Kava has been used traditionally in Western herbal medicine
Kava is the root of a pepper plant, Piper Methysticum, and has been used for ceremonial and social purposes by Pacific Islanders for centuries. Traditionally the root is ground to a powder, and then mixed with water to form a drink.
Pacific Islanders have known for centuries: kava may relieve symptoms of mild anxiety, aid in relaxation, relieve stress, improve your mood and well-being, and ease muscular tension, without affecting alertness and mental clarity.
The main active ingredients in the root of Kava are a group of compounds called kavalactones. These kavalactones can regulate neurological activity in the central nervous system, without the sedative or hyponotic effects.
Kava was, and still is, used in almost all phases of life in the islands, such as preparing for a journey or ocean voyage, at initiation and completion of work, and to remove curses, and less formal kava drinking is a common part of many social gatherings
The sacred nature of kava permits that the preparation and use is always done with respect. The Polynesians prepared the kava beverage by chewing or grinding the dried rhizome, macerating it in cold water, straining off the liquid, and diluting it with water or coconut milk according to traditional procedures.
The resulting beverage was calming and relaxing without producing cognitive disturbances. The drink initially caused the mouth to go numb, followed by a mellow, tranquil, and sociable attitude, with the kava drinker attaining a state of contentment and greater sense of well-being.
Captain James Cook was the first Westerner to record the use of kava in the account of his voyage to the South Seas in 1768. Subsequent explorers noted the relaxing, soothing effects of the kava drink, and its ritual use as a mild sedative to produce a state of well-being has been described by numerous anthropologists. In addition to its use as a sedative and mood enhancer, kava has a long history of traditional medicinal use for a wide range of conditions.