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What is Isa?

Discussion in 'In-Depth Kava Discussion' started by Harpo, Sep 22, 2017.

  1. Thank you for your fact filled post on ISA. I already saw the Cheech and Chon version about ISA and , though entertaining, it's nice to get the plain facts. I had no idea it was so far removed from Kava genetically. I know there are some on the outskirts of the kava community who are promoting ISA and I understand it is super easy to grow compared to noble kava. With all the fanfare involved in its promotion, I assumed it would be showing up at some Kava Bars soon so we'll wait and see. At least the consumers are forewarned about ISA being "never drunk". I hate to find out the hard way why it is "never drunk". :eek:
  2. nickbroken

    nickbroken Kava Enthusiast

    What are the effects of isa? I have no interest in taking and when it comes to tudei is the name that I see thrown around the most.
  3. I don't know about effects, but you read a lot about it because it is so easy to grow and there is a guy in Hawaii (not GHK) who grows it. Hey, if you ever have a Sunday or Saturday to kill, try it and report back to us. You know, take one for the team. :LOL:
  4. nickbroken

    nickbroken Kava Enthusiast

    Meh, dunno the you guys make that stuff I will drink it and turn into a degenerate leprechaun. Granted I highly doubt it could be any worse than a hangover from booze. Most likely doesn't come in micro and I only toss and wash so I shall pass.
    Mrbinx69 likes this.
  5. @nickbroken, you hit the nail on the head and I thank you. I take kava to avoid alcohol because I can't afford to have hangovers anymore. I'm not a partier anymore. I consider myself a self anointed mature adult. So if that is the case, why would I drink less than noble kava like Tudei or ISA? I think a lot of people here think the same way. Get rid of all our bad habits because we need every ounce of energy to tend to our careers and/or cater to our families. Dang, in the old days, the Van would be outside honking and it would be time to take kids to ball games, take wife shopping, BBQ for the team, etc. Life for those that are engaged is tough, why make it tougher?
    Myk, Mrbinx69 and nickbroken like this.
  6. Mrbinx69

    Mrbinx69 Kava Enthusiast

    @Deleted User
    @Gourmet Hawaiian Kava
    @Alia
    I still wonder what first stuck out to the islanders that made them keep cultivating wichmanni untill it was something that could be felt psychoactively.
    Or do you think it was a more medicinal natural selection ? Rather than the semi recreational effects we see in kava today
    kastom_lif and Kapmcrunk like this.
  7. Henry

    Henry . Moderator The Kava Society of New Zealand

    Lebot et al argue that northern vanuatu lacked any other medicinal plants and wichmanii was the only local plant that produced some kind of psychoactive and medicinal effect and hence all the local efforts concentrated on using and perfecting it.
    violet, Alia and kastom_lif like this.
  8. Dude, your an herbalist and interested in botany. If you were an islander, would you not be interested in cultivating and experimenting with these plants? I get the Lebot theory but there is a Botanist in every tribe and they are curious.
    Pounigirl likes this.
  9. Mrbinx69

    Mrbinx69 Kava Enthusiast

    Yeah, I was wondering more if there was any records of specifics I could speculate all day J man ;)


    But isolation makes sense and if it showed promise for non psycho uses then they may have initially done it accidently / intuitivley. No doubt the shamans or medicine men of the tribe helped
  10. kastom_lif

    kastom_lif Kava Enthusiast

    > Isa is not noble or tudei.

    "Kava the Pacific Elixir" considers both isa and palisi to be sterile p. methysticum.

    Genetically, they are both human-engineered kavas, although not ones that are nice to drink. Wichmanii is distinguished, among other things, by its ability to propagate sexually.

    Wichmanii ABSOLUTELY DOES grow natively in Vanuatu, however. Again, looking at "Kava the Pacific Elixir" the listed varieties of wichmanii, (AKA wael kava, not tudei) are as follows...

    Banks: vambu
    Maewo: buara, tabal, tangurlava
    Pentecost: bo
    Shepherds: kau

    Although isa may be a bastard genetically, its morphology and phytochemistry are similar other kavas. I think it's important to look at the phytochemistry and morphology, as well as the genetics.

    Compare sterile tudei palisi to wild tangurlava...

    Tangurlava: 526431, chemotype group E, zymotype group 9. Prostrate habit, dark green stem, mottled internode, pale green leaves with raised edges, pubescence present, long thick internodes.


    Palisi: 265431, chemotype group E, zymotype group 9. Medium height habit, pale green stem, mottled internodes, purple leaves with raised edges, no pubescence, long thin internodes.

    And since the data's in the book, here's isa and iwi:

    Isa: 254631, chemotype group F, zymotype group 8, tall habit, dark green stem, speckled internode, pale green leaves with raised edges, pubescence present, long thin internodes.

    Iwi: 256431, chemotype group F, zymotype group 8, identical morphology to isa.

    Sipaia from Morobe and Ayou from Karkar are two other PNG kavas. They also have the same chemotype, zymotype, and morphology as isa (from Usino) and iwi (from Madang). There's also another kava called ume from Fly River province that is similar but not identical zymotype and morphology.

    If iwi and isa (and sipaia and ayou) are so different in the new genetic survey, why are they so similar in terms of zymotype and morphology? Maybe convergent evolution? PNG has a lot more bugs and stuff that might increase selection pressure, which could be why isa is disease resistant.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017
  11. kastom_lif

    kastom_lif Kava Enthusiast

    The distinction between "never drunk" and "drunk" comes down to simply whether people drink it. While I would not choose to drink isa, I would REALLY not like to ever drink iwi... yet look at where iwi falls on the genetic tree.

