Kava is a beverage or extract made from the Piper methysticum plant. In the South Pacific, it’s a popular drink that is used in ceremonies for relaxation.
The name kava comes from the Polynesian word “awa,” which means bitter. Kava affects the brain and other parts of the central nervous system. Chemicals called kavalactones that are found in kava are believed to be responsible for its effects.
People commonly use kava for anxiety. It’s also used for stress, withdrawal from drugs called benzodiazepines, sleeping problems, and many other purposes.