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Reprinted with permission from the book From Magic to Medicine                  Alphabetical Herb List

KAVA- KAVA (Piper Methysticum Rhizoma)

Thought to have originated in the south Pacific (New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu). It is a member of the pepper family. A dioecious bush which grows to two feet high. The rhizome is bitter, pungent and has a numbing effect.

Kava kava is fast acting because it is absorbed into the gastrointestinal tract. It has been reported that extended use can cause yellow discoloration of the skin, nails and hair.

The root of the plant is typically used as a poultice to relieve pain and muscle spasms and when taken as a tea it is known to induce sleep and calm nerves. It has been used by island natives as a ceremonial drink to produce euphoric feelings (tranquil intoxication in which thoughts and memory remain clear). Reported side effects are elevated mood, lively speech and increased sensitivity to sounds.

Used in the past to treat ailments of the genitourinary tract such as gonorrhea, vaginitis, leucorrhoea, nocturnal incontinence, menopausal symptoms and some skin disorders. Today, it is used to alleviate anxiety/stress, insomnia and restlessness. May be a possible alternative to synthetic anxiolytics, tricyclic antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Can be used to relax the brain and relieve headaches without significant side effects like Valium and Xanax. Used in Hawaii to treat asthma. Also, used as an anti-septic, stimulant, diuretic, diaphoretic and aphrodisiac.

In general, Kava is considered to be a muscle relaxant, anti-convulsive, antispasmodic due to chemical pyrones.

The main active ingredient is kavalactone (organic compound which contains oxygen). Dosage is typically 180 milligrams to 210 milligrams of kavalactones.

CAUTION: According to medical researchers at the Harvard Medical School, drinking tea made from Kava- Kava can cause deafness, intoxification of the central nervous system, lack of muscle coordination and cause a desire to sleep. Kava usage may impair motor reflexes and judgment. Do not operate heavy machinery or drive.

The FDA announced on 02,22,98 that it found 16 dietary supplements as risky. Kava was listed with a warning that it “can potentiate the effects of alcohol and certain psychological medications”.


KELP (Fucus vesiculosus) Also called ... "bladderwrack", "seawrack" and "kelpware". It is found in coastal waters of the Atlantic ocean. It has been used as a food source and medication. It is commonly used to assist in weight loss, hypothyroidism and rheumatism. Kelp is rich in the mineral "iodine" that is required for the manufacture of thyroxine by the thyroid gland.

CAUTION: Consult with your health care provider if you have a thyroid problem because kelp may interfere with other medications that you are taking. Also, do not take anything when pregnant without consultation. Generally, it is non-toxic.

DOSAGE: When in the form of a dried herb ... up to five grams three times daily is used (depending on iodine content).


Also called ... "cola" and "cola nut". A stimulant of the central nervous system. It is an astringent, diuretic and antidepressant. Contains caffeine.

KOMBUCHA (Fungus Japonicus)

Sometimes referred to as kombucha tea ... it is an ancient health remedy that has been around for at least 2,000 years. Often called a “mushroom” it is actually a colony of yeast and bacteria resembling a “jelly fish”-like pancake.

Originally used in China to relieve problems of digestion. Testimonials abound and advocates claim it can reduce the symptoms of arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis, shingles and AIDS. Also, it is purported to decrease the grayness of hair, increase energy levels, help prevent weight gain and excessive alcohol desire.

People typically brew their own supplies, which involves a 7-10 day fermentation process. The drink tastes like carbonated cider and has between 0.5 and 1% alcohol content.

Since kombucha is not considered a food or a drug, studies have been limited. This writer has been brewing and drinking approximately eight ounces a day for the past one-year with the following results. Prior to taking commencing the taking of kombucha tea I was having terrible eye pain upon waking in the morning. This had been going on for approximately two months and could occur as often as five time a week. Upon investigating the symptoms I found out that I probably was experiencing glaucoma ... Since I have not had to go to a doctor for the previous 25 years I decided to cure myself. After hearing about kombucha tea I began brewing it and never again experienced the eye pain. Also, I do not have excess earwax anymore. Previously, I would get acne when the weather would change from season-to-season. Since drinking kombucha daily I have never had another bout with acne.

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