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kavaA 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.
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.