- Kava is Polynesian for bitter, pungent, sour, sourish. The name is used to denote a drink with allegedly mild * hallucinogenic properties which is brewed from the root, leaves, and stem of Piper methysticum, a pepper plant from the Piper-aceae family which is indigenous to Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. Kava is considered the most important psychoactive substance in these regions. Its psychoactive constituents are believed to be kavalactone and other substances belonging to the group of the kavapyrones. In Oceania kava has been used as an * entheogen since ancient times as part of a social-status ritual. The use of high doses of kava is not without risk, in view of reports in the literature of kava-induced chronic liver cirrhosis, acute hepatitis, and acute liver failure, in some cases requiring a liver transplantation. But kava in lower doses is a common beverage on many South Sea islands, comparable to tea or coffee. In the older literature kava is reported to have significant hallucinogenic powers, resulting in * scenic hallucinations, erotic *visions, and *kinaesthetic hallucinations (notably the illusory feeling of flying). However, today these effects are generally attributed to the additives reportedly used in earlier kava rituals. Kava is now regarded as a substance with predominantly sedative and anaesthetic properties, comparable to a mild variant of cannabis.ReferencesJones, A.L., Dargan, P.I. (2005). Hepatotoxicity of plants. Clinical Toxicology, 44, 463-464.La Barre, W. (1975). Anthropological perspectives on hallucination and hallucinogens. In: Hallucinations. Behavior, experience, and theory. Edited by Siegel, R.K., West, L.J. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.Rätsch, Chr. (2005). The encyclopedia of psy-choactive plants. Ethnopharmacology and its applications. Translated by Baker, J.R. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.
Dictionary of Hallucinations. J.D. Blom. 2010.
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