Piper methysticum, Piperis methystici rhizoma. Family: Piperaceae
ava, awa, gea gi, kava, kava-kava, kawa kawa, methysticum, yaqona
The kava plant is native to the South Pacific. It’s still used there. It’s a tall,
upright bush with large leaves. The rhizome is the part of the plant that has the
active ingredient. Some European manufacturers use top cuttings from the kava plant.
But this part has little psychoactive property.
Kava contains six major kava lactones. These act on the nervous system to make you
drowsy. They also have a mild anti-anxiety effect. Kava is used most often as a sedative
and a muscle relaxant. It’s also used to ease stress and anxiety.
Medically valid uses
Some studies say that kava is a mild sedative. It also helps to treat stress and anxiety.
The active ingredients may also work as muscle relaxers. But there is contradictory
evidence when it comes to its effect on anxiety. It doesn’t seem to treat anxiety
much more than a placebo.
Animal studies suggest that kava may also act as a mild anticonvulsant and anti-spasmodic.
Know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about kava.
The supplements have been linked to severe liver damage. As a result, the National
Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has suspended further testing of kava
Please note that this section reports on claims that have not yet been substantiated
Kava is said to relieve the pain from gonorrhea and other urinary tract issues. These
include cystitis and urethritis. Kava is used as a diuretic. It’s also used as a topical
rubefacient and antimicrobial.
Kava is also used in sacred, formal ceremonies. It’s used to welcome visitors, resolve
disputes, and reinforce the social norms. In informal ceremonies, it’s used to develop
and reinforce social ties among peers. Kava is also used to access the spiritual and
higher self, including lucid dreaming.
Kava comes as tinctures, extracts, tablets, and capsules.
Side effects, toxicity, and interactions
In August 2002, Canada banned the sale of kava products. This is due to its risk of
liver problems. The FDA says that people who have liver disease or liver problems
should talk to their healthcare providers before taking kava supplements. You should
also talk to your healthcare provider if you take other medicines that affect the
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t use kava. People with depression
or bipolar disorder also shouldn’t use kava. It may make your depression worse.
If you use machinery or do other activities that require alertness, don’t use kava.
It may make you drowsy. It may also keep you from being able to drive a car safely.
Kava may increase the effects of central nervous system medicines. These include depressants
such as alcohol, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines.
Taking alprazolam and kava together has caused comas.