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Kava kava information

Introduction to Kava Kava (Piper methysticum)

Kava Kava is also known as "Awa" in Hawaii and "Yaqona" in Fiji. It is a legal herb with medicinal and mild narcotic properties. After his voyage to the South Seas in 1768, British explorer Captain James Cook first described for the Western world the ritual use of the intoxicating drink prepared from the Kava plant. The plant was named "Piper methysticum", or intoxicating pepper. Pacific islanders have used Kava for thousands of years. Although Kava was important for ceremonial occasions, the history of the South Pacific islands shows that the use of Kava was not limited to such gatherings. Kava was also taken before an ocean voyage and for ratification of agreements, and celebrations of marriages and births as well as deaths. It was considered a drink of the gods and was believed to cure illnesses and remove curses. In the 18th century Kava was used in almost all facets of life on the islands. Sharing a bowl of Kava fostered fellowship and socializing; it was unthinkable that Kava would not be a part of any significant event.

Research shows that the main active constituents in the root and rhizome (rootstock) are a group of resinous compounds called kava lactones. In the South Pacific today, Kava is served as a beverage, usually consumed at dusk before the evening meal because islanders feel a full stomach can inhibit its effects. After drinking, people typically eat smaller amounts of food because Kava tends to decrease the appetite. And while some islanders have described the taste of Kava as cool and refreshing, most who taste it find it has a bitter flavor with a temporary numbing effect on the tongue and inside of the mouth.

A few cupfuls of Kava will give an euphoric state of short duration characterized by tranquility and friendliness. This unique herb is used:

  • as a muscle relaxant and as a diuretic

  • to provide relief for all kinds of pain, including headaches and migraines

  • to relieving some of the discomfort of menopausal women, including hot flashes, insomnia and general nervousness.

  • for the treatment of arthritic and rheumatic conditions, which is one of its traditional medicinal uses among South Sea Islanders.

  • to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, and asthma

  • to relieve fatigue and to increase energy

  • as part of a treatment for tobacco, alcohol and drug withdrawal.

Kava wakes you up, and, at the same time, it calms you down, allowing you to increase productivity while reducing stress. It causes a deep sleep with no hangover, and it leaves the mind clear. It can also be chewed and kept in the mouth for the temporary relief of toothaches. It is legal, safe, and truly a remedy for the stress filled world of today. Kava is available as a whole root and powder. Kava lactones are insoluble in water and are destroyed by heat. Ideally the herb should be first powdered and then mixed into COLD water for a few minutes. It must then be carefully squeezed through a cloth (cheesecloth works well) to release the active ingredients from the root stock fiber.

When using Kava for the first time, a teaspoon or two is used, mixed with a glass of your favorite juice or fruit smoothie (or prepare in the traditional method, stated above). It can be increased to up to one to two tablespoons, according to preference. Kava is a pure, natural root product, and its effect on you can depend on many things: your size, metabolism rate, and even your mood at the time. To promote a deep restful sleep one could take a small amount approximately 20 or 30 minutes before retiring.

Always check with your physician or pharmacist before combining with any prescription or over-the-counter drugs or medicines. It is not recommended to consume Kava if you are pregnant or nursing, or in combination with alcohol. Since it is a relaxant, do not use it while operating heavy machinery or driving a vehicle. Moderate use as described has not shown any harmful reactions. The only shown side effect is that a dry, scaliness of the skin may occur with overuse, over a long period of time (for instance, when the islanders drink several bowls of Kava a day, for years and years). And this condition disappears as soon as they stop drinking their Kava. It is also clear that when Fijians overdo their nightly Kava ritual, they can tend to be a bit sluggish in the morning. Recently there have been reports from Europe of possible liver complications when using Kava. These reports have not been substantiated, but for this reason we recommend that people with liver problems do not use Kava Kava.


Mazatec Garden describes the common uses of many herbs. This is for informational purposes only, as we are not advising or prescribing herbs for any specific medical condition or for any specific use. Distribute this information freely.

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