Joy of Kava Coming out of Malaita

buy kavaIs it possible that the export of kava from the South Pacific is moving and growing beyond its current trade centers? It appears as though it might be! North Malaita of the Solomon Islands has sent batches of kava from two of their northern kava farms to Vanuatu for testing, and if the test comes back with the right information then Malaita can become a member of the kava export group [3].

I cannot tell you how much all of my being is jittering with excitement! If Malaita’s plan goes through this means that the kava trade is growing and farmers of kava are reaping the benefits in these regions – places that have traditionally been suffering from a lack of export interest from abroad. Malaita is a mountainous and unexploited tropical island in the South Pacific – with the largest population out of the Solomon Islands. Given the size of Malaita’s populace, export agreements like those surrounding the export of kava could prove to be incredibly beneficial to the island’s people [4].

According to Noel Roposo – the chief field officer of the marketing unit in the agricultural planning division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) – the samples were sent to the Republic of Vanuatu for a potentially valuable laboratory testing [3].

What exactly is being tested for? It’s not quite clear – there is not much information currently available, but the results of the test are to be returned to MAL in the near future – so we will probably have more information for you then! As Roposo says, “At the moment, we are awaiting response from Vanuatu, before we can see whether we can take the matter to the next level” [3].

However, I have a hunch that it has to do with ensuring compliance with “The Kava Act” – a body of law that was enacted to ensure that the safety and other regulatory conditions of kava coming out of Vanuatu are respected [2]. In 2002 the Vanuatan government enacted The Kava Act to regulate the sales and cultivation of kava – it was brought about in response to the accusations that kava ingestion was leading to hepatotoxicity [1].

It’s probably safe to assume then that the Malaita kava is being sent to Vanuatu to ensure that the strains of kava coming from the northern farms are in compliance with those legal standards. Additionally, some strains of kava – such as Tudei kava – have been implicated in the hepatotoxicity cases as a possible cause of the issue [1].   So, it would seem that the Vanuatu laboratories are going to be testing the Malaita kava to ensure its strain is pure and of an export-worthy kind.

Currently the South Pacific regions that dominate the kava export market are Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga – collectively contributing over US $200 million to the South Pacific economies through their well-established kava farms [5]. Thankfully, there is a strong community mentality amongst the islands and they are helping others like Malaita gain their stake in the kava export market as well – over all, contributing to the fiscal health of the South Pacific.

It’s incredible how kava has been pretty much unheard of on the Internet in any major news or broadcast circles and then this story surfaces – a report about the ongoing growth and expansion of the kava export trade. It’s truly wonderful, and I think it was completely worth the wait!


Kava Guru


1. INSIDER T.V. “New Science May Boost Kava Market”.

2. Lebot and Patricia Simeoni. “Identification of factors determining kavalactone content and chemotype in Kava (Piper methysticum)”.

3. Soloman Star. “MAL sends Mala Kava for lab test in Vanuatu”.

4. Wikipedia. “Malaita”.

5. World Trade Organization. “The Pacific Island Nations: Toward Shared Representation


Are Kava Tea Bags Effective?

Dear Kava Guru,

Are kava tea bags any good?




I know of several ways to answer this question, depending on what exactly you mean by “good”; if it comes down to asking are kava tea bags effective, or do kava tea bags work, I can say without hesitation that they certainly can be quite relaxing! Like any kava beverage, getting the most out of kava tea bags lies in how you prepare them as well as making sure you have quality raw material to start with. Kava tea bags may not be as strong as fresh-brewed kava—of course, few things are!—but many people still enjoy kava tea immensely. One advantage of going the kava tea route is that these products often blend kava extract with yummy flavorings to help ease the kava newcomer into a more welcoming taste experience. After all, drinking kava shouldn’t just be about the physical effects; sensual elements such as taste, smell, and mouth feel are important too!

The most popular kava tea I know of is Yogi Tea’s “Kava Stress Relief”, which the folks over at Kava Dot Com are now offering on their marketplace! Kava Stress Relief combines kava extract (this is crucial!) with flavoring ingredients like carob pod, Indian sarsparilla, cinnamon bark, cardamom, and ginger root. Sounds tasty, right? While the Kava Guru has not yet tried Yogi’s kava tea—I prefer my kava kava “straight” if you know what I mean—apparently many people like the way the spice ingredients mellow out the earthy, peppery taste of kava. One review described it this way: “There is just a burst of amazing flavors and spices that come out of this tea. Downing something is not healthy. If you’re consuming something for everything but taste, then you’re doing it wrong. I enjoy this tea because it goes down nice and smooth and has a pleasant aftertaste.”

I absolutely agree with this philosophy when it comes to kava—or any substance with a physiological effect, such as coffee, tea, or wine. It should be about the holistic experience of consumption, in which taste, smell, and mouth feel are as important as the eventual effects. Especially with a relatively subtle herb like kava, I believe that working patiently with it rather than slamming a glass of kava hoping for an instant effect is the best way to discover kava’s many joys.

That said—do kava tea bags work? This is really the crux of any kava supplement: if you aren’t using the whole kava root but rather a capsule, powder mix or tea, you absolutely have to make sure the supplement contains a kava extract—not just the dried and powdered root. Without some form of extraction, plain powdered root will not be physiologically active. To be effective, a kava supplement product should contain at least 70 milligrams of kavalactones, the active relaxing and anxiolytic