Overview

Kava is a beverage or extract that is made from Piper methysticum, a plant native to the western Pacific islands. The name "kava" comes from the Polynesian word "awa," which means bitter. In the South Pacific, kava is a popular social drink, similar to alcohol in Western societies.

There are some BIG safety concerns about kava. Many cases of liver damage and even some deaths have been traced to kava use. As a result, kava has been banned from the market in Europe and Canada. This ban has hurt the economies of Pacific Island countries that export kava. Despite health concerns, kava has not been taken off the U.S. market.

Some people take kava by mouth to calm anxiety, stress, and restlessness, and to treat sleeping problems (insomnia). It is also used for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), withdrawal from benzodiazepine drugs, epilepsy, psychosis, depression, migraines and other headaches, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), common cold and other respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis, muscle pain, and cancer prevention.

Some people also take kava by mouth for urinary tract infections (UTIs), pain and swelling of the uterus, venereal disease, menstrual discomfort, and to increase sexual desire.

Kava is applied to the skin for skin diseases including leprosy, to promote wound healing, and as a painkiller. It is also used as a mouthwash for canker sores and toothaches.

Kava is also consumed as a beverage in ceremonies to promote relaxation.

How does it work ?

Kava affects the brain and other parts of the central nervous system. The kava-lactones in kava are believed to be responsible for its effects.

CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

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