Kava Kava

KAVA KAVA (Piper methysticum)

Family: Piperaceae

Parts commonly used: Root (lateral roots) and rhizome.

Properties/energetics: Antianxiety, skeletal muscle relaxant, anodyne, analgesic, sedative/Warm; bitter, spicy.

Systems predominantly affected:  Musculoskeletal, digestive, urinary tract, nervous, social.

Uses: Long before white men discovered the South Seas, Kava beverages were taken throughout the Pacific islands to relax body and mind, induce refreshing sleep, and ease pain and as a recreational beverage to promote social discourse. In small doses, Kava reduces anxiety, relieves nervousness and stress, and can even diffuse overt panic attacks. It relaxes the mind and clarifies thought. Larger doses induce a sedative effect that is good for insomnia and for those who have difficulty falling asleep. Kava is an effective anodyne and analgesic for the stomach, intestines, and urinary tract. Useful for irritable bladder, ureter spasms, and intestinal pain. It relaxes tight back muscles and muscle spasms, especially when emotion related. Likewise, it relieves asthma and tension headache. The direct application of Kava glycerite is excellent for relieving the pain of mouth sores.

Combinations: Combines with St. John’s wort to treat anxiety and depression.
Affects on specific body types: The innately sociable Monarch, with his slight inclination for depression, will thoroughly enjoy the mental uplifting and heightened social discourse he or she experiences; the driven Warrior will enjoy Kava’s permission to relax and chill out for a while. But, the Seer, who often finds himself feeling disconnected and anxious, with difficulty relating, especially in social settings, will probably be the most grateful for Kava’s ambrosial effects. On the Seer physical body, too, with its overactive nervous system responses to mild imbalances, Kava will reduce nerve irritations. And the Seer will appreciate the release of muscle tension, relief from nervous stomach and intestinal cramping, and other emotion-related body stuff, along with the increased ability to easily fall asleep that Kava contributes.

Precautions: Be careful about taking Kava while using prescription medication. Its spiciness can render some pharmaceuticals more potent, especially antidepressants. Keep in mind when using this herb for whatever reason, especially when in party mode, that it is has been referred to as “intoxicating pepper” and can affect coordination and speech. For sake of overall well-being, when ingesting Kava, do not drive or operate machinery any more complex or dangerous than an electric pencil sharpener or a butter knife. Remember that Kava is dose specific. The amount one can handle is uniquely specific to each person. If you find yourself communicating at length with spirits, assume you’ve taken enough for the time being; it’s not going to get any better than that. Enjoy and be wise.

Preparations/dosage: Tincture: 10 to 60 drops one to four timesa day. Kava’s resinous properties are not water soluble; instead of making a tea, mix Kava powder with water, coconut milk, or some other liquid (about 1/2 ounce to 1 pint of liquid) and prepare a watery paste. Finish it off in one sitting, as it becomes stale within a few hours. Or, for a recreational beverage, stir together in a glass pot some Kava powder with Coconut milk, a little lecithin, a little oil, some soy milk, alcohol is superfluous, place this on a stove to heat and gently simmer for five minutes, strain, and add some spices of your choice (maybe a few pinches of Cinnamon and some Vanilla bean or Almond extract, with a shake of Nutmeg), then pour the mixture into a blender and drop in a couple ripe bananas. Pour the tropical elixir into something festive, summon friends, and pass the Kava. A healthy party will be had by all— with no hangovers.

By James Green, Herbalist, copyright 2008

For more information please refer to James Green’s book, The Male Herbal, 2nd Edition