Kava is an herb from the Pacific islands. The ground roots give up relaxing compounds and has been sold in the United States for a long time with Sears selling it in their catalog as early as 1900. "Genteel ladies" who bought the extract as an alternative to "demon rum" were given a free tea set.
Until the 1950s Kava was included in the U.S. Pharmacopoea which is the official collection of approved medicines.
In 1765 Captain Cook was probably the first white man to be offered Kava -- and he didn't like the taste.
The kava root is ground by natives and mixed with a little water. The mixture is then squeezed and strained into a coconut shell and drunk.
The compounds contained in kava relax tense muscles and work on the anxiety centers of the brain so the result is a pleasant feeling of relaxation.
Late afternoon in the islands is "Kava time" and goes back at least 3000 years. Kava time is a dialy opportunity for the community to get together, relax and share with each other the events of their day and over the years many non-natives have enjoyed kava time. British royals, politicians and diplomats and even Pope John Paul have enjoyed drinking kava with the natives.
A boom in sales occurred in 1996. Articles and features in a variety of news outlets sent sales soaring in both the U.S. and Europe.
Later the same year, Chris Kilham, a medicine hunter, wrote a book titled Kava, Medicine Hunting in Paradise. Following the release of Kilham's book, hundreds of companies starting putting out kava-based products.