Kava Kava: Benefits, Uses, Effects?


Kava Kava: Benefits, Uses, Effects?

Kava or kava (or Yaqona or Sakau or Kawa Kawa) is an ancient drink, made from a grass (Piper Methysticum), very pleasing to the royal families of the South Pacific is thought to have originated in Melanesia, although it is for a long time also rooted in the islands of Polynesia. Although it has been drunk for centuries by islanders, only during the voyage of Captain Cook in the Pacific in 1768-1771 the 'white man came to the knowledge of the plant and its consumption in sacred ceremonies. According to a description of Cook: << natives have chewed and pounded the root of this herb by mixing it with water to produce a brownish, often bitter drink to be consumed for its psychoactive properties. >> A soothing drink from proven medicinal effects, which combats fatigue and anxiety in a natural way. The active ingredients of this antidepressant fight the dark thoughts and bring in a happy state of calm and tranquility. Kava is amazing for the treatment of certain migraines and muscle cramps and especially relaxes the body while keeping the mind clear.

This traditional drink still plays a key role in the company Fijane, Samoan and Tongan, in which it is drunk during ceremonies to honor the guests, participants join and strengthen social identities.
The plant is part of the black pepper family, whose active ingredient is called kavalattina and is concentrated in the roots. The dried roots are pounded until a powder which is now being sold in bags at local supermarkets or shipped worldwide by specialized companies.
One of the better quality Kava ​​is called "Waka", and contains the highest concentration of kavalattine (for the pleasure of drinking!).
When Europeans settled the first contacts with the islands of the South Pacific in the first half of the eighteenth century, they discovered that the Kava ​​played a central role in the political, social and religious life of the islanders, (Lebot 1992: 1). A number of manufacturers and researchers have tried to describe this plant and its properties, giving rise to various theories on the ancient and modern uses. Many writers have examined the role of cultural Kava, unfortunately affected by the use and abuse of 'alcohol, which was introduced by the whites.
Kava is so ingrained in Oceania that can be seen as a fragment of a culture which connects all the people of the Pacific through thousands of miles of ocean. It is thought to have a role comparable to the sociological 'use of peyote in many Native American tribes, the chewing of coca in Peru and the' use of opium in the Middle East and Asia. Even if the 'use of kava has decreased because of the prohibitions of the missionaries and the introduction of alcohol, (previously unknown in Oceania), is still widely consumed, especially in Western Polynesia in both the formal and informal ceremonies. Lately the interest for the Kava ​​has greatly increased since after the political independence and seeks to revive ethnic traditions which had been suppressed by missionaries and colonization. The drink kava therefore retains an important position as a social drink as medicine for various diseases and how relaxing on islands such as Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

Kava is present in all the recreational and social gatherings. It is used as a social drink by the leaders and elders of high rank, as well as by the common people, it is drunk as a form of welcome to guests, consumed during the preparation and completion of an event or a job, strengthens the union , is celebrating the births, marriages (in 1998 i was invited to one of these on the island of Taveuni, Fiji), celebrates the funeral, relieve stress, cure diseases, neuroses.

In Hawaii, the kava is drunk during the ceremonies of divination, when assigning a name to the children of one year, during the consecration of a male child, or during the 'initiation of young girls accompanied by traditional songs and the' hula (dance).

In Tikopia (Solomon Islands), Kava ​​says the sacred symbols and can be used as a religious libation is poured on the ground and sometimes instead of drinking. It is also drunk during rituals among blood relatives or among members of the same social status as well as during the public punishment for a crime. Many people were forgiven of their crimes after a Kava ​​ceremony.
Sharing the bowl of kava strengthens friendships soothing fears, hatreds and asti to the benefit of a healthy social fabric.

Sull 'island of Wallis (French Polynesia), official decisions are taken in a Kava ​​ceremony with which it is reconciled with his enemies restoring peace. Again, those who have committed a crime are allowed (often) to go around freely, thanks to the kava ceremony.
Kava is usually the 'only way to welcome and with all the honors guests: former First Lady Johnson drank kava when it was in the South Pacific as well as Pope John Paul II. But the drink of kava is not the 'only way to cement relationships. Sometimes, you just show up to others with a kava root to give a sign of welcome and peace.

