Kava Kava — Piper methysticum

kava9Family: Piperaceae

Part used: root

Herbal action: diuretic, urinary antiseptic, antispasmodic, analgesic, nervine relaxant, anaesthetic, anxiolytic.

Indications: infection and inflammation of the genitourinary tract, urinary tenesmus, muscular pain, neuralgia, trigeminal neuralgia, neuropathies (e.g. toothache, earache, eye pain etc.)

Medicinal uses: Upon tasting Kava, the root presents a mildly pungent, bitter and astringent taste with mild sialagogue properties, but impresses more a marked local anaesthetic property upon the tongue, which suggests its usefulness as an analgesic, especially to mucus membranes. Traditionally, Polynesian peoples used Kava to induce relaxation and counteract fatigue, as well as for urinary tract problems, asthma, rheumatism, headaches and to promote weight loss. According to early ethnobotanists, Polynesian healers used kava as a treatment for syphilis, gonorrhea and chronic cystitis. Kava was also used as a diaphoretic and stomachic to treat colds and flus.

In the West, herbalists found Kava to be an indispensable remedy in the treatment of urinary tract disorders, considering it a powerful diuretic with anticatarrhal properties..

Kava also finds usefulness as an antispasmodic, relieving not only the tenesmus associated with urinary tract infections, but in dysmenorrhea, arthritis and rheumatism, as well as a symptomatic treatment in neuralgia and neuropathies. Due to its sialagogue and antispasmodic properties Kava has also shown its usefulness in nervous dyspepsia when used in small doses, correcting deficient secretions of the stomach and relieving undue tension in the smooth muscle of the gastrointestinal tract.

In more recent times Kava has been recommended in larger doses to treat anxiety and depressive disorders. Despite comprising the bulk of its usage in these modern times, Kava is at best a symptomatic treatment of these disorders, and should not be relied upon in chronic situations. Instead, consider trophorestoratives such as Avena and Hypericum, and allied measures such as lifestyle and dietary changes. Another more modern indication for Kava is as a sedative, but while it has definite muscle-relaxing properties, it tends to excite the mind and promote a feeling of euphoria, which does not necessarily equate with a good night’s sleep. Nonetheless, some patients will find Kava to be a powerful sedative, usually in uncomplicated cases of social stress and concomitant muscle tension.