What is kava (Piper Methysticum) ? Kava is a plant, from the same family as the plants that give us black pepper, but generally speaking, most people aren’t really thinking about a plant when they’re talking about, “kava”. Really, kava is a drink, and just like most other plants that are made into drinks, only particular parts of the plant are used – in the case of kava, it’s the roots, which is fitting, because kava has been at the “root” of Pacific Island culture for millennia.
Traditionally, roots were chewed up by select members of indigenous tribes and the resulting outflow of saliva was expelled into a communal wooden cauldron, or “kava bowl”, (known as a “natambea” in Vanuatu, widely believed to be the cultural and biological birthplace of kava as we know it today, or a “tanoa” to drinkers of Samoan and Fijian kava, as well as at many kava bars in New Zealand, Australia, and throughout the world).
Men from the village would gather around the natambea to consume this enchanting elixir from polished coconuts, or “shells”, at important ceremonies, to discuss significant local events, make vital decisions, or generally “shoot the shit”. Women were forbidden, although plenty of them must have experienced the same effects of kava (Piper Methysticum) consumption as the men, having just chewed mouthful after mouthful of roots, and no doubt absorbing their ample share of the active constituents which to this day draw fanatics, adventurers, afficionados, and enlightened individuals the world over to this fascinating beverage.
What has changed?
Fortunately, a lot has changed over the past few decades, with women now welcome partakers, and most kava, at least that served to the general public, no longer mixed in the mouths of local tribespeople before consumption; The overwhelming majority of kava drinkers these days prefer to mix the pre-powdered roots with warm water, rather than the spit of their mates, but no judgement from us if you prefer to stick to traditional methods… just let me make my own bowl, please.
So why would anyone want to drink a bowl of dirty looking water, traditionally filled with other people’s saliva and chewed up roots, even if it’s a lot cleaner and more palatable these days? Because almost everyone who gets into it would agree that the effects feel fantastic!
Historically, there were a lot of other properties of kava believed to contribute greatly to a well-lived life, but for us, and for most people – it’s that groovy chilled-out buzz that brings us back time and again for shells of kava with friends.
What the Science World Says?
Although we don’t make any claims about medicinal properties of kava ourselves, hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers have scrutinised countless details of the major psychoactive constituents, or “kavalactones”, and we can say that they are certainly worth the read and worthy of your continued investigation.
If you’re interested in knowing how or why certain compounds contained in kava might get so many scientists excited about the incredible potential of this natural product, you can check out some of the links around our website or come back here for updates as time goes on.
The Joy of Kava (Piper Methysticum)
As stated, it’s the feeling that kava gives to its imbiber which is the reason to drink it, not for any of the many reported potential benefits that you can find out for yourself with a dive into the scientific literature. The scientific name, Piper methysticum, is based on Greek and Latin origins, and essentially translates to, “intoxicating pepper”; If that doesn’t sound like an intriguing feeling worth experiencing, you might be living a bit too sheltered life for this, and that’s ok – every joy in your life isn’t going to be a joy for everyone else, and everyone responds differently to different substances – we know there must be at least a few weirdos out there that aren’t down with this awesome gift from mother nature, but if you haven’t tried it yet, you’ve likely been missing out on something that countless others swear is amazing and absolutely worthwhile.