Kava tea originates in the Pacific Islands and is centuries old. However, it reached the United States rather recently. The history of kava in the US has not been all positive, and it’s hard to provide a specific date on when it became popular here. That said, we’ll provide an overview of the history of this drink in the country.
When Kava Came to the Continental US
Explorers from the Pacific Islands brought the herb to Hawaii first. From there, it eventually made its way to the continental US. The herb was then available in pharmacies sometime during the early 20th century. It was available in various medicinal products to help treat various medical conditions, including nervousness, kidney disease, and gonorrhea. There was also some kava extract in the Sears Roebuck catalog in 1900. It was meant to function as to alternative to rum and other alcoholic drinks, and it was called temperance wine.
Kava’s Popularity in the 20th Century
Kava became extremely popular in the late 20th century, especially between 1997 and 1998. Various medical research and pharmaceutical companies’ interests contributed to its popularity. Specifically, a German study in 1996 of the effects of kava on anxiety patients helped skyrocket the sales of kava in the US.
Controversy Regarding Kava
The history of kava in the US took a negative turn soon after that. In 2001, there was an emerging concern about kava’s effects on liver toxicity. After that, the US, and other countries such as Australia and Germany, imposed regulations and restrictions on the use and sales of kava in the respective countries. The FDA and CDC also released advisory statements linking kava-based supplements with liver injury. However, this statement has been archived now.
The World Health Organization Declared That Kava Was Safe
The image of kava continued to stay tarnished for several years until 2015 when the World Health Organization declared that kava was safe and non-toxic to the liver. This ruling, along with other medical studies, brought kava back into the spotlight. Since then, various manufacturers have been securing and distributing kava in various products, including ground kava root, instant kava, kava pills, kava-based drinks, etc.
Kava bars have also started to become more prevalent throughout the country. The first one was established in 2002 in Boca Raton, Florida. For those that don’t know, kava bars are like regular bars, but they serve kava drinks instead of alcoholic beverages.
Last Few Words
There’s no doubt that the history of kava in the US has been a tumultuous one, but it’s good to see that the herb and its various products are back on the map—that too, positively.
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