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Common Name: Kava | Scientific Name: Piper Methysticum

Family Name: Piperaceae


Kava kava is a member of the pepper family and like all members of the family stimulates all systems in the body, circulation digestion, and vitality in general. What makes this one interesting is that it relaxes the mind and the body and is used to ease social anxieties.


Fact Sheet 1
Fact Sheet 2
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

Fact Sheet 1

Part Used: Root (rhizome)

In a Word: Valium Plant


Native to the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia, Sandwich Islands, South Sea Islands and official in the Australian colonies this herb is now gaining popularity in Europe and the United States for use as an anxiety buster and mild sedative. A member of the Piperaceae family (pepper family) it was first discovered by the European explorers in the eighteenth century when they were exploring the south pacific. It was used by native people as a drink used in ceremonies and celebrations for its calming effect and ability to promote sociability. The drink, a fermented liquor, was known as Kava. It is still consumed by Pacific Islanders to create a sense of calm and peaceful happiness.

Several favourable recent studies in Europe have approved Kava Kava in the treatment of nervous anxiety, insomnia, restlessness and depression. In Austria, Germany, Switzerland and United Kingdom the approval rating is high for Kava Kava based on detailed pharmacological data and favourable clinical studies. Research has isolated the key group of compounds to be kavalactones (or kavapyrones). Rather than any one specific kavalactone being more effective than another, it has found that the whole complex and other compounds naturally found in Kava Kava produce greater pharmacological activity. Kava Kava compares favourably to drugs like diazepam (Valium) in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and restlessness without any of the major side effects of this type of drug that often include impaired mental acuity, addictiveness and dependence.

Kava Kava can be used long term without the side effects associated with chemical anti-anxiety drugs. If anxiety persists for more than two months however, then it is advisable to seek professional help to resolve the underlying cause. Although now widely available, standardised extracts of Kava Kava are very popular. These extracts are usually standardised to an equivalent dose of 45-70mg kavalactones. However it should be stressed that the traditional use by the Islanders of Oceania is in the form of a liquid extract which is easily prepared from the root.

A word of caution though, Kava Kava potentially reduces the levels of dopamine in the brain and therefore should be avoided in-patients with Parkinson’s disease. It should also be avoided if you are currently taking other medication for anxiety including any of the benzodiazepines like temazepam and diazepam and avoided with high alcohol consumption. Very high doses, 16 cups or more daily, may impair driving ability or operation of any heavy machinery.

Practitioners’ Advice
If a person is suffering from anxiety, the first thing they need to do is to address anything that underpins that anxiety. As an example, if you are having anxiety attacks, remove all caffeine from your diet. That means no coffee, tea, cola beverages, and indeed soft drinks that contain caffeine. Moreover, alcohol and other recreational drugs, produce feelings of anxiety when the high is wearing off. Abstain from such substances if you want to be rid of anxiety attacks.

Anxiety can be a major red flag. Sometimes it hints that one needs to look at ones life. There is something wrong that needs to be addressed and anxiety is your mind’s way of letting you know this. If you are having anxiety attacks it pays to do some introspection, either on your own or with a qualified counsellor.

However, for symptomatic relief from anxiety, kava-kava is fabulous. If you find yourself getting panicky before boarding a plane or before board meetings, kava-kava will take the edge off. If you are going through an anxious period and you find yourself too nervous to sleep, kava-kava will help. Kava-kava is an anxiolytic, that is it cuts anxiety. It works and it works really well.

History: Chewed in the Pacific Islands for relaxation
Science: Kavalactones act as powerful anxiety busters
Practitioners opinion: Excellent option for anxiety sufferers

Fact Sheet 2

Part Used:
root bark

Remember This: Bye-Bye Anxiety

Reasonable Uses:
anxiety, nervousness, palpitations of menopause, palpitations associated with nervousness, insomnia.

History and traditional uses:

Native to the Pacific Islands( Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, Sandwich Islands, etc.) kava has long been used to quiet the nerves and bring on a sense of calm. It was used by native people as a drink in ceremonies and celebrations for its calming effect and to promote social feeling. The explorers of the south pacific were treated to a fermented liquor known as Kava when they arrived on those sunny shores. A member of the black pepper family, it came to the attention of the European medical community when the colonials dragged it back to Europe.

Scientific Back Up
Several studies in Europe found Kava Kava effective in the treatment of nervous anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness. Research has isolated the active group of compounds to be kavalactones (or kavapyrones). Rather than any one specific kavalactone being most effective, research has revealed all of the compounds work together to cut anxiety. Research has shown that Kava Kava compares favourably to drugs like Valium without any of the side effects of this type of drug that(impaired mental function, addiction, dangerous withdrawal, etc.)

