By Jonathan Hegler

Kava has been used for hundreds of years as a ceremonial drink mostly throughout different Southern Pacific countries (http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/kava-kava-000259.htm). Traditionally as well as currently today in the twenty-first century throughout different parts of Asia, individuals chew the roots of the kava plant or ground up the contents of the root and mix it with cold water. Today, kava is used for a variety of different reasons and is available in a liquid form or in the form of a small tablet. Current research by scientists goes back and forth as to whether kava is a reliable form of medicine. The Food and Drug Administration is even conducting its own private research and limiting the usage of kava throughout the United States.

  • Kava (Piper methysticum) is part of the Piperaceae family which is home to various different types of pepper plants (http://www.justpacifictrading.com/About-Kava.php).
  • The Kava plant is a relative of the black pepper plant (http://www.konakavafarm.com/kava-plant.html).
  • Kava has many similar characteristics with different types of pepper plants.
  • Distinguishing characteristics of this family include small trees and shrubs where kava is primarily found.
  • Active ingredients of Kava include kavalactone, kawain, methysticum, dihydrokawain, and dihydromethysticin (Wolsey, Chemical Constituents of Kava Kava, http://www.herballegacy.com/Wolsey_Chemical.html). In fact, the active compounds that are responsible for the relaxing effects associated with kava are called kavalactone.

Common Names for Kava:

Kava Kava , Ava Pepper, Ava Root , Intoxicating Pepper, Piper methysticum
The above picture is of kava roots

What is Kava used for and how is it used?

Side Effects and Long Term Effects of Kava:

  • Kava has been linked to liver damage in humans (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, http://nccam.nih.gov/news/alerts/kava).
  • Also, kava has been associated with abnormal muscle spasms throughout the entire body.
  • Heavy usage of kava over the course of one's life may lead to scaly yellowed skin (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, http://nccam.nih.gov/health/kava/#science).
  • Through years of research, The United States Food and Drug Administration claims that the usage of kava over the course of time may lead to liver damage and in some cases liver failure.(http://nccam.nih.gov/health/kava/#science)
  • Usage of kava may make depression worse because the strong chemical components of kava directly impact the central nervous system.
  • Avoid alcohol intake when using kava.


Is there any proof that Kava works?

  • There is much reliable scientific data out in the world that claim that kava has many beneficial outcomes.
  • Scientific proof tells us that kava can relieve different forms of pain and anxiety but can not heal all types of pain in the body.
  • Evidence shows that certain chemical components of kava especially kavalactones can lower anxiety and might work just as effectively different anti-anxiety medications. In fact, it may take up to 8 weeks of treatment to see some sort of improvement (http://nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/nautral/872.htm#Methodology).
  • However, there is much evidence with regards to kava and how it does not effectively work to relieve such conditions relating to depression and epilepsy (http://nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfro/natural/872.htm#Methodology).

Geographic Distribution of Kava:

  • Kava is native to different South Pacific countries (http://nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/872.htm#Methodology).
  • In fact, today throughout most of the South Pacific, Kava is used similar to how alcohol is used in western countries.
  • Kava is very important in rituals and ceremonies in South Pacific countries today.
  • Kava can be found in a variety of different forms throughout the world today. Examples: liquid form, capsules, tablets.Kava_4.gif

Basic Descriptions of Kava:

  1. Wolsey, Lindsay: Chemical Constituents of Kava Kava; http://www.herballegacy.com/Wolsey_Chemical.html. Web. January 10th, 2012.
  2. Herbs at a glance: Kava. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/kava/#science. Web. January 10th, 2012.
  3. Kava. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/872.html#Methodology. Web. January 10th, 2012.
  4. Quality Kava Sessions. http://www.justpacifictrading.com/About-Kava.php. Web. January 10th, 2012.
  5. Kava Plants. http://www.konakavafarm.com/kava-plants.html. Web. January 10th, 2012.
  6. Kava kava. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/kava-kava-000259.htm. Web. January 10th, 2012.