Piper methysticum is known by many indigenous names throughout the Pacific. Among the most well known are ‘awa in Hawaii, kava in Tonga, sakau in Pohnpei, and yoqona in Fiji. Outside of the Pacific region, it is commonly known as kava. The greatest genetic diversity of kava is in Melanesia, especially Vanuatu which is considered the most likely place of origin. Kava was carried throughout the Pacific by ancient voyaging societies.
The most important kava product continues to be the traditional beverage made from the roots and stump of the plant. Modern pharmaceutical uses are based on the psychoactive properties of the kavalactones. Because of its use in modern and alternative medicines, kava has become a valuable cash crop in the Pacific. However, much of what is produced is still consumed locally. Most production occurs in Vanuatu, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Pohnpei, and Hawaii.
Below are links to comprehensive or overview resources on this crop.
For links on specific topics, select the appropriate category from the list on the left.
Didn't find the kava information you were looking for?
Email your question to the reference librarian
Last updated 29 October 2012
© University of Hawaii at Manoa