Traditionally consumed as a herbal remedy to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders, Kava is a type of pepper plant (Piper Methysticum) native to the Pacific Islands including Tonga, Fiji and Polynesia.
Kava has been used for hundreds of years in social, cultural and religious life in the South Pacific because of it’s soothing, anti-anxiety and relaxing properties. Kava became popular in the West in the 1990’s.
Kava can be consumed as a herbal tea or as supplements. To make a Kava beverage, the root is ground to a fine brown powder, which is normally mixed to plain water and drank immediately to prevent it from fermenting. Though it has a mild narcotic effect, it is not addictive.
Where to buy kava
Kava can also be taken as a supplement in the form of capsules. Because it’s a traditional medicine, it is often known by different names. Here’s a list of some of the names you might come across for Kava. (Courtesy of FDA.gov)
Piper methysticum Forst.f.
Piper methysticum G. Forst.
The main and active ingredients in Kava root are unique plant chemicals known as ‘kavalactones’ , which interfere with the level and function of certain neurotransmitters in the bloodstream. Among those affected are dopamine, GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), and norepinepherine. These chemicals are known to help induce relaxation and sleep.
Is kava safe?
Kava has had a checkered history as a natural sleep remedy in the West. Several cases of liver damage and even failure have been reported by Kava users in Europe , the US and Canada. Concerned about public safety, in 2002 the FDA advised anyone with liver problems to avoid using Kava.
Several countries have banned it’s use completely. However, despite a comprehensive review of more that 85 studies on the plant by Danish and American researchers, scientists still have no clear idea about why it causes these effects.