Kava Kava root [image source]

Common Name: Kava Kava
Latin Name: piper methysticum
Origin: Pacific ocean islands [Polynesia, Melanesia and parts of Micronesia]
Part Used: root

“So nice they named it twice!” This is a popular anti-anxiety herb it is mildly sedative, a muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory. Often recommend for depression. From the Pacific Oceanic Islands, this root has been used for centuries in various tribal island ceremonies as well as casual nightly drinking gatherings. But there are very particular rules that must be followed depending on the event and where it is happening as to who may serve, and who must be served first, and so on. I wont go into that here. [Look up ‘Kava culture’ for more info on that]. The constituent, desmethoxyangonin is a reversible MAO-B inhibitor, which increases dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens; leading to the reasons it is suggested as an anti-depressant.
There are many people who drink Kava daily and find that it helps curb their cravings for an hour or two. This may be caused by the effect of the desmethoxyangonin on the dopamine levels. Often when we crave something, it is an emotional ‘fix’ we are looking to satisfy, which often produces increased dopamine. So taking Kava would have a similar effect, without all the calories, immune suppressing sugar, and preservatives often found in salty, sugary, junk food cravings.
Kava root does not lead to addiction or dependency. There are concerns of long-term, high doses, that can contribute to reduced protein levels and liver damage. It is not recommended for individuals with preexisting liver conditions, are taking prescription sedatives, or drink alcohol.

kava kava plant _piper_methysticum

Kava Kava plant, aerial [image source]

Constituents: kava lactones, alkaloid piper methstine, desmethoxyyangonin (a reversible MAO-B inhibitor which increases dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens), kavain (inhibits reuptake of noradrenalin out transporter, not serotonin. Elevated extracellular noradrenalin in the bran may account for enhancement of focus and addention.

Medical Properties: mild sedative, muscle relaxant, anesthetic, anti-convulsive, antianxiety (anxiolytic), strong diuretic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory,

Used In: sore throats as it numbs mouth and throat, also for acute and chronic gonorrhea, vaginitis, leucorrhea, nocturnal enuresis, insomnia, anitdepressent, stress, ovarian cancer, leukemia, gout, bronchial congestion, cystitis, prostatis, back pain, hyperactive and insomnic children

Preparation and dosage: sm. Amounts over short times are suggested, as there is some concern for liver toxicity. Kava use does not lead to addiction or dependency. High doses may lead to dzziness, muscle weakness and visual impairment. Long term use may contribute to hypertension, reduced protein levels, blood cell abnormalities, and liver damage. Should not be used in conjunction with prescription drugs, sedatives or mixed w/ alcohol, should not be used by people w/ cirrhosis of liver, are pregnant or nursing or being treated for depression. Active ingredients such as kava lactones are ruined at 140* F. Most teas steep at 180*F for a couple min., reducing the potency of kava.

Notes: Pacific Islanders traditionally use kava for rheumatism, menstrual problems, venereal disease, tuberculosis and leprosy. Tops and leaves are potentially poisonous and in the early 2000’s manufactures used these parts in their kava supplements, to produce more product at a reduced price, thus setting off a chain reaction of rumor and unjustified bans on the herb worldwide.


Kerry Brock, Certified Herbalist and owner at Shawnee Moon, is a researcher of plants, an eater of herbs, a drinker of coffee and a formulator of remedies. She keeps busy trying out pinterest diy’s and often failing at cooking in her backwoods home in rural southeast Missouri with her fantastic husband, Davy, two dogs, an assortment of cats and a unbelievably supportive family near by.


The information contained in this post is for educational purposes only; it is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure disease. It is simply for use in the maintenance and promotion of good health in cooperation with a licensed medical practitioner. Kerry Brock and Shawnee Moon are not licensed to treat or diagnose disease. Consult with your physician for diagnosis or treatment. By using this information you agree that the decisions regarding your health are your own responsibility and understand that Kerry Brock and Shawnee Moon are not liable for your health decisions.

Sources and continued reading:
Prescription for Nutritional Healing James & Phyllis Balch, Weiner’s Herbal Michael Weiner, The New Age Herbalist Richard Mabey The Way of Herbs Michael Tierra, The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine Daniel Mowery, Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible Earl Mindell, Victoria Fortner, The School of Natural Healing Dr. John Christopher, Back to Eden Jethro Kloss, The Complete Medicinal Herbal Penelope Ody, A Modern Herbal Mrs. M. Greieve, The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal David Hoffmann, The Green Pharmacy James A. Duke, Ph.D., 20,000 Secrets of Tea Victoria Zak, The Herb Book John Lust, Various informative websites containing herbal and health information (which are linked in post above).

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