Kava, or Piper Methysticum, is a plant grown in the Melanesian and Polynesian islands. First propagated in Vanuatu, kava travelled as a canoe plant and morphed into various types on islands in and around Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Hawai’i. Cultural and religious usage of kava dates back millennia. Kava is widely used today.

A fully grown Hawaiian ‘awa plant

The ‘awa custom is of interest in Hawai’i because

it was a sacred drink of importance in many

phases of Hawaiian life. Outside of water and

drinking coconut, no other drink was known.

-Margaret Titcomb, 1948

To compound the issue, the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act states that historical usage of a substance naturally denotes its status as a “generally recognized as safe” food. This site and group specifically focuses on Hawai’i and American Samoa because while the FDA is the regulatory authority over those jurisdictions, it also ignores their indigenous peoples’ historical usage of kava before 1958.

The basal stems and stump of a fully mature white Borogu kava plant.