An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.


Kava Kava - Piper methysticum - family: Piperaceae (Pepper Family).

This tropical evergreen shrub may grow to about twenty feet high. It has large oval-to-heart-shaped leaves and produces cylindrical spikes of small flowers. The flowers are followed by single-seeded fruits. It is the basis of the Polynesian beverage, Kava Kava, made from its roots and rhizomes. The rhizomes and roots are quite large and may weigh up to fifteen pounds. Traditional European folk remedy for urinary tract problems. Used by Europeans as modern folk remedy for anxiety and stress. Modern American folk of roots as a remedy for depression, headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, jet lag and migraines. It may be of use as a pain remedy for arthritis and also to help end caffeine addiction and nicotine addiction. Thought to be of possible value to those suffering from epilepsy by lowering stress levels. Approved by the German Commission E as a remedy for anxiety, insomnia and nervousness. May be of possible use to those trying to wean themselves from dependence on alcohol. Some folk use as an aphrodisiac, due to a state of euphoria created by the consumption of large quantities of the drink. Note: do not use during pregnancy or while nursing. Note: do not use if suffering from Parkinson's disease. Note: do not use with alcohol or barbiturates. Note: do not combine use with prescription sedative or tranquilizers. Note: may cause indigestion. Note: do not drive an automobile in California after drinking Kava:; you may be pulled over by the police and charged with "driving while under the influence of drugs." Note: in very large doses, it can produce a narcotic state, with paralysis of the lower limbs, a lowering the pulse rate, and induce a hypnotic state. Note: may cause temporary discoloration of hair or skin. Note: frequent use may lead to a chronic skin rash. Native to Polynesia. Now cultivated in Australia, Fiji, Hawai'i and New Guinea. Several cultivars exist.


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Web page last updated on 21 May 2003.