Kava

Kava is a drug made from the roots of a type of pepper plant (called Piper methysticum) that grows in the Pacific Islands ref=31403. The roots of the pepper plant are ground up or crushed and added to water and then drunk. The kava drink is traditionally used for cultural events in the Pacific Islands and drunk as part of a ceremony ref=17504. Kava was introduced to the Aboriginal people in northern Australia as an alternative to alcohol in the 1980s.

The chemicals contained in kava, called kava lactones, are absorbed in the stomach and travel in the bloodstream to the brain. The kava lactones have a painkilling, numbing effect which also relaxes the muscles, much like alcohol ref=4969. The strength of the kava drink can vary greatly depending on the variety of plant used and how it is prepared.

Some people who use kava regularly over a long period of time may experience health issues such as:

  • scaly skin rash
  • sore red eyes
  • loss of body fat (losing weight)
  • increased risk of infections
  • liver damage ref=31403.

Taking kava with other drugs, including prescribed medicines, can be dangerous and cause serious side-effects ref=31403.

Kava is not grown or produced in Australia. The import, advertising and sale of kava in Australia are strictly controlled under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations Act and it can only be imported into Australia for medical or scientific reasons ref=31403. When travelling to Australia, people over the age of 18 years are allowed to bring up to 2kg of kava in their luggage. However, restrictions in Western Australia and the Northern Territory mean that kava cannot be brought into these jurisdictions.

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Ngurlu Jukurrpa (Native Seed Dreaming) by Linny Nampijinpa Frank

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