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Herbs > Kava (piper methysticum)

Commonly known as ’awa (in Hawai’i), 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.

Healing uses:
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.

Cautions:
Driving or operating heavy machinery after consuming kava is not recommended.
Kava should not be taken in association with alcohol.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease will be aggravated by the consumption of kava.
Pregnant women should avoid using kava.

Growing 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 3-5 years.




Index
Quick Reference
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All Information is provided for educational purposes only and not intended
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