Herbalists Use It To …
Evaporate anxiety
Anxiety seems the great modern plague. Drug companies are issuing anti-anxiety drugs by the dozen to treat this tidal wave of anxiety. Herbalists suggest patients use a combination of self examination and kava kava to come to grips with their anxiety. Just medicating the problem is not good enough! Its roots must be examined and pulled out. Herbalists feel that while the pulling is underway, kava kava can be used to take the edge off.

Declaw terror
Sometimes we have to do things we fear. Sometimes we have to do the thing we fear. Getting on planes, dealing with a job interviews, visiting a doctor, are just a few examples of activities that will stop some people dead in their tracks. Practitioners find that with kava-kava people are better able to do what they need to do. Calm assurance in a capsule.

Abolish menopausal Mental Mayhem
When the menopause begins hormone levels rise and fall like a roller coaster. The nervous system can go haywire along with the hormone levels. Some women, previously the portrait of calm assurance, suddenly experience life shattering anxiety attacks. Palpitations come out of nowhere! Menopause passes, but, while waiting for that blessed day, kava can be used to take the attack out of the anxiety. Herbalists recommend women looking to avoid taking HRT(Hormone Replacement Therapy) use kava kava to counter some of the anxiousness of menopause.

Calm Fearful Insomniacs
Kava kava is an excellent sleep aid for a certain brand of insomniacs. Kava is especially good for those who get anxious or fearful when they should be settling down for a nights’ slumber. Night can be a scary time of the day for some and Kava-kava can be used to fill such folk with calm assurance. Herbalists say cut out the caffeine (no coffee, tea, sodas, etc.) and use kava-kava to make night time feel like a safe time.

Stamp out bed time stage fright
Some men become so nervous about having sex they are unable to perform! The problem is far more common than men would like to admit, and here too herbalists find kava-kava useful. It helps men relax to the point they can enjoy themselves and leave their performance anxiety outside the bedroom door.

Shopping Tips
Non-standardised extracts and standardised extracts work equally effectively as the standardised.

Make certain the products you purchase do not contain any other herbs

Kava Kava potentially reduces the levels of dopamine in the brain and therefore should be avoided by Parkinson’s disease patients. Avoid it if you are taking other medication for anxiety including any of the benzodiazepines like temazepam and diazepam. Do not take it with alcohol.

Valerian(Valeriana officinalis)

Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

Pain in stomach, anorexia, vertigo, despondency, sexual debility, retracted testicle, pain in head of penis, pain in loins and breast. Ten to thirty drops every four hours.

1898: Felter and Lloyd – PIPER METHYSTICUM – KAVA-KAVA
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage -The root of Piper methysticum has a pleasant, somewhat lilac odor, and slightly pungent, bitter and astringent taste, which augments the salivary discharge. It has marked general and local anaesthetic properties. It has beem employed as a pleasant remedy in bronchitis, rheumatism, gout, gonorrhoea, and gleet, and has also been recommended as a powerful sudorific. It appears to exert its influence more especially upon diseased mucous membranes, and may be found useful in chronic catarrhal affections of various organs, and in chronic inflammation of the neck of the bladder. The action of the root varies,
according to the amount taken; in small doses, it is tonic and stimulant; while in large doses it produces an intoxication, which, unlike that from alcohol, is of a reserved, drowsy character, and attended with confused dreams.

The natives who use its infusion as an intoxicating beverage for a considerable length of time, are said to become affected with a dry, scaly, cracked, and ulcerated skin, and vision becomes more or less obscured. According to Kesteven, leprous ulcerations may be produced by its habitual use. M. Dupouy, who has given considerable attention to the therapeutical virtues of this drug, arrives at the following conclusions: Given in drink, kava is a sialagogue, but is not sudorific. In medicinal doses, it acts upon the stomach, similar to the bitter stimulants, increasing the appetite, without occasioning diarrhoea or constipation, and may prevent catarrhal affections of this portion of the digestive tube. It exerts a special stimulation upon the central nervous system, differing essentially from ethylic intoxication; and, as its taste is agreeable, one soon becomes a proselyte to it. It has a very powerful action upon aqueous diuresis, and may be classed among the most efficient diuretics. It does not occasion priapism, but, on the contrary, antagonizes it. It is endowed with remarkable and prompt blennostatic properties, augmenting the discharge previous to effecting its cure. It is of undoubted efficiency in acute vaginitis or urethritis, allaying the inflammation, causing the pain during micturition to disappear, when dysuria is present, and suppressing the muco-purulent catarrh from the vesico-urethral mucous membrane. It has, over other blennostatic agents, the marked advantages of being pleasant to take, or augmenting the appetite, of occasioning neither diarrhoea nor constipation, of alleviating or entirely subduing pain during urination, of completely changing the character of the discharge, and of effecting the cure in a very short time – 10 or 12 days. He can not too highly recommend its employment, especially in the treatment of gonorrhoea. Ellingwood (Mat. Med., 1898) declares it of great value in subacute and slow forms of gonorrhoea, and especially in gleet. It is a remedy for nocturnal incontinence of urine in the young and old, when due most largely to muscular weakness.