In Fiji and Tonga, the Kava ​​allows participants to communicate with the supernatural. Kava also reaffirms the condition of these hierarchical leaving no doubt as to certain rights and privileges of some subjects. This can be seen in the conventional ceremonies noting the arrangement of the seats in the row that is first served, and the complex and detailed procedures for the preparation of the beverage rich in symbolic gestures commanded the elements to be ranked higher (for example, a village chief ).

The Kava ​​ceremony:

Imagine a large mat woven from the fibers of the leaves of the coconut palm with over a large bowl (Tanoa) of a very hard wood with short legs below. At the front of the Tanoa there are reddish ropes made ​​with the fibers of the husk of the coconut. All 'end of the strings you are attached to the white shells that are oriented toward one end or the guest of honor. Then the participants are put on the mat to sit in a circle around the bowl. Tanoa takes place behind the man who will prepare the kava and its right what will. Kava is served in cups formed by the middle of the coconut husk. Tanoa is filled with water and the preparer has a certain amount of Kava ​​in a cloth that will act as a sieve, and then immerses the cloth in 'water and begins to rub gently. L 'water gradually takes a brown and opaque. When the preparer believes it is the right time to offer is' guest of honor at the first cup of kava to judge if the drink is too weak or too strong. If the cloth is too weak will be put into the water to continue the preparation, if it's too loud, you will add a little water. Once you have finished preparing the preparer definitely leaning both hands on 'edge of Tanoa, clapping three times and says "the kava is ready, or my boss."

Now they are all ready to drink. The coach plunges into the kava bowl and gives it to the man on his right hand that passes (with your finger often immersed) in turn to all participants starting with those closest to him. Every drinker applauds once a sign of acceptance and drinks in one go without a break. Then the drinker and the rest of the people sitting around the Tanoa clapping three times as a sign of appreciation and the cup is given back to the man next to the preparer that will fill again. This process is repeated until all have not had a cup to drink. During the intervals between a cup and the other drinkers relaxed talk, sing and tell stories. The intervals do not have a given length and everything is left to the discretion of the coach. Indeed the purpose of the ceremony is not simply to empty the Tanoa as quickly as possible, but with others enjoy the 'common experience of Kava​​. When the Tanoa is empty, if the group wants it, is ripreparata another bowl of kava fresh and the ride continues, often for hours.

Medicinal purposes:

Kava has been used throughout the 'Oceania to calm your nerves, induce relaxation and sleep and fight the' fatigue. He was drunk to cleanse the urinary tracts, to lose weight and to alleviate the 'asthma and rheumatism. It was thought that the kava was a cure for headaches, muscle spasms and to calm syphilis and gonorrhea. Even today, many islanders believe that the Kava ​​restore physical strength is an aphrodisiac and soothe stomach pains and many other ailments. In addition to drinking the pounded root, kava is also used to purify the environment in order to ward off diseases.

Kava macerated used in applications for external use (plasters) or simply chew the root, is part of the other methods medicines, even if drinking it in the traditional way remains the most popular method.
Its sedative and anxiolytic activity is particularly useful in patients with state of anxiety and emotional tension, manifested by difficulty in falling asleep, tremors, hyperexcitability, tension, muscle twitching, etc.. This plant does not appear that will change in the sense depressive supervision, as do sedatives synthesis. Another effect of Kava, done at the level of the central nervous system, is to relax the muscles. May cause skin disorders or skin allergies, but they disappear quickly after discontinuation of the drug. May increase the effect of almost all psychiatric drugs and enhance the effects of alcohol on the body. It is not recommended intake during pregnancy.

Clearly on this Web page do not want to absolutely give medical advice, I am only a traveler who has enjoyed the Kava​​!. All the material found on the Web and especially through personal experiences in my travels in the South Pacific has only intended to inform on the tradition of kava, do not incite to drink. I say this because although in Italy it was freely available at health food stores under the name of Kawa-Kawa or grass Oceania until the beginning of 2002 has now been withdrawn from the market for mild liver toxicity.


It is difficult to define with certainty the 'origin of' use of kava in Oceania since nothing was written before the arrival of Europeans, but there are theories endorsed by the oral tradition of the peoples of the Pacific handed down from generation to generation:

Newell argued in 1947 that the Kava ​​has been spread throughout Oceania Polynesian migration originating from the primordial dell'aree of New Guinea and 'Indonesia.
The second theory states that Kava ​​comes from the Asian subcontinent. Handy in 1972, it linked the kava ceremony with the Chinese tea ceremony.

