a problem and it has the potential to ruin the kava market. But does it really make you sick? Is there really such a thing as a “Kava Hangover”? Yes indeed, here is a definition: “Kava hangover was described as causing mental and physical lethargy: disruption of memory recall, a feeling of sleepiness, a lack of energy and procrastination, which encouraged a retreat from work (Aporosa 2008b:47–51,86–88; 2010:28–29; 2011b:239)”.
Here is a quote from Fiji Kava Council chairman Rupeni Koroi regarding tudei, “But you can’t drink some of the kava that is produced in Vanuatu because if you do, then you have to rest completely for two or three days.”
From the Vanuatu Daily Post 2009: “Vincent Lebot is unhappy at the deterioration of quality kava produced in Vila nakamals and in kava for export. He has previously stated in letters, “nowadays the exported dried kava is not peeled (as it was in the early 80s) and is being exported with the bark attached to the chips which makes it potentially toxic. The bark contains a poisonous alkaloid called Pipermethystine which is naturally produced by the plant to protect itself from predators. It gives a very bitter taste to the beverage and causes running red eyes.”
And even on the Kava Forums some members have described side effects which include Nausea, Diarrhea, Lethargy, Increased Dermopathy and the kava hangover. So we can see there are unwanted effects from Tudei kava or a mix of Noble and Tudei kava. The effects of tudei kava vary from variety to variety, and it also depends on the person consuming it. For example, I know people that can drink Isa with no problems and I know others that get sick from it. They get nausea and all the other typical tudei effects. So it is important to test kava so that people know what they are getting. We need truth in advertising. Just like the labels that warn people with peanut allergies, we need labels that warn people who don’t want to drink tudei.
Testing for Tudei
The good thing is that there is a test to find out if you have pure Noble or a mix with Tudei kava in it. The Acetone Test is good but it is not completely accurate. There are different shades of yellow and orange in a test and the darker the color the more Tudeish the Kava. These shades are difficult to see in the acetone test. True Kava, a kava testing lab, they use a variety of lab equipment to zero in on the different shades of color and assign them a numeric value. They claim a that a Dominant Wavelength value of 577 is the cut off value for Tudei. So at last we have some scientific data that can help us make choices about which kava we want to consume. As you can see, the Kavas from Gourmet Hawaiian Kava are on the top of the list and are pure Noble Kava. I plant it, I harvest it, I process it, and I don’t use Tudei in my Kava. As for the kava resellers whose kavas have tested poorly, they need to approach the kava farmers and demand that they quit spiking the kava with tudei. Money talks as they say.