THE BENEFITS OF THE USE OF KAVA KAVA
IN HERBAL PREPARATIONS
BOTANICAL INFORMATION OF KAVA KAVA
Most Common Species:Piper methysticum
The botanical name comes from the kavalactone Methysticin that is the chemical of highest concentration in Piper methysticum.
Number of Piper Species:2000
Cultivars:It is estimated that there may be around 350 varieties of Piper methysticum.
Parts Used:People refer to the part used as rhizome but it really is the root.
Names in Other Languages:Yagona, ‘Awa, Kavakava, ‘ava, kawa, and kona. These are only examples. There are hundreds of dialects in the pacific islands. These are the most common names.
Literal English Translation:bitter, sour, sharp, acid, acrid, and pungent.
Habitat and PropagationKava is found on Pacific Islands including: Papua New Guinea, Irian Jaya, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Futuna, Wallis, Marquesas Islands, Tahiti, Micronesia, Vanatu, and Hawaii. Kava thrives in very rich soil of volcanic islands. It grows in densely in humid, tropical climates with evenly distributed rainfall at elevations of 500 to 1000 feet above sea level. Kava is planted in a similar manner to sugarcane, sections of stalks, usually cut from young branches of an old bush, are laid in trenches of mud to sprout. The newly planted stem cutting must be protected from direct sunlight and wind. Once sprouted, stalk sections are then planted in shallow trenches, where they continue to send up new shoots, growing perennially. Sprawling rootlike stems, alternately disappearing below and surfacing above the soil, may reach lengths of nine feet. At maturity, in five to seven years, the masses of roots are ready for preparation of the kava beverage. Intercropping between coconut, coffee, noni, macadamia nuts, or other tree crops is best to eliminate insects and disease.
Kava is an indigenous shrub several feet high. It is erect, normal, and prostrate. Leaves are thin, single, whole, heart shaped, alternate, petiolate, and quite long. Leaf pubescence is present, or absent. Lamina edges are undulate, raised, drooping, and regular. Stems are dichotomous, spotted, pale green, dark green, green with purple spots, purple, or black. Internode formation is uniform, mottled, speckled, striated and mottled. Internode shape is short and think, long and thin, or long and think. Fracture starchy, faint pleasant odor, taste bitter, pungent, and aromatic. All these differences are due to the enormous variety of cultivators with varying chemical properties and differing above ground appearances. As a more general description it is a large heart shaped, smooth, shiny and green leaved swamp loving plant growing to six feet high, on average, and rarely up to ten to twelve. Kava flowers but does not contain fruit nor seed. Terry Willard, president of the Canadian Association of Herbal Practitioners, sees a resonance between a plant’s form and its function. “With kava, the metaphor is bringing order and calming disjointedness. When you see the kava plant, the leaf and stem system look very disjointed, but when you dig under the system and see the root, which is what we use, it is very orderly.”