Citation: Trenchrunner. "Cannabis and Kava Comparison: experience with Cannabis & Kava (ID 14007)". Erowid.org. Apr 18, 2002. erowid.org/exp/14007
I intend to describe and compare my impression of the effects of Kava and Cannabis. I'll begin by briefly reviewing the technical aspects of preparation and dosage.
In all cases concerned, I consumed approximately 850ml of kava, prepared from ground Vanuatu rootstock. I find that a combination of the two popular kava preparation methods (blender with emulsifier and the traditional bowl method) works best: I take 5 tbsp of kava powder, mix with warm water and 1 tbsp lecithin granules, and shake to dissolve the lecithin. I filter the resulting cloudy brown mixture through cheesecloth (actually some finer cotton cloth I found works better) into a large bowl, and then squeeze and knead the resulting ball of wet kava powder under the liquid for 5-10 minutes. The resulting beverage is most effective if consumed over a period of about 30 minutes -- or less, if you have a strong constitution!
As for cannabis, I typically smoke two bowls from a small pipe, the second coming about 20 minutes after the first. In the (many) cases where the cannabis was consumed in a group of people, this is a good estimate of my total consumption, but in that case the smoking was always in several smaller hits.
Now, a note about situation and frequency. For a period I used cannabis at least 4 or 5 times a week, and my comments stem from observations during that period. More recently, I used kava almost daily for about a month. I usually consume kava alone in the evenings.
I find that cannabis is relaxing and hypnotic, with strong perceptive effects, especially in modifying the experience of sound. Cannabis tends to adversely affect my ability to think clearly about abstract things. There is a slight effect the next day, including what I think is a degredation in memory. I've never noticed lingering physical effects. My ability for hand-eye coordination and speed of movement also decrease significantly for several hours after smoking. In combination with alcohol, I often experience dizziness (with levels of cannabis and alcohol that would have comparatively minor effects individually). My pupils are also dilated, and my eyes sometimes feel dry.
Kava, on the other hand, has much more direct effects on my mood and my muscles, with comparatively little effect on the clarity of my thoughts. Kava's effect on mood is almost euphoric, I would say, deserving of comparison to opiates (perhaps 800ml kava = 100 mg codeine or 30mg oxycodone?). It relaxes the muscles and relieves pain. I also notice that I can tell for some time after ingestion that I am under the influence of kava because I can taste and smell the kava in my mouth and throat. This is not residual from the actual ingestion of the beverage, but a lingering effect I would compare to the presence of alcohol on one's breath after a night of drinking. Kava also affects my vision in subtle ways, increasing the intensity and 'halo' effect of bright light sources. I would compare this to the effects observed with larger doses of opiates, or more precisely, to a small (sub-hallucinogenic) dose of salvia divinorum. I also concur with the characterization of kava as an ANaphrodisiac. Strangely, some less reputable (and heavily commercial) web sites promoting the use of (expensive, ineffective) kava products claim the opposite.
Comparing these two substances, I would say that kava is more attractive for regular use. It produces more positive changes in mood without unpleasant side effects. Cannabis leaves one feeling 'burned out' after even one or two experiences. Kava dries out the skin, and has apparently significant liver effects over a longer period of time, but will probably cause no ill effects if used a few times a week for even a substantial period.
Though I have tried it once or twice, I don't recommend the combination of kava and cannabis. I find that each substance seems to take away the best effects of the other. I realize this is in sharp contrast to other experience reports on erowid, so I encourage others to experiment and determine for themselves.
Finally, a note about legality and common sense. If the consumption of kava were as easy as cannabis (no awful taste, and a smaller volume of liquid required for effects), it would make no sense at all for one to be illegal and not the other. As it stands, I can see that kava has barriers that make it unattractive to recreational users that would otherwise be interested in its effects, so it does not really compete with cannabis. But, in my opinion, its effects are superior.
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