What Is Kava?

What Is Kava?

What is Kava?

The kava plant (piper methysticum) is a shrub that commonly grows in the South Pacific Islands. Most notably those islands are Fiji, Solomon, Vanuatu, The Kingdom of Tonga and Hawaii. There are an estimated 105 varieties of kava kava. Kava plants are typically allowed to grow 3 to 5 years before harvest. This allows the kava to mature and also allows the kavalactones to fully develop. Kavalactones are part of the kava plant that give kava its beneficial mind and body relaxation effects. Kava grows to about 6 feet tall. As the kava ages, the stalks thicken and the root will eventually reach a depth around 2 feet deep. The root and stump of the plant is dried (or left green in some cases) and pound down to make an all natural Ingredient. This pounded kava will produce a non-alcoholic beverage, that when consumed, the kavalactones will produce muscle and mental relaxation. Some call this beverage kava kava tea, but this is technically incorrect. Tea, or tisanes are prepared using near boiling hot water, steeped for a period of time. Kavalactones are not water soluble (they are fat soluble however). So the pounded kava kava root is usually prepared by kneading using a cheesecloth, a bowl in water for about 10 minutes. This helps to coax out the kavalactones into the liquid. Adding a fat such as coconut milk will help this process significantly. 

What Are the Effects of Drinking Kava?

Consuming prepared kava offers a lot of benefits*. Prepared kava root drinks provide relaxation of the mind and body, while inducing a feeling of calm and euphoria. Therefore it’s ideal to use for social relaxation, reduces stress, reduces anxiety, relaxes muscles and helps to get a good night's sleep. 

Many vendors put their FDA notes at the bottom. We love transparency so we put it up top where applicable. If there is any question at all about how your body may react to the use of kava with other medications you're taking, the best advice we can give you is to talk to your doctor. Your doctor may have to adjust certain medications for use in interaction with kava and have other insights into your current medical situation than we do as retailers. At the end of the day, you're taking kava for a reason. We want to see any of our customers who use kava better off than you started. 

*FDA Statement Note: None of the statements about Kava effects have been evaluated by the FDA. This information and our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Before starting a dietary supplement, it’s always wise to check with a medical doctor to find out which is the best kava variety for you. It is especially important for people who are: pregnant or breastfeeding, chronically ill, elderly, under 18, taking prescription or over-the-counter medicines. None of the information is intended to be an enticement to purchase and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. Herbal products contain phytochemicals that are not ordinarily found in typical food sources and may produce physiologic effects. Indiscriminate use of any herbal product is not recommended except under the direction of trained health care professionals. In addition, there may be drug interactions that may produce reactions or interfere with the efficacy of prescription medication.

How Kava Works

The combination of kavalactones (described above) are what create the calming effects of kava root. There are about 18 kavalactones that we know about. Six of these kavalactones provide the majority of those active ingredients. The combined mixture of kavalactones, from strongest to weakest is called the Chemotype. Different varieties of kava have different chemotypes. Further, the stump and the lateral roots will typically have different chemotypes. Which means a prepared kava beverage from two different parts of the plant will produce different effects. Some chemotype mixes are more uplifting and great for drinking in the daytime. Others are fantastic for drinking in the nighttime and used as a sleep aid.

Kava Side Effects

Good Kava Has No Hangovers

Noble kava will not create hangovers. There are two categories of kava that both contain many types. Noble and Tudei. Tudei will have an effect like it sounds, two day. This means that there is a potential for a kava hangover. Typically you will only find high quality Noble kava available in the market. Tudei is mostly reserved for traditional ceremonies in certain parts of the south pacific. Noble however won’t increase the toxins in your body that lead to headaches and hangovers. Kava won’t impair your cognitive abilities or mental clarity in the same way alcohol does, however it may lead to issues with coordination. It boosts mood and tends to make people more talkative while maintaining rational thought. None of the downsides of alcohol that make people aggressive and depressed. In fact, if you consume a lot of kava, typically you will be very sedate and fall asleep. Because of the sleepiness and coordination issues, it’s still recommended that you don’t drive after drinking kava.

Kava is Non-Addictive

Kava is also proven to be non-addictive. Drinking kava has been shown consistently to be non habit forming. You will also not build up a tolerance. Typically people have to consume more and more of a substance as time of use goes by. This is the opposite with kava. The more consistently you consume it, the beneficial effects will be felt more, with less kava consumed. 

Kava and Potential Liver Toxicity

Typically when a person finds out about something new that may help them, they head to the internet to find websites, blog posts and articles to substantiate or debunk information they’ve gathered. As you research kava, you will likely stumble upon research that led to kava possibly causing liver toxicity further leading to the ban of kava in Switzerland and Germany. The bans were subsequently reversed in 2015 after a growing number of new research questioned those early findings. The new research showed that cases of liver toxicity attributed to kava happened when the person was also taking other drugs and medications known to negatively affect liver function or were consuming contaminated kava

Sadly, this information still dominates online and take away from the more up to date university conducted research studies that give us a better understanding of kavas effects

The national library of medicine said “based on reported cases, the estimated frequency of clinically apparent liver injury due to kava is less than 1:1,000,000 daily doses”. So the likelihood of negative health side effects from drinking kava is small.

Noble vs. Tudei Varieties

Lab tested kava is the only kava you should be looking at when deciding on a purchase. With Noble kava varieties being the one you will want to buy.  As explained in less detail above, Noble and Tudei kava are the two main categories. Tudei, like the name sounds, will have hangover and nausea effects that will last into the second day (two day). This kava is used as a ceremonial or for medicinal purposes. 

At Art of Kava we only sell kava we lab test by the batch. Our noble kava is sourced directly from farmers in the South Pacific so we know the quality from start to finish.

Heady, Heavy, and Balanced

Within these two main categories, over 100 kava cultivars have been identified. Based on their effects they are subcategorized into three groups: Heady, Heavy and Balanced. 

Heady: Mental or heady effects will be relaxing, mood boosting, make you feel happy or euphoric. This is a calmer, more sociable kava.

Heavy: Will make your body's limbs feel heavy, relax your muscles and calm your mind. These are sedative kavas that will work well as a sleep aid. 

Balanced: As the name suggests, this is a balance of heavy and heady. You have the mental and physical relaxation effects of both with less of the sedative effect. You can drink these throughout the day.

Kava Culture

On the islands of the South Pacific, there is a long history of consuming kava. It is embedded deep in the culture of Fiji, Vanuatu, The Kingdom of Tonga and Hawaii. 

Since 2010, kava has grown to be much more popular worldwide as people discover its unique benefits and history. Kava bars are opening all over the United States. Find a kava bar on google by searching kava bar near me and you will likely find one or one that is opening soon. 


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