Williamson in 1939 said that Kava ​​was brought from the south of 'India.
Another theory connects it to the Betel nut (the Indian pepper) chewed by the Indians. The latter when they moved in Oceania, not having available to this plant, replaced it with the roots of the kava.
But the latest theory and best accepted is that of Vincent Lebot that with botanical evidence showed that the tradition of Kava ​​has started in some remote island Melanesia, perhaps in Vanuatu or the Solomon Islands or even in New Guinea.

Geographical breakdown:

In the past, you could find and consume kava in almost all the islands of the Pacific. Consumption ranged from New Guinea to Hawaii, (except New Caledonia), from New Zealand to most of the islands of Solomon. Currently, the 'use is restricted to the western Polynesia, especially in Samoa and Tonga and most of Melanesia, especially in Fiji. It can also be found in the 'island of Pohnpei, Micronesia. Completely disappeared instead in the Cook Islands, Tahiti and in the 'Easter Island (Rapanui).

In Hawaii, the Kava ​​also called "Awa" was used until the end of the nineteenth century. It was used by the "Ali'i" (the head and the "Kahunas" (wise men, wise) as well as the "common man" more for medicinal purposes or relaxation., But after 1948 it was no longer 'drunk despite the plant continues to grow (and continues today) spontaneously in the wildest places Hawaiians. Nowadays Tonga, Fiji and Samoa are the centers of higher consumption where the kava ceremony takes on an important religious and magical symbolism.

Meanings of Kava ​​as folklore:
As you can imagine a lot of folklore surrounding the Kava​​. The anecdotes, songs, stories, folk tales about Kava ​​are abundant. The myths and legends properties
and the origins of kava.

A legend tells that the kava that has been introduced to Tonga from 'island of Lau in Fiji.
Another said that the root was found on the grave of a leper in Tonga and explains why the Kava ​​has been used once only in religious rituals: the legend says that a married couple in Tonga, Feva'anga and his wife, killed their leprous daughter to get her to eat (remember the traditions of the Pacific cannibals) to the village chief during a time of famine. Instead, the village chief told Feva'anga to bury the body and bring the plant that would be developed near the tomb. After a few weeks of kava plant was developed on top of the head daughter. In some versions, the Kava ​​is replaced by sugar cane that would develop from the vagina of his daughter buried.

It should be noted that the theme of Kava ​​growing from a decomposing body better if sacrificed is usually connected to 'the idea that Kava ​​is a drink sacrificial. So those who drink this beverage symbolically turns into a sacrificial victim but did not suffer the material consequences.
Another legend tells the magical powers of the plant based on the story of a woman who observed a rat chewing the root first saw the rat in a coma and then, later, revived, almost risen.

Kava Kava ​​Kava ​​has been used or just as soothing and relieving the labors of the people of the South Pacific for three thousand years. Originally the drink was prepared by chewing the root virgin girls spitting into the bowl for the preparation of kava.
This is one of the recipes now abandoned!. Today, the drink of kava is prepared, in the islands, mixing the powder of kava root with water. Today's powder Kava ​​(which sells even via the internet) is extremely fine and does not necessarily require a filtration. The herbal taste is very distinctive, slightly bitter (in fact, Kava ​​in the Maori language means "bitter") and tends to numb the lips while the appearance is similar to water in a puddle.

  Traditional Preparation of Kava​​:

Pour about 3-6 tablespoons of powdered Kava ​​(more or less depending on your preferences) in a piece of cloth filter (also fine pantyhose and tea bags) and immerse it in a pint / 1 liter of water to ambient temperature. For at least one, two minutes you have to wring out the cloth and squeeze to extract completely the principles of powder in 'water. Clearly, with more time you get a stronger flavor.
At the conclusion of this process, the kava is ready to drink. Who is the flavor of Kava ​​too "bland", can add sugar or fruit juice or your favorite herbs such as licorice powder, grated fresh ginger, the cardamonio, nutmeg, etc..

Note: The Kava ​​is not soluble in water, and then to keep the powder suspended must frequently mix!

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asked Jul 2, 2014 by Lancomega Level (10,245 points)