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Herb Reference Guide

Kava Kava

History

Kava is said to have orgininated on the archipelago of Vanuatu, whose name means “The Land Eternal”. It has been domesticated throughout Oceania (Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia). It comes from places referred to by many of us as “ Paradise,” including Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga and Hawaii where it is called Awa. This member of the Pepper family (Piperacea) has been used for centuries in different ceremonies promoting social, cultural and religious enhancement. The Natives revere this plant and its importance to them is much deeper than a mere medicinal effect for relaxation. Kava was used by eclectic physicians and physiomedical doctors practicing in the middle of the 19th century in North America as a genitourinary sedative and for pain associated with gonorrhea and other STDs. Kava was also used to treat a decreased flow in the glomeruli and for nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting). The native people of Oceania shared these uses as well as its use as a topical antiseptic and oral anesthetic, and to relieve the muscular pain from asthma and T.B. as well as whooping cough, headaches, stomach ache, and tooth pain.

Function

The exact mechanism of action on the nervous system is unknown however it is likely that many phytochemicals in Kava, including kavalactones, contribute to the full effects of this herbal medicine. Clinical studies show great promise for Kava to support healthy lung tissue and as a supportive aid for the nervous system. Kava has a calming and relaxing effect on the body and is supportive during periods of occasional stress.

Uses of Kava Kava

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Kavalactones, kawain, dihydrokawain, methysticin, dihydromethysticin, yangonin, and others.

Parts Used

  • Root

Important precautions

US FDA advises that a potential risk of rare, but severe, liver injury may be associated with kava-containing dietary supplements. Ask a healthcare professional before use if you have or have had liver problems, frequently use alcoholic beverages, or are taking any medication. Stop use and see a doctor if you develop symptoms that may signal liver problems, including jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes) and brown urine. Other nonspecific symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, light-colored stools, unexplained tiredness, weakness, stomach or abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. Not for use by persons under 18 years of age, or by pregnant or breast feeding women. Not for use with alcoholic beverages. Excessive use, or use with products that cause drowsiness, may impair your ability to operate a vehicle or heavy equipment. Use only as directed on label.

Additional Resources

Piscopo G. Kava Kava. Gift of the Islands. Alt. Med. Rev. 1997; 2(5):355-64.

Voltz HP. Kieser M. Kava Kava Extract WS1490 V. Placebo in anxiety disorders- a randomized placebo- controlled 25 patient outpatient trial. PHAM-Acopsychiat. 1997; 30-25.

Blumenthal, M. et al. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin. American Botanical Council; 1998: 156-7.