The anticatarrhal action is probably due to the resin present, and the diuretic effects to the neutral crystallizable principle, methysticin or kavain. There may likewise be present some other active principle, not yet detected, to accunt for certain other influences following its employment. Piper methysticum has been successfully employed in atonic dyspepsia and in neuralgic or spasmodic dysmenorrhoea. Prof. Webster (Dynam. Therap.) regards it as our most reliable remedy for neuralgia, particularly of the parts supplied by the fifth cranial nerve, as in dental neuralgia (when not due to exposure of the dental pulp), neuralgic affections of the eyes, ears, etc., and in reflex neuralgias in other parts of the body, as gastric and intestinal neuralgia, abdominal neuroses, from prostatic, urethral, or testicular disorders, and pectoral pain due reflexly to nervous dyspepsia. He also suggests its employment in renal colic. Piper methysticum has proved useful in dropsy, intestinal catarrh, and in hemorrhoids. Sixty or 70 grains of the scraped root, macerated for about 5 minutes in a quart of water, may be taken in the course of 24 hours, repeating this quantity daily, as long as required. The dose of the fluid extract of the root is from 15 to 90 minims, in a glass of water, repeating the dose every 3 or 4 hours; specific piper nethysticum, 5 to 30 minims.

Specific Indications and Uses - Neuralgia, particularly of the trifacial nerve; toothache; earache; ocular pain; reflex neuralgia; anorexia; dizziness and despondency; gonorrhoea; chronic catarrhal inflammations; vesical irritation; painful nicturition; dysuria.

1901 : Harvey W Felter (Appendix) – PIPER METHYSTICUM – KAVA-KAVA
SYNONYMS – Ava, Intoxicating Long Pepper

BOTANICAL ORIGINS – The root of Piper methysticum , Forster. Nat. Ord., Piperaceae . A common wild and cultivated shrub of the South Sea Islands . A disgusting intoxicating drink is prepared from it, which enters largely into the social features and ceremonials of the islanders.

Piper methysticum has a sharp, bitter, astringent taste, and augments the flow of saliva. It also possesses general and local anesthetic properties. Small doses are stimulant and tonic; large doses induce a dreamy and confusing intoxication. It increases the appetite and augments the flow of urine. It restrains mucous profluvia, and is therefore a valuable drug in catarrhal disorders of the stomach and bowels. Kava-kava is an excellent agent for acute vaginitis and urethritis, allaying inflammation, pain, dysuria, and suppressing the muco-purulent discharge, In subacute and protracted forms of gonorrhoea, with tendency to gleet, it is one of the best remedies. In chronic inflammation of the neck of the bladder it is a positive remedy being indicated by painful micturition, dysuria, and catarrhal discharges.

Piper methiysticum is a remedy for pain, particularly that of a neuralgic type. Thus it proves serviceable in renal colic, neuralgic or spasmodic dysmenorrhea, neuralgic affections of the eyes and ears, and reflex neuralgic pains dependent upon derangements of other parts of the body. By some it is regarded as our best general remedy for neuralgia of the fifth nerve. It should not be forgotten in atonic and nervous dyspepsia, with pain in the pectoral regions due to gaseous distension of the stomach. The dose of specific piper methysticum is from5 to 30 drops every 3 or 4 hours; of the fluid extract , 15 to 90 drops.

1911: Fyfe
Irritation of the surfaces of the genito-urinary tract, chronic catarrhal afections of the various organs, chronic inflammatio o the neck of the bladder, acute vaginitiis and acute urethritis, pain during urination. In medicinal doses this agent acts upon the stomach similar to the bitter tonics, and markedly by increasing the appetite. Piper methysticum is tonic, stimulnt, sialagogue and diuretic. Large doses produce an intoxification of a reserved and drowsy.

Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.