Kava Kava (Piper methysticum)
Family - Piperaceae or Pepper Family
Table of Contents
Kava is a widely cultivated member of the pepper family. Grown in tropical Polynesia and the Pacific Islands Kava is a very interesting plant.
First, Kava kava is a sterile plant, depending entirely upon humans to for its ability to propagate. No one knows why, but the plant has never been able to produce viable seeds. Luckily, it is easy to grow by taking cuttings.
Next, no one knows where kava originated. They (the experts) think it may have started in New Guinea or Vanuatu because they have the largest number of cultivars. But the truth is they just don’t know.
Finally, the Kava plant is said to be a gift from the gods, opening us to VU; the all-encompassing love of the God or Goddess. Drinking Kava is believed to enhance our connection to the creative force of the universe. Then once connected, we begin to understand the connections between all things.
Kava Kava thrives in a tropical climates, growing best with plenty of shade, moisture and fertile soil.
Fresh or dried root, usually shredded or powdered root.
kavalactones, sometimes called kava-pyrones, are the most important alkaloids in kava root extracts. High-quality kava rhizome contains 5.5–8.3% kavalactones.
Medicinal Uses of Kava Kava
Historically Kava was used as a social lubricant. In Kava’s originating culture when a visitor came, they were required to bring Kava with them. It is often served during dispute resolution because it opens participants to their higher connection and makes it easier to find common answers to difficulties.
Recreationally, Kava’s mild hypnotic and euphoric effects, calm the body and nervous system yet keeps the mind alert, making its use popular as an alternative to alcohol and social drug use.
Muscular Skeletal Pain
Kava is a powerful herbal antispasmodic and analgesic and is useful when working with muscular tension and spasms. Especially when stress, anxiety and/or trauma are also present. Kava relaxes both striped skeletal and smooth muscle tissue, relaxing without inhibiting central nervous system function or dulling the mind. This makes Kava helpful for a wide range of complaints including such conditions as fibromyalgia, urinary pain, back and muscular pain, cramps etc. Kava helps muscles relax without inhibiting CNS function. Small dosages are most beneficial and are often added to potentize formulas.
Kava Kava works more as an anti-anxiety agent than as an anti-depressant. The constituents work mainly on the brain stem causing nervous system sedation. The many Kava ketones work on the limbic system, enhancing GABA receptors responsible for emotional and mood regulation. Thus, Kava helps to improve our mood, and lighten or stabilize emotions. Kava is reported to quickly dissipate many effects of fears and apprehensions, calming and sedating the system, making it especially useful for Anxiety, Panic, PTSD, and more.
Sleep and Relaxation
The same constituents that help with anxiety (affecting the brain stem and GABA receptors) make Kava useful for promoting healthy, peaceful sleep. It helps to relax the mind-body without heavy sedation.
In many parts of the world Kava is the “go to” treatment of bladder spasms, UTI and interstitial cystitis. It’s an effective diuretic with potent anti-spasmodic and anti-pathogenic properties make it useful for a variety of urinary and reproductive dysfunctions ranging from cystitis, prostatitis, vaginal leucorrhea (including yeast infections), nocturnal urination, elderly atonic bladder and general fluid retention. It has a numbing action on the tongue, the ureters and bladder. This coupled with its relaxing effect on both smooth and skeletal muscle and its anti-microbial effects make it useful working with renal colic (passing stones), pelvic-pain syndrome, PMS and cramps, and testicular pain.
Appetite and Digestion
Kava is a carminative that improves appetite and digestion. The combination of these properties makes Kava useful for the treatment of arthritic and rheumatic conditions, which is one of its traditional medicinal uses among South Sea Islanders. Topically, Kava can be applied as a fomentation or ointment for mild general anesthesia for the local relief of sore muscles. It can also be chewed and kept in the mouth for the temporary relief of toothaches.
Kava Kava Preparations and Dosage
Kava tea is traditionally a cold infusion of the root in a high fat solution like milk or coconut milk. Because Kava ketones are not easily soluble in water. See instructions below.
Kava Tinctures are best made by double infusion in 50 to 60% alcohol. That means, make your first infusion with a normal maceration of 4 parts alcohol with 1 part ground kava root. Shake every day for 2 weeks and strain. Using the same alcohol, add 1 part new kava root to 4 parts of the first infusion. Again, wait 2 weeks and strain. Walla!
Infused oils and salves – Dried Kava root makes a nice addition to salve or infused oil. Especially useful in pain formulas or to help numb or desensitize soft tissue.
Suggested Dosage for Kava Kava Preperations
Small doses are most useful and may be taken up to 4 times per day.
- Tea – ¼ cup tea made by cold infusion (see below for details).
- Tincture – use 30 – 90 drops dropped in a little water. Watch it begin to milk, then drink.
Kava kava Recipes
You will need a strainer such as a nylon stocking, cheesecloth, or muslin bags. Use 1 ounce of powder per person (2 tablespoons). Place kava powder into the strainer bag, sealing, holding or knotting the top so that none of the powder escapes. Then, immerse the bag into a bowl of cool water and or coconut milk. I like to use about 1/2 water and 1/2 coconut milk. The amount of water (or combination) will vary according to taste, but a good rule of thumb is 1 ounce of powder to a pint of water. Use your hand to knead the kava under the water or bring the strainer out and squeeze then immerse it again in the water. The kneading is the most critical step in the entire process.
The kava should feel oily at first, which is due to kavalactone levels. Keep repeating this process until the kava in your strainer no longer feels oily. The water should take on the appearance of mud; the color of your kava brew may range from tan to dark brown depending on the varietal of kava used. If you wish, you can also add soy lethicin to your kava drink as an emulsifier to increase the extraction of kavalactones into your drink. That’s it; you are finished!
Kneading can be replaced by the electric blender. Approximately 2 tablespoons of kava and 8 oz. (1 cup) water make for 1 serving of a drink. Simply add the kava and water in a blender for about 4 minutes. Pour mixture into a nylon sieve or cheese cloth, squeeze excess liquid into a bowl. Discard pulp and enjoy.
- Do not take when pregnant as kava may relax the uterus. Not for use in breastfeeding as its strong relaxing effects may transfer through the mother’s milk.
- Kava should not be taken when benxodiazapine class drugs are used as it may magnify the effects of such drugs.
- Kava kava has been linked to liver injury that is sometimes serious or even fatal. The exact cause and frequency of the liver damage are unclear. However alcohol seems to worsen this reaction. Heavy alcohol users or using alcohol together with kava seems to make the liver more susceptible to damage.
- Kava can cause digestive upset, headache, dizziness, and other side effects.
- The use of kava may affect the ability to drive or operate machinery.
- Long-term use of high doses of kava may cause kava dermopathy, a condition that involves dry, scaly, flaky skin with a yellow discoloration.
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Winston, David RH (AGH), Analgesia; The search for effect pain relief, botanical and nutritional protocols, Lecture from the Southwest Botanical Conference 2015
Stansbury, Jill E. Stansbury ND, lecture; Botanical and Nutritional Therapies for interstitial Cystitis 2016
Quade Crawford, Amanda, MD The Latest Research on alternative therapies for Mental Illness. Southwest Conference for Botanical Medicine conference notes 2015
Proefrock, Kenneth ND, Naturopathic treatment for fibromyalgic conditions; Southwest conference on botanical medicine conference notes, 2009
Stansbury, Jill E, ND Urinary Botanicals; Specific indications; Medicine from the Earth Conference Notes 2009
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