Latin: Piper methysticum
Parts Used: Roots
Taste/Energetics: Bitter, numbing, cooling
Properties: Antispasmodic, sedative, analgesic, euphoric, anxiolytic
Actions: Aaah kava. This amazing root has been used by Polynesians for hundreds of years in celebrations, ceremony, ritual and for everyday pleasure and relaxation. Kava has found its way into the western herbalist’s pharmacopeia in the last few decades and is a common plant to give to people to help calm, reduce anxiety, help with sleeplessness, for muscle relaxation and pain relief. In high doses it can have a euphoric effect. It has become so popular that numerous “kava bars” have popped up in major cities to offer this beverage. Kava has a strong numbing and bitter flavor that is not generally enjoyable unless one is accustomed to it. The effect is quick and generally enjoyable.
Kava is really something that should be taken infrequently for when the desire for anxiety relief or for an enjoyable sensation of pleasant euphoric relaxation is desired.
There are a variety of types of kava and it is key to buy from a reputable vendor. Some varietals and groups of kava strains (Tudei in particular) are controversial due to their prolonged, excessively potent and perhaps hepatotoxic effects in the body. “Noble” varietals are generally the main safe ones that are exported but one can find these “non-Noble” varietals online.
Dosage: There is quite an art to the process of making kava as a beverage. Traditionally it has been made with cold milk as the active constituents (kavalactones) are fat soluble and can be extracted more easily this way. Other fatty beverages such as goat’s milk or coconut milk also work. Kava is also generally made with lukewarm water as hot liquid is reported to destroy these active alkaloids. However, further research and personal experimentation shows that kava can indeed be effective even if made with hot water, though perhaps not as potent.
So the dosage is really dependent upon the needs of the consumer but a good starting point would be about 1-3 teaspoons (2-6 grams) infused in milk. Please see recipe here.
It can also be taken in capsules 1-2 grams, or as a tincture 1-2 ML to 2 x day.
Contraindications: There has been some controversy around it being toxic in the liver and in some parts of the world it has been made illegal due to that fear. Beyond the silliness of making plants illegal, kava has a long history of being used in very high doses on Polynesian islands without severe hepatotoxicity being noticed. There is some evidence that the research pointing to toxicity was done very poorly . At the same time, it is likely smart to avoid strong use of this plant if there are signs of liver damage. Avoid with other sedative and opiate drugs. Avoid in pregnancy.
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Kava monograph by Jim McDonald
Kava monograph by Mel Kasting
Kava kava doesn’t seem to be liver toxic at all. by Guido Mase