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An Essential Guide to Kava: History, Benefits & Uses

In today’s world, it can feel like stress is unavoidable. Finding a moment of peace may be a tougher challenge these days, but luckily herbs, like Kava, can help us manage feelings of anxiousness so we are better able to handle stress.*

What Is Kava

Kava is a type of pepper and a member of the Piperaceae family of plants. This plant is native to the Pacific Islands. The name Kava actually comes from Tongan and Marquesan, and when translated means "bitter."

In appearance, it is a tropical evergreen shrub with heart-shaped leaves and woody stems. Kava plants thrive in loose, well-drained soils, where rainfall is plentiful, and there is high relative humidity.

The History of Kava

It’s believed that Kava originated on the archipelago of Vanuatu, whose name means “The Land Eternal.” Kava has been domesticated throughout the Oceanic region, which includes Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. It is found in places referred to by many as "paradise," including Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, and Hawaii, where it is called Awa.

Kava has a long history of use in alternative medicine and traditional ceremonies. It has been used as a ceremonial drink in the Pacific Islands for hundreds of years. The term “Kava” has historically been used to describe the traditional beverage, although now it is also commonly used to refer to the plant itself.

Benefits of Kava & Traditional Uses

Traditionally, the consumption of Kava beverage was used for important social events or to welcome honored guests. Traditional beverage preparation uses macerated fresh or dried Kava root mixed with water or coconut milk to form an emulsion. This emulsion is then strained through a cloth into a communal bowl resulting in a beverage that is grey in color with a slightly pungent flavor.

In addition to its use as a ceremonial beverage, Kava has also been traditionally used as a treatment for various health issues and is revered as a calming and relaxing herbal aid that can help people feel less stressed.*

Consuming Kava 

Although common in the South Pacific, consuming Kava has only recently begun to surge in popularity in the U.S. over the past few years.

Kava bars serving tea made from the root have started popping up across the country, especially as the sober curious movement has gained momentum, as it is a popular choice for people looking for non-alcoholic alternatives for relaxation and to help them wind down.*

How Gaia Herbs Ensures the Highest Quality Kava 

At Gaia Herbs, our Kava is wild cultivated on the Vanuatu Islands. The plants are propagated and managed in the dense forests of these remote tropical islands, simulating the environment in which it is naturally found. The plants are then shipped to our facility, where the Kava root is tested to make sure it meets our stringent standards for purity, potency, and integrity.

Our attention to quality begins with fingerprinting our Kava as Piper methysticum, rather than Piper wichmanii, or Tudei Kava. Due to a higher potential for negative effects with the more potent, wild variety mentioned above, we use only Piper methysticum in our products as we are committed to making the safest products possible.*

All of this and more can be seen firsthand by entering the unique ID number located on the back of our Kava products (and all Gaia Herbs products) at Meet Your Herbs®, the world’s first herb traceability platform. On this site, you can see complete transparency around all the herbs and ingredients including how the herbs were grown, harvested and extracted plus the tests the product underwent to assure its quality.

Our Favorite Products Containing Kava 

Kava plant in nature

Kava Root

Our single herb formula, Kava Root, is great for anyone dealing with ongoing stress as it helps to support a sense of calm and relaxation.* This is a great herbal product to use at home, in the office, or while traveling.*

Kava Root, Extra Strength

Similar to our single herb formula, Kava Root, Extra Strength has 50.0 mg of Kavalactones, versus 37.5 mg. Kavalactones are the active compounds found in the Kava Root.1 This formula is great for anyone dealing with higher levels of ongoing stress to restore equilibrium.*

Sound Sleep®

Made with Kava, Passionflower, and Gaia-grown™ American Skullcap and California Poppy, Sound Sleep® is ideal for those who find bedtime to be a challenge.* This product helps support relaxation and prepares the body for a restful night of sleep.*

Turmeric Supreme® Pain P.M.

We combined our best-selling herb, Turmeric, with Kava, Feverfew, and Ginger to create a formula to help you enjoy better sleep.* Turmeric Supreme Pain P.M. helps support nighttime comfort and relief from occasional pain due to normal daily wear and tear.*

Valerian Poppy Supreme

Valerian Poppy Supreme is a great choice to help you unwind at the end of a busy day.* With a blend of California Poppy, Valerian, Kava, and Mugwort, this formula also supports peaceful sleep.*

Take Time to Unwind

Woman practicing yoga to unwind

As life remains busy, remember to make time to slow down and unwind. Simply checking in with yourself throughout the day and taking three deep breaths can go a long way. And if you need a little extra assistance, Kava can support your overall well-being and help you find the peaceful, relaxed feeling that you deserve and that your mental and physical health need to thrive.*

REFERENCES:
1Neuroprotective properties of kavalactones. US National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4498339/