Kava is both the common name and the beverage made from the root of Piper methysticum (family Piperaceae). Kava is native to Oceania, the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean, where it is used as a ritual drink.
This is a shrub about 6 feet high. The leaves are alternate, cordate, with a wavy, entire margin, and an abrupt, acute point. The petiole is about an inch long, dilated at the base, and furnished with linear, erect stipules. The veins are prominent, about 12, diverging from the base of the leaf-blade. The flowers are small, apetalous, and arranged on slender spikes. Those bearing male flowers are axillary and solitary. The female spikes are numerous. Female flowers are especially rare and do not produce fruit even when hand-pollinated. Its cultivation is entirely by propagation from stem cuttings.
Kava is consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia for its sedating effects. Kava is an anxiolytic herbal medicine used in the treatment of sleep and anxiety disorders. Some cases of kava-induced hepatotoxicity have been reported in the literature leading to its banishment in most countries worldwide.