Piper methysticum also known as Kava, or "Kava Kava", is a root plant that is native to the Western Pacific islands. In Hawaii and the South Pacific, Kava is a popular social drink, used similarly to alcohol in Western societies.
The name "kava" comes from the Polynesian word "awa", which means "bitter". As it belongs to the genus Piper, it is genetically related to black and white pepper.
The leaves of a kava plant, this is not the part that is consumed.
The roots of the kava plant, this is the part of the plant referred to as "waka", and is ground into a powder before being brewed into tea for consumption. The stump is also used for brewing tea and is referred to as "lawena".
Traditional Uses of Kava
The traditional use of Kava in the pacific islands dates back almost 3000 years. The roots of the plant are cut into small pieces and chewed up before being mixed into coconut milk to create a Kava tea. The most traditional brewing method combines the saliva enzymes, coconut milk, and the kava root's active ingredients to create a tastier, more effective brew. Kava is traditionally consumed as a beverage in religious ceremonies or social gatherings to achieve a "higher level on consciousness".
Potential Benefits of Kava Use
The kava root (waka) and stump (lawena) contain compounds that are called kavalactones or kavapyrones, which are responsible for its cerebral effects. They interact with your brain in a very similar way to alcohol, making you feel calm and relaxed, and oftentimes very social.
Kava also has many therapeutic uses:
- Stress relief
- Physical and emotional stress related to PMS (Premenstrual syndrome)
Is Kava Safe?
Doctors aren’t sure how much Kava you can take safely. We recommend speaking to your physician prior to using Kava, and if your doctor gives you the okay, use the smallest possible dose for effect. Don't take it for longer than 3 months concurrently, and avoid drinking alcohol while you’re using it.