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Ariana Yett '21

From Plant to Product: the Circulation, Transformation and Extraction of Kava (Piper methysticum)

While kava (Piper methysticum), a mild narcotic typically consumed for its sedative properties, has been consumed in the South Pacific for centuries, it has recently gained international attention for its potential therapeutic properties. Although global consumers have expressed an interest in the benefits of kava, corporations have fundamentally transformed the good into new types of products. More specifically, targeting consumers predominantly located in the US, New Zealand, and Australia who are interested in alleviating stress and anxiety, private companies have transformed kava into products including: lotions, edible chocolates and candies, and dietary supplements. Focusing on these changes, this project sheds light on the inequality of the global market and the forces shaping it.