Kava-kava (Piper methysticum)

Main Facts about Kava-kava

Kava-kava (Piper methysticum)
The“intoxicating Pepper” plant is a member of the pepper family found in the Western and South Pacific. Fiji, Hawaii, Vanuatu are all known for their excellent kava kava. Kava is a shrub that thrives in humid, tropical climates with evenly distributed rainfall and stony soil at elevations of 500 to 1,000 feet above sea level. Plants can reach heights of 20 feet, and their sprawling rhizomes may reach lengths of 9 feet, alternately disappearing below and surfacing above the soil. The islanders harvest kava when the shrubs mature in two to three years. Most kava plants produce around 110 lb (50 kg) of root when they are harvested.

Using Kava-kava

Kava is sedating and is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity. Roots have also been used for urinary tract infections (UTIs), pain and swelling of the uterus, venereal disease, menstrual discomfort, and to arouse sexual desire. Kava is used to help wound healing for skin diseases including leprosy, and as a painkiller. It is also used as a mouthwash for canker sores and toothaches.

Kava-kava is a remedy for: Anxiety


Don’t take long term, possibly bad for liver. Do not take if pregnant, lactating, taking alcohol, medication or suffering from depression.

Cooking with Kava-kava

Traditionally, it is prepared by either chewing, grinding or pounding the roots of the kava plant. Chewing fresh kava root has the strongest effect (may numb mouth). The ground root/bark is combined with only a little water, as the fresh root releases moisture during grinding. Fresh, undried kava produces a stronger beverage than dry kava. The strength also depends on the species and techniques of cultivation.

How to grow Kava-kava

The kava shrub thrives in loose, well-drained soils where plenty of air reaches the roots. It grows naturally where rainfall is plentiful. Too much sunlight is harmful, especially in early growth. It is propagated by stem cuttings.