    The traditional distinction between "wild" and "not wild" is whether the plant can reproduce sexually.

    The classic botanical distinction between p. wichmanii and p. methysticum also comes down to the ability to reproduce sexually.

    EDIT: I took a closer look at the paper Deleted User posted. "Specimens of var. wichmannii are found in cultivation and are seedless in Vanuatu, although it is known to produce seeds in PNG and the Solomon Islands." It seems that tudei/noble, wael/gudfala, and wichmanii/noble are all different distinctions. Some wichmanii is in fact sterile.

    But now we've got a very thorough genetic survey, too. Maybe it's time to reconsider what distinguishes wichmanii from methysticum.

    And since I'm on the subject of taxonomic classification, who's Cheech and who's Chong? Paging @Señor Chuggs... In science, the first to publish often claims the glory. Who's your favorite, man? :)
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017
  12. Mrbinx69

    Mrbinx69 Kava Enthusiast

    I'm still very curious as to the specific medicinal uses of p wichimanni
  13. kastom_lif

    kastom_lif Kava Enthusiast

    "Significantly, a survey of folk medicines in Papua New Guinea discovered no therapeutic uses of P. wichmannii in areas where it grows naturally today (Holdsworth 1977)."

    Meanwhile on Pentecost...

    9. Bo: This cultivar is rarely consumed except as an admixture with other cultivars. It is used to dilute quality kava (i.e., melmel and borogu) on feast days in order to increase quantities of the ritual beverage. Its leaves, however, are widely used in traditional medicine to treat boils and ulcers. Bo means “pig,” a reference to an unpleasant odor given off when the roots are infused. This cultivar also belongs to the P. wichmannii taxon.

    10. Malmalbo: Malmal means “rotten.” The taste and smell of this cultivar are reminiscent of rotten pig meat. It produces a highly potent beverage, and drinkers experience its effects over two or three days. The cultivar is fairly uncommon and is used mainly in traditional medicine to relieve rheumatic pains. Its stems are paler than those of borogu and its leaves smell like those of melmel or bukulit. The laminae are a darker green than those of borogu."

    It's interesting to note that on Pentecost, bo, a wichmanii, is mixed with noble to stretch kava on feast days. Malmalbo, a sterile tudei methysticum, is considered too nasty to use for stretching noble kava and is used exclusively as medicine.

    Remember that lif meresin often involves poultices. Medicinal kava isn't always drunk, and the parts used aren't always the roots.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017
    violet likes this.
  14. Alia

    Alia Kava Enthusiast

    You have put it all in good order and I appreciate you bringing out the fact that Isa is not truly a tudei.
    Thanks also for linking the Genome paper. It is good to provide for all the folks who read this forum.
  15. Alia

    Alia Kava Enthusiast

    My understanding is that once upon a time, a few millennium ago, someone in (what we now call) Melanesia chewed the root of a plant later to be classified- wichmannii.
    They noticed an effect --maybe numbing or sedative. But most important is they decided to propagate it vegetatively which can create somatic mutations. The rest is Pacific Islands selection history.
  16. kastom_lif

    kastom_lif Kava Enthusiast

    Does "never drunk" mean that it was never customarily drunk in Vanuatu? If so, that's certainly true. Isa was never present in Vanuatu until the 1980's.

    Isa is certainly drunk in PNG under special conditions, such as during funerals. Personally, I prefer funeral potatoes, not funeral kava (KavaFlow should get this joke ;) )

    I suspect the "never drunk" classification came from an exclusively ni-Vanuatu perspective.

    Is it worse to stretch noble kava with bo, palisi, or isa? Well, that's like asking if it's better to stretch gin with paint thinner or gasoline. Ideally noble kava should never be stretched with nasty kava.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017
    Mrbinx69 likes this.
  17. sɥɐʞɐs

    sɥɐʞɐs ‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾ Review Maestro

    Indeed we can't take the 'never drunk' moniker to be completely true or historically accurate, as Isa still is Piper Methysticum and not wild and therefor deliberately selected for and cultivated by humans, for human usage, long enough to still exist today. It is interesting that Isa apparently falls closer to Wichmannii, though that doesn't make it any more of a bastard than any other offshoot of wild kava. In fact, if the worry is FK-B levels, wild kava has less FK-B, on average, than Tudei-Piper Methysticum. So in that sense, it would be better to be more like wild kava than like a 'proper' tudei. If the worry is Pipermethystine, well that has been found to be more abundant in Isa plants, however, not in the roots. It's chemotype is 254xxx and sometimes 245xxx, which is closer to tudei/medicinal/noble chemotypes than most wild Wichmannii chemotypes. Other than the likelihood of nausea and long lasting sedation, we aren't told to worry about the 6 major kavalactones health-wise. So what's left, an unknown dangerous chemical hiding in Isa and tudei kava? Is there any evidence of that? Doesn't appear to be, so what we're left with, is that Isa is a kava that might have less FK-B than tudei kava but more FK-B than noble kava, it doesn't contain pipermethystine in the root powder and has a chemotype that isn't too dissimilar from certain noble varieties but is different enough to cause benign but excessive nausea and sedation at high doses, which likely wouldn't make for an enjoyable daily beverage. But then again, who ever said it was meant to be consumed daily, or excessively or even for enjoyment.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017
  18. kastom_lif

    kastom_lif Kava Enthusiast

    One might speculate that some human selection was based on "does it mess you up real good?" or "can you grind up the leaves and put them on your skin as medicine?"