Kava plant

The Queen drinking kava


Kava is a Pacific shrub (Piper methysticum) whose dried rhizome and roots are ground, grated and steeped in water to produce a non-alcoholic drink whose consumption is part of ceremonial occasions such as weddings and which is offered to important visitors such as Queen Elizabeth II of England, Pope John Paul II and to Hillary Clinton, wife of the former American president, on visits to Fiji and Hawaii. Consumption of a significant amount of Kava is said to result in "a state of paralysis of the lower limbs and musculature", leading to several hours' dreamless sleep ("and no hangover"). The principal psychoactive compounds are a group of lactones generically known as kavalactones, three of which are shown.