By Zane Yoshida

Kava Culture: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Kava

As kava culture becomes more popular around the world, people become more acquainted with its history and its usage.

But there are still some elements of our enigmatic root that surprise people. Here are a few things you may not know…

  1. It was chewed by virgins

Kava has been an important part of Fijian culture for many centuries. This was the case well before Europeans arrived in the South Pacific. As part of the traditional preparation of kava, the fresh root was required to be peeled and chewed by young virgin girls before it was mixed with water and fermented in the tanoa (kava bowl). It was then served by women – who were not allowed to drink it.

  1. Kava is related to pepper

The full name of the plant bearing the roots that make kava is piper methysticum, which is a member of the pepper family that also includes black pepper. Only the root is used in making kava – no leaves or stem. While it won’t make you sneeze, it will produce a pleasant numbing and relaxing effect!

  1. It’s been used in the Vatican

Kava has made it round most of the world, but there are some places you would not expect it to make an appearance. Believe it or not, there has been a kava session in the Vatican. A group of travelers from the Pacific arranged this towards the end of 2015; but perhaps we should not be too surprised at this – considering Pope John Paul II sampled a shell of kava in Fiji in 1986.

  1. It’s been used as a medicine for centuries

Pacific islanders have used kava as medicine through the ages. You probably know about its use in anxiety relief, stress relief, and insomnia; but did you know that it has been used to combat a wide range of health problems such as arthritis pain and muscle tension, rheumatism, genito-urinary tract infections, asthma, worms and parasites, headaches, and various skin diseases?

  1. Your ‘kava drink’ may not contain much kava

As the relaxation beverage industry takes off, there are many drinks now available that are touted as ‘kava drinks’. The truth is that they may not contain much kava – check ingredients for melatonin, valerian, and tryptophan, which may be added with kava.

The wild world of kava contains many surprises – how many of the above did you know?