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The root of Piper methysticum (family Piperaceae), a plant of the Pacific islands, used by the natives as an intoxicant.
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.
kava kavaToxicology Kava kava's use as an herbal antidepressant has been linked to fulminant liver failure, accompanied by jaundice, fatigue, weight loss, concomitant renal failure and progressive encephalopathy, requiring a liver transplant. See Liver failure.
ka·va, 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]