Kava Kava
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KAVA KAVA  
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Botanical:  Piper methysticum
Family:  Piperaceae (black pepper)
Other common names:  Ava Ava Pepper, Intoxicating Pepper, Kawa Awa, Kawa Kawa, Yogona, Wati, Waka, Kava Pepper, Kava

Tense?  Stressed Out?  Need a good night's sleep?  Try Kava Kava for a soothing effect on your mind and body... naturally.  This popular Polynesian herb is famous for helping to calm the nerves, easie tense muscles and enhance mental acuity, memory and sensory perception.  Kava Kava is an old-time herbal analgesic that can help to ease pain, an antiseptic with a reputation to alleviate urinary tract problems and a gastrointestinal tonic that can relieve indigestion.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

History:
Kava Kava is an evergreen shrub that is native to the Polynesian Islands of the South Pacific and is commonly cultivated in Australia and Hawaii.  It is an erect shrub that grows in height from ten to twenty feet with tender fleshy stems, heart-shaped leaves and flowers with a lilac aroma.  The dried root is an aromatic, bitter and pungent warming herb that is used in herbal medicine.  South Pacific Islanders have used Kava Kava for over three thousand years as an important medicinal herb to kill pain (the root actually leaves the mouth feeling slightly numbed when chewed) and induce a state of relaxation and euphoria.  The roots were also made into a sacred drink called Sakau, which marked important social and ceremonial rites, particularly meetings involving conflicts or war councils, since the herb is known to promote a state of goodwill and relaxation among parties trying to reconcile their differences.  Kava Kava was first discovered for Western use by the explorer, Captain James Cook, who gave the plant its botanical name, which translates to "intoxicating pepper."  The name Kava carries the meanings of "sour," "bitter" or "sharp," which may be some indication of the taste of the beverage.  Some of Kava Kava's chemical constituents include cinnamic acid and kavalactones/alphapyrones (including kawain, dihydrokawain, methysticin, dihydromethysticin and yangonin).

Beneficial Uses:
Kava Kava is a mild, but effective, sedative that induces physical and mental relaxation and helps to reduce anxiety without dulling the mind.  As a matter of fact, although it is used mostly for its sedative properties, it does not seem to impair the user's mental clarity and has been known to improve memory and sensory perception. Apropos of this, one small randomised double blind placebo controlled2011 study from North Carolina's Elon University and published in the Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism, found that a standardized dose of Kava kavalactones extract does not impair problem-solving ability or induce dysfunction in ambiguous problem solving that requires cognitive flexibility, abstraction and the capacity to modify responses . Several of Kava's chemical ingredients interact with the brain's benzodiazepine receptors, which are the same sites activated by synthetic tranquilizers; but unlike addictive prescription drugs that frequently worsen depression, Kava Kava improves the mood and is not considered to be addictive.  It is frequently used to treat nervous tension, depression and anxiety disorders, particularly agoraphobia and social phobias.  It is also said to be extremely helpful in cases of insomnia.

For genitourinary health, Kava Kava acts as an antiseptic tonic that makes it suitable for managing problems in the urinary tract, including bladder infections, cystitis, gallbladder complaints, gonorrhea and prostate gland inflammation.  Additionally, its diuretic properties also help to reduce water retention.   Kava's antiseptic qualities may be further utilized as a douche to counter vaginitis.

Kava Kava is also considered a tonic stimulant.  The Polynesians used it as a stimulant in small doses to create a mild state of euphoria.  The herb is still thought to produce the same effects and is believed to invigorate a diminished sex drive.

As a tonic, Kava Kava is also said to stimulate the gastrointestinal tract, easing indigestion.

Kava Kava stimulates the entire nervous system and promotes physical flexibility and structural alignment by influencing the motor units of the nervous system.  By acting as an antispasmodic and herbal muscle relaxer, the herb eases muscle tension, reduces pain and cramping due to muscle spasms and alleviates restless leg syndrome, among other muscular complaints.  It is actually thought to be one of the most powerful of the herbal muscle relaxants.

As an anti-inflammatory, Kava Kava is believed to help relieve arthritis, gout and rheumatism.  Used externally, it may also be used to relieve joint pain.

Kava Kava is believed to be a remarkable painkiller whether taken internally or externally.  It is an effective analgesic that is said to ease headaches and even toothaches, and its analgesic properties are thought to have strength comparable to that of cocaine and procainamide, which helps to deaden the pain in the kidneys and urinary tract when excretion occurs.  The potent painkilling qualities usually last for twenty-four hours.  When applied externally, Kava may be applied directly to a painful wound for relief.

Contraindications:
Those who suffer with Parkinson's disease should avoid Kava Kava Herbal Supplement , as it may worsen muscular weakness.  Pregnant or nursing women should not take this product.  Kava Kava should not be taken on a daily basis for longer than three months, as long-term use may cause severe liver damage. Excess use may disturb vision, dilate pupils, affect walking or driving and cause stupor, and it should be used only occasionally to relieve periods of stress or sleeplessness.  Taking Kava and medicines to treat mental illnesses may add to the side effects of these medicines such as involuntary movements of the arms, neck or face. Taking Kava may interfere with the actions of some medicines used to treat nausea and vomiting resulting in the return of symptoms otherwise controlled by medicines. Kava Kava should never be taken after consuming alcohol.  Those who are taking pharmaceutical antidepressants, benzodiazepine tranquilizers or sleeping pills should avoid Kava.  It may be best to avoid operating machinery when taking Kava, as it may cause drowsiness.  Consult a physician before taking Kava Kava if you use oral contraceptives, anti-seizure medications, HIV drug prescriptions, anticoagulants or any prescriptions.  Kava Kava should be avoided for two weeks prior to any elective surgery.  Kava Kava is not recommended for people with severe anxiety disorders and/or severe depression.  Chronic over-consumption may produce dry skin, labored breathing, alteration of red and white blood cell counts, and if any of these symptoms appear, its use should be discontinued immediately.  The herb is not recommended for persons under eighteen years of age.  Constant, long-term use has been associated with damage to the liver, skin, eyes and spinal cord. (Please consult FDA Public Health Advisory (March, 2002) for further information.) It is recommended that Kava be taken with water at mealtimes, particularly in the evening.

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