Kava - Piper Methysticum

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This Kava (Piper methysticum) monograph is an excerpt from the 1999, first edition of Dr. Sharol's book "Herbal Medicine From The Heart of The Earth." You can purchase the 2020, third edition of this book with an expanded materia medica/monograph section, herbal formulas and directions on making herbal products in Dr. Sharol's Book Store. You receive free shipping in the USA. The expanded 3rd edition materia medica, and additional herbal tidbits are also available as a kindle ebook at Amazon and details on this e-book are here.

Kava kava - Piper methysticum in the Piperaceae family

Parts used: Root.

Taste/smell: Sharp, pungent, tongue numbing.

Dosage: Infusion: 1-2 teaspoons per cup of water; or 1:1 fresh + dry strength liquid extract: 10-60 drops 1-4 times per day in a little water.

Use: (a) Sedative, (b) Hypnotic, (c) Antispasmodic, (d) Analgesic, (e) Anti-inflammatory, (f) Mild anticonvulsant, (g) Anesthetic, (h) Antifungal.

Kava is used to relieve anxiety and stress, insomnia, muscle tension and asthma. Used as a short term sedative, but research has shown individuals are able to maintain cognitive function unlike most drugs given as a sedative or hypnotic. It is also used for fibromyalgia, acute cholecystitis, ureter spasms, pain and spasms associated with interstitial cystitis, tension headaches, attention deficit and hyperactivity syndrome and general pain from muscle spasms or inflammation.

Contraindications: I would suggest anyone using Kava long term, do it under the guidance of a trained professional and that they get their liver enzymes assessed frequently to make sure the long term use does not cause any liver degradation. Side effects of Kava consumption include skin reactions and CNS effects. Risk factors for adverse reactions include chronic, heavy use and concurrent use with other drugs, herbs, and dietary supplements. Long term consumption of large doses can cause dry, pigmented, scaly skin, especially on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, forearms, back and shins. The rash will disappear when Kava is discontinued. Large doses of more than 9 grams per day can elevate liver enzymes. This elevation is reversible with discontinuance of the herb. It can enhance the hypnotic effect of alcohol.  Kava has been shown to increase ‘off’ periods in Parkinson patients taking levodopa and may cause a semicomatose state when given with alprazolam. U.S. FDA advises that a potential risk of rare, but severe, liver injury may be associated with Kava-containing dietary supplements. Flavokawain B (FKB), a chalcone from kava root, is a potent liver toxin. Hepatocellular toxicity of FKB is mediated by induction of oxidative stress, depletion of reduced glutathione, inhibition of I kappa B kinase activity leading to NF-Kappa B transcriptional blockade, and constitutive TNF-alpha independent activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways, namely, ERK, p38, and JNK.  An individual needs to consult a qualified health care professional before use if they have or have had liver problems, frequently use alcoholic beverages, or are taking any medication. Stop use and see a doctor if you develop symptoms that may signal liver problems (e.g., unexplained fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, dark urine, pale stools, yellow eyes or skin). It should not be used by individuals under 18 years of age, or by pregnant or breast-feeding women. Not for use with alcoholic beverages. Excessive use or use with products that cause drowsiness may impair your ability to operate a vehicle or heavy equipment. Pipermethysticine is a toxic alkaloid present in kava leaves and stem peelings, which can contaminate kava products during high production and/or poor quality control. Flavokavain B is a cytotoxic component of kava root and is present in teas and extracts. The highest yields are in chloroform extracts, followed by acetone then hexane fractions.

If you are looking for directions on making teas or tinctures, please see our "Making Herbal Products" page.

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Copyright 1999 by Sharol Tilgner, N.D. (ISBN 1-881517-02-0) - all rights reserved.

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