What is Kava?

What is KavaKava (Piper methysticum) is an age-old herbal drink that was the beverage of choice for the royal families of the South Pacific. Believed to originate from Melanesia, kava grows abundantly in the sun-drenched islands of Polynesia. Although drank for centuries by the islanders, it was only during Captain Cook’s voyage to the Pacific in 1768-1771 when white man first encountered the plant and its consumption in sacred ceremonies. According to Cook’s account, natives chewed or pounded the root and mixed it with water to produce a brownish, often bitter brew which they then consumed for its psychoactive properties. A soothing drink with proven medicinal effects, kava is now available to anyone seeking to calm nerves or ease stress as well as anxiety while combating fatigue the natural way. Its special anti-depressant components fight the "blues" and bring on a happy, tranquil state. Kava is amazing for treating ailments like migraine headaches and cramps but best of all, it keeps the mind alert as the body relaxes. This traditional drink still plays a key role in Fijian, Samoan, and Tongan societies where it is drank in ceremonies meant to honor visitors, unite participants and validate their social identities. A member of the black pepper family, kava’s active properties stems from the kavalactones found in its roots. The roots are dried then pounded into a powdered form that LavaKava mixes and delivers to you. LavaKava only uses "Waka" grade kava, which contains the highest concentration of kavalactones. This ensures a pleasurable and beneficial experience every time for the consummate kava drinker.

buying awa

Lebot, Vincent et al. Kava: The Pacific Drug. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992.

Lebot’s book may be the best overall study of kava that has been published. He proposes along with the other authors a theory of origin for kava which has not been satisfactorily established up to this point.

Singh, Yadhu N. "Kava: an overview." Journal of Ethnopharmacology 37 (1992): 13-45.

A good introduction to kava which addresses the origins and role of kava in past and present Oceania and provides an updated review of kava scholarship. Drawing from a multidisplinary approach (ethnology, anthropology, pharmacology) and personal experience, the author explains in detail the kava ceremony, as well as the preparation and consumption of the drink. The various uses of kava, its effects on humans, its chemical and pharmacological components are also discussed.

  Read more...

Meanings of Kava from its Folklore

As can be expected with a traditional plant, much folklore surrounds kava. Riddles, chants, folkspeech, and jokes about kava are plentiful. Myths and legends tell of kava’s properties and origins. Three Fijian legends narrate how the plant began. One legend is about how the root was found growing on top of a Tongan leper’s grave. Another talks about kava being introduced into Tonga from the Fijian island Lau, while another explains why kava was previously used only at religious rituals.

Read more...

Theories of Origin of Kava

It is hard to have definite theories about the origin of kava usage in Oceania because no written records existed prior to European contact. The Pacific islands had an oral tradition and not a written one. Nevertheless, some scholars have proposed the following theories:

Newell argued in 1947 that kava was spread throughout Oceania by early Polynesians and that it originated form New Guinea-Indonesia area. A second theory is that kava originated from the Asian subcontinent. Handy in 1972 links the kava ceremony with the Chinese tea ceremony. Williamson in 1939 said that kava came from the southern part of India. Kava drinking is related to betel chewing in that migrants who were unable to find betel nuts to chew turned to kava for their needs. The most recent and well-argued theory is Vincent Lebot’s idea which uses botanical evidence to prove that kava originated somewhere in Melanesia: either on Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, or New Guinea. Read more...

Fiji KavaMedicinal Purposes

Kava was used throughout Oceania to calm nerves, cause relaxation and sleep, fight fatigue. It was drank to unclog urinary tracts, to lose weight, relieve asthma and rheumatism. Drinking kava is thought to be good for headaches, cramps, and to cure syphilis and gonorrhea. Many islanders believe kava to restore strength, to soothe stomach pains and to cure such ailments as boils.

In addition to drinking the pounded root, some people use kava leaves. Fumigation with the leaves is believed to treat general illnesses.

Macerated kava as well as external application of the masticated kava stump are other methods of cure, although drinking it in the traditional way is the most popular method of cure

Read more...

Traditional Purposes of kava ceremony

 

where to buy kavaKava can be found in recreational and social gatherings. It has been used as a social drink for high-ranking chiefs and elders, drank as a form of welcome for honored guests, consumed for preparation and completion of an event or of work, to validate status, observe births, marriages and deaths, to relieve stress, remedy illnesses etc.

In Hawaii, kava is drank during divination ceremonies, naming of children aged one years old, the consecrating of a male child, or initiating of young girls into traditional hula and chanting. In Tikopia, it affirms sacred symbols and can be used as a religious libation and poured onto the ground instead of drunk.

It is drank in kinship and chiefship rituals, for public atonement of misdeeds. Many people were pardoned for their crimes after a kava ceremony.

Read more...

Kava BackgroundWhen Europeans first made contact with the Pacific islands in the early 18th century, they found kava to play a central role in the islanders’ religious, political and social life (Lebot, 1992: 1). The natives chewed or pounded the root and mixed it with water to produce a brownish, often bitter brew, which they then consumed for its psychoactive properties. Captain Cook’s voyage to the Pacific in 1768-1771 may have produced the first account of white man encountering the plant and its consumption in sacred ceremonies. A number of writers and scholars have since described this plant and its properties, giving various theories of origin and explanations of use. Many writings examine the cultural role of kava. Questions such as how kava is affected by the introduction and use of alcohol, the commercialization and appropriation of kava and its use in foreign cultures are some issues that are of interest.

Read more...