The Kava Blog

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We will use this space to post stories and articles about kava culture, science and various kava experiences. Feel free to contact us if you have any suggestions for new posts.


Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is not meant to be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. What we present here is the literature we are familiar with and our own experiences related to the consumption of kava as a traditional beverage. If you do suffer from an illness, take any medications, require treatment or health advice, or have any other health concerns, you should consult your qualified health professional whether you can safely use kava.

Kava vs Kawakawa and the Maori memories of kava

By The Kava Society, Mar 19 2015 03:08AM

Many people wonder whether there is any connection between the Kawakawa plant (Piper excelsum) and Kava (Piper methysticum). The two plants do not only have similar names, but also look similar. Is this just a coincidence or are the two plants related and their similar names tell us something about the Maori knowledge about kava?

Dr Vincent Lebot, the author of "Kava: The Pacific Elixir: The Definitive Guide to Its Ethnobotany, History, and Chemistry" (a truly excellent book) argues that in all likelihood the kava plant was known to the first settlers of Aotearoa. It is also possible that (just like the Polynesian migrants that settled in Hawaii) the Maori explorers brought some kava with them. Unfortunately, most of New Zealand is simply too cold for growing kava and hence the Maori settlers lost their connection to the sacred plant. However, some traces of the memories of kava drinking have survived.

According to Dr Lebot: "In New Zealand, where the climate is too cold for kava, the Maori gave the name kawa-kawa to another Piperaceae, M. excelsum, in memory of the kava plants they undoubtedly brought with them and unsuccessfully attempted to cultivate. The Maori word kawa also means "ceremonial protocol", recalling the stylized consumption of the drug typical of Polynesian societies".

Kawakawa is related to kava, but unlike its tropic cousin, it doesn't have the famous relaxing properties. However, it has traditionally been used for various medicinal and practical purposes. According to Te Papa Museum: "Kawakawa has been recorded as being used internally to tone the kidneys and help with stomach problems. Externally it was used for cuts, wounds, boils, abscesses, and nettle stings. It was also used for rheumatism and other aches and pains including toothache. When kawakawa is thrown on a campfire and burnt it reputedly keeps mosquitoes away."

Kawakawa leaves (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Nov 9 2016 03:52AM by Rachael Clouston

What is KawaKawa i need to find out some stuff about it

May 9 2017 03:40AM by Ric

Are there any medical studies on its medicinal uses? Seems similar to comfrey (knitbone). Thanks for the info!

Sep 9 2017 10:18PM by Dan rivers

When you chew the kawa kawa leaf it actually tastes a little like the woody taste of kava. My tongue became slightly numb. Very similar.

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