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.
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
The United States of America’s Food and Drug Administration has leadership in the World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius Commission. This group has been working since 2016 to establish kava as a safe beverage when mixed with water. In 2020, the WHO voted to approve standards to identify kava’s usage. The FDA agreed with these worldwide standards, but now refuses to adopt them in the United States.
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.
Kava is widely used throughout the South Pacific and its popularity is growing quickly in the western world. With hundreds of kava bars and retailers carrying kava, it’s quickly becoming known as a relaxing alternative to alcohol that carries none of the same risk. Even with these large movements within the kava industry, the FDA has ignored 20 years of research negating findings in the original German studies that falsely attributed kava to liver damage in the early 2000’s. Kava is safe.