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 islands of the South Pacific. It is a member of the
pepper family. It’s a tall, upright bush with large leaves. The rhizome in the underground
root and stem is the part of the plant that has the active ingredient.
Kava contains 6 major kava lactones. These act on the nervous system to make you drowsy.
They have a mild anti-anxiety effect. Kava is used most often as a sedative and a
muscle relaxant. It’s used to ease stress and anxiety.
Medically valid uses
Some studies say that kava is a mild sedative. It helps to treat stress and anxiety.
The active ingredients may work as muscle relaxers. But there is conflicting evidence
when it comes to its effect on anxiety.
Animal studies suggest that kava may act as a mild anticonvulsant and antispasmodic.
The FDA has issued a warning about kava. In rare cases, the supplements have been
linked to possible severe liver damage. As a result, the National Center for Complementary
and Integrative Health has stopped further testing of kava kava. Given the possible
risk of liver damage from kava kava, this supplement should only be taken under a
healthcare provider's advice.
There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.
Kava may relieve the pain from gonorrhea and other urinary tract issues. These include
cystitis and urethritis. Kava is used as a diuretic. It’s used as a topical rubefacient
Kava is 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 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. Talk to your healthcare
provider if you take other medicines that affect the liver.
People who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t use kava. People with depression
or bipolar disorder shouldn’t use kava. It may make your depression worse.
If you use machinery or do other activities that need you to be alert, don’t use kava.
It may make you drowsy. It may 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.