Herbs > Kava (piper methysticum)
Commonly known as awa (in Hawaii), yaqona (in
Fiji), kavakava, intoxicating pepper, ava and gea, Kava may have originated in
Indonesia, but was distributed throughout the Pacific
in pre-European times, where it is still commonly
used. It is the national drink of Fiji, where it is
drunk it a similar manner to alcohol for its
tranquilizing effects. However, in Samoa it is still
considered sacred, and its consumption is restricted
to chiefs and important dignitaries. Traditionally,
the root was prepared by virgins who would chew it
until the fibres were broken down. They would then
spit the mass into a tanoa (a traditional kava bowl),
and it would be mixed with water to obtain the
desired strength. Today, kava is prepared much more
hygienically. This is described below.
Kava is most effective served in its traditional
form, which is a sort of cold tea. The roots of the
plant are dried and ground, and then placed into a
mesh bag. This bag is immersed in cold water for
about 4 minutes. The process produces an opaque,
murky brown liquid which will numb the mouth when
drunk. The immediate effects of consuming the liquid
are a deep sense of peace and well-being. Individuals
become very quiet and introspective. The raw
ingredients for this method of preparation are more
difficult to obtain than the much more common
capsules of kava, which can be found in health shops
and pharmacies. Kava tea bags, which are much milder
than the traditional drink, are also widely
available. In the form of capsules or tea bags, the
overwhelming sensations of tranquillity and peace are
not so pronounced.
The numbing effect of kava is
not confined to the mouth. As it passes through the
system, it also numbs the stomach and the bladder. It
can therefore be useful for conditions, such as
bladder infections and stomach ulcers, which cause
pain in these areas. The capsules are effective, even
though they do not numb the mouth, because once it
reaches the stomach the kava is released.
Kava is known as one of the
most calming herbs available. As such, it can be very
helpful to those suffering from insomnia. For ongoing
insomnia, a dosage of two 250mg capsules of kava
taken an hour before going to bed will be beneficial.
For an occasional stress-related sleepless night, or
more serious insomnia, taking two cup of kava tea, or
1/4 cup of the traditional drink will produce a
ber, more immediate result.
Women suffering from either
painful periods or symptoms associated with menopause
will find kava beneficial. Kava relaxes the cramped
uterine muscles which cause painful periods. In
addition, the calming effects of the herb will help
soothe irritability and depression often associated
with menstruation. At the first sign of cramping,
drink 1-2 cups of kava tea, or for ber, ongoing
relief take one 250mg capsule three times a day. Kava
can be beneficial to menopausal women, regardless of
whether hormone replacement therapy is undertaken.
The herb will alleviate irritability, nervousness and
depression brought on by menopause. Because it is a
mild diuretic, it will also eliminate retained water
from the body, relieving puffiness and swelling.
Regularly drinking kava tea during menopause is
recommended, particularly when symptoms strike. For
either menopausal or menstrual symptoms, a kava bath
can be soothing. Add 1/4 cup of dried and ground kava
root to bath water and enjoy.
Symptoms of minor mental health
conditions can be alleviated with kava. Sufferers of
mild depression, anxiety disorder, adjustment
disorder and ongoing stress will find kava helpful.
1-2 250mg capsules will be effective for each of
these. Alternatively, when symptoms exhibit, drink
1-2 cups of kava tea to provide immediate relief.
Kava relaxes muscles as well as
the mind. It is therefore useful for many forms of
muscular pain, such as sports related injuries and
lower back pain. These can be alleviated by taking
kava internally in capsule or tea form, or
alternatively a kava poultice can be applied directly
to the area. Boil finely chopped fresh or dried kava
root in a little water. After 5 minutes, remove from
the heat and squeeze excess water from the herb.
Place the kava directly onto the area and cover with
a warm towel. Leave for up to 30 minutes.
Driving or operating heavy machinery after
consuming kava is not recommended.
Kava should not be taken in
association with alcohol.
Symptoms of Parkinsons
Disease will be aggravated by the consumption of
Pregnant women should avoid using kava.
As the flowers of the kava plant are sterile, it
may only be propagated through root division or
planting a section of stalk. The stalks will sprout
only under very wet conditions and are generally
placed in mud until this happens. Once they have
sprouted, they are transferred to soil. Kava grows
best in very warm, moist conditions, where it will
form dense thickets and grow to heights of up to 15
feet in ideal conditions. The root, which is the
active component of the plant, can be harvested in
Horny Goat Weed
St Johns Wort
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