Kava (Latin name Piper Methysticum) is a non-addictive medicinal South Pacific plant species belonging to the pepper family. The plant – also known as asava pepper or intoxicating pepper – can grow to an average height of six feet, with heart-shaped leaves that stretch 10 inches wide.
For centuries, Pacific Islanders have used kava as a medicinal plant because of its sedative, anesthetic, euphoriant, and psychotropic properties. (In other words: It can calm you down and make you feel good.) The herb has been used to treat everything from migraines and insomnia to infections and rheumatism. In some cultures, kava is used for religious and cultural traditions, including weddings, political events, funerals, and royal events.
In addition to its ceremonial uses, kava is best known for its relaxing qualities. Kava is said to elevate mood, well-being, and contentment and produce a feeling of relaxation. Several studies have found that kava may be useful in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and related nervous disorders.
The main active ingredients in kava root are called kavalactones (kava pyrones). These chemicals (including kawain, dihydrokavain, and methysticum) have been extensively studied in laboratory and animal studies. They have been found to reduce convulsions, promote sleep, and relax muscles in animals. They also have pain-relieving properties, which may explain why drinking kava root tends to cause a temporary numbness and tingling sensation on the tongue.
The resultant slightly peppery earthy flavored drink produces a mild relaxant soporific effect. When you first try kava, you will notice a slight numbness on the tongue and mouth. You may notice a lowering of inhibitions, followed by muscle relaxation and a sense of well-being.
For some first-time drinkers, the effects can be a bit mild. Fortunately, kava has a reverse tolerance, so as your body begins to recognize the kava, the effects become more pronounced.