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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
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


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.
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.


, 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]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012
References in periodicals archive ?
Vanuatu is considered as the origin of the kava plant which belongs to the family of Piperaceae (Lebot et al.
Kava as the traditional water based drink is an integral part of religious, social, economic and political life in the South Pacific region for centuries and usually well tolerated, unless overdosage with prolonged use prevails (Lebot et al.
Until 2002 when the ban for kava-based products was issued, ethanolic and acetonic kava extracts had been sold as regulatory approved drugs in pharmacies without prescription in Germany and Switzerland; in the latter country they have also been available in drug stores since 1998 (Teschke et al.
What's more, "these few kava studies are limited because they didn't rigorously control who participated in them," says the National Institute of Mental Health's Benedetto Vitiello.
"We looked at the effect of kava on the kind of stress you might suffer if your mother-in-law were coming to visit and the two of you didn't get along," says the study's principal investigator, Nirbhay Singh of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
"Kavatrol relieved this kind of stress within a week and continued to work during the four weeks we studied it in 29 people who were suffering more than an average amount of stress," says Singh, who became familiar with kava in his native Fiji.
Concentrations of Kava Lactones in the Kava Root Extract
Concentrations of the six kava lactones in the kava root extract are shown in Table 3.
Effects of Kava on the Catalytic Activity of cDNA-Expressed P450s
An ethanolic kava extract was administered to rats in food (0.01% or 0.1%) over a period of 3 or 6 months (Sorrentino, 1990).
* Assessment of safety and risk in patients under the treatment with kava extracts
The ethno-botanist Cox (Cox, 2002) has rejected the criticism of the South Sea drug kava according to which it is supposed to cause liver damage.