kava kava explained

Kava is a beverage or extract that is made from Piper methysticum, a plant native to the western Pacific islands. The name “kava” comes from the Polynesian word “awa,” which means bitter. In the South Pacific, It is a popular social drink, similar to alcohol in Western societies.

How does Kava work?

Kava affects the brain and other parts of the central nervous system. The kava-lactones in are believed to be responsible for its effects.

What are the effects on the body?

Studies suggest kavalactones may have the following effects on the body:

  • Reduce nervousness
  • Protect neurons from damage
  • Reduce nervousness sensations
  • Reduce the risk of cancer, though the evidence is limited to mice
  • Helps your sleep

What are some forms of Kava (how can you consume it)?

Kava Tea

Tea is the most common method of taking it for discomfort, as it’s readily available.

It’s sold alone or alongside other herbs touted to promote relaxation and brewed using hot water.

Be sure to find teas that list the kavalactone content, as well as other ingredients.

Avoid teas that list the ingredients as “proprietary blends.” With these products, you won’t know how much kava you’re getting.

Kava Tincture or Liquid

This is a liquid form of kava sold in small bottles ranging in size from 2–6 ounces (59–177 ml). You can take it with a dropper or mix it into juice or another drink to cover its whiskey-like taste.

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It’s important to only take a small dose, as the kavalactones are concentrated, making kava tincture and kava liquid more potent than other forms.

Kava Capsules

Those who don’t like the taste of kava can take it in capsule form.

As with kava tea, look for products that list the kavalactone content. For example, one capsule may contain 100 mg of root extract that is standardized to contain 30% kavalactones.

Knowing this information will help you avoid consuming too much or too little kavalactones.

What is the recommended dose one should take?

Experts recommend that your daily intake of kavalactones does not exceed 250 mg (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).

An effective dose of kavalactones is 70–250 mg (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).

Kava supplements may list kavalactones in milligrams or as a percentage. If the content is listed as a percentage, you will need to calculate the amount of kavalactones it contains.

For example, if one capsule contains 100 mg of kava root extract and is standardized to contain 30% kavalactones, it will contain 30 mg of kavalactones (100 mg x 0.30 = 30 mg).

To reach an effective dose within the range of 70–250 mg of kavalactones, you would need to take at least three capsules of this particular supplement.

Most extracts of kava root contain 30–70% kavalactones (3Trusted Source). So it sounds a lot like kratom, huh? There are many similarities between the two. Read this articlefor a great comparison of the two.


  • Camille Quintin

    Camille Quintin is a trained health professional with over ten years of experience in medical service delivery, basic science, and applied clinical research. She aims for the highest quality results to help professionals raise awareness with critical health literature. Her medical and health writing experience includes working with researchers at various European Universities and research organizations to assist in preparing articles for publication in international journals.

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