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(Kava Kava, 'awa, Yagona)

Kava is a natural relaxant traditionally used by Pacific Islanders. It is best know for its stress relieving qualities and its use as an alternative social lubricant to alcohol.

Kava relaxes the body while giving mental clarity and sometimes a feeling of mild euphoria. It can create a warm, sociable vibe among a group of people.

It has been used to treat insomnia, PMS, edginess when quitting smoking and other stress-related conditions. Some people have found Kava to be helpful in cutting down their intake of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis.

The drink tastes strongly bitter, sharp and woody and has a numbing effect on the mouth. Many people find the taste unpleasant on their first try. Those who enjoy Kava however quickly get used to the taste as it comes to be associated with the effects that follow consumption.

The effects of Kava last two or three hours. Some people say it mixes well with cannabis, though this appears to be a matter of personal taste. It does not generally mix well with alcohol (see below). Kava gives no hangover the next day and is non-addictive.


Kava is made from the root of Piper Methsicum, a species of pepper. Though available in other forms, it is traditionally made as a cold water infusion from the ground root.

Most users recommend this form of consumption. About one and a half tablespoons of ground root are mixed with cold water, then pressed, squeezed and strained through a cloth (people often use a sock). Alternatively the root and water can be put in a blender for a minute or two; this will produce a very gritty drink unless strained.

Side effects: Always drink it slowly: when consumed too fast Kava may cause nausea, especially for first time users. Drinking too much alcohol while using Kava is also said to cause nausea, though one or two drinks shouldn't cause a problem.

Since Kava is a relaxant it could presumably slow down reaction times. It would therefore be inadvisable to use before driving.

Health risks: The natural infusion used across the Pacific and described above has never been found to have health risks, so it is recommended to use Kava in this form.

Apparently heavy usage can cause ‘scaling of the skin’, but this is unlikely to happen except in an environment where it is drunk constantly.

A single study in Germany a few years ago found that in high doses – as available in concentrated pill form in health shops in many countries – it may be toxic to the liver.

This result does not appear to apply to the traditional infusion, and has so far not been confirmed by other studies.

However Kava would not be recommended for use by people who are otherwise placing a strain on their liver: over-use of alcohol, some other recreational drugs and some pharmaceutical drugs could all do this. It is not recommended to take Kava while taking any psychoactive medication, as there is currently no information on how it mixes with other drugs.


The Law: Due to the health scare resulting from the above German study, Kava is not currently available in shops in the UK, even in its powdered root form. Shops cannot sell or import the drug but it is not illegal to possess or buy it.

There are many websites selling Kava, including sites based in the US, where it is still available in shops. Such websites are currently the only source of Kava for most people in the UK.

This unfortunately has the effect of making Kava more expensive than it should be. Allegedly some sites also sell relatively weak and ineffective preparations – get a recommendation for a site if you can.

(Article by Brainaddict)

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