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The root of Piper methysticum (family Piperaceae), a plant of the Pacific islands, used by the natives as an intoxicant.
Synonym(s): kava (1) , kava kava


an herb that is harvested from a shrub that grows in the South Sea islands.
uses Although it is useful for nervous anxiety, restlessness, sleep disturbances, and stress, there are safety concerns following several reports of hepatotoxicity and liver failure occurring with relatively normal doses used for a short term.
contraindications Kava should not be used during pregnancy and lactation, in children less than 12 years of age, or in persons with known hypersensitivity, major depressive disorder, or Parkinson's disease.


A broad-leafed shrub native to Oceania, which contains alkaloids, lactones, kawain, methysticin, mucilage, starch and yangonin.
Kava plays a central role in tribal life of Oceania; it is ground and fermented to produce a hallucinogen, which is used to celebrate birth and marriage, mourn death, placate the gods, cure illness and remove curses.
Herbal medicine
Kava is antiseptic and diuretic; it is used by Western herbalists for prostatitis, urinary tract infections, rheumatic complaints, gout, anxiety, depression, insomnia and muscle spasms.

Chronic use is associated with dermal, hepatic, ocular and spinal cord damage.


, kava kava (kah'vă-kah'vă)
Agent derived from Piper methysticum; purported antiseizure properties; used to treat anxiety disorders, as a sleep aid, and for its suggested value in therapy for muscle spasms and sexually transmitted diseases. Adverse effects reported include hepatitis, cirrhosis, and parkinsonian syndrome. Some studies of this potentially dangerous product suggest that it may have clinical value as an anticarcinogenic. Reports have also been made of skin discoloration with long-term use.
[Tongan and Marquesan, Litter]

kava (kä·v),

n Latin name:
Piper methysticum; parts used: rhizomes, roots; uses: anxiolytic, antiepileptic, antidepressant, muscle relaxant, analgesia, insomnia, alcohol dependency; precautions: children, pregnancy, lactation; patients with depression, pulmonary hypertension, Parkinson's disease; liver disease, or kidney disease; patients who drink alcohol. Also called
ava, ava pepper, awa, intoxicating pepper, kava-kava, kawa, kew, sakau, tonga, or