I was an adventurous kid, with parents involved in both eastern and western medicine, so I grew up experimenting with all kinds of uncommon ways of self-mending. Homeopathic pellets for headaches, essential oil on my feet for sleep, moxibustion for sore muscles... Hanging out in health food stores for fun was basically my M.O.
One herbal remedy I encountered early on was kava kava—a bitter root reported to calm anxiety. The psychoactive plant is native to the western Pacific, where communities in Polynesia have been drinking it in tea form for thousands of years. Kava bars have long been popular in Hawaii, but only recently have they started popping up on the mainland. Last spring, N.Y.C. got its first few, one of which is Brooklyn Kava in Bushwick, close enough to make me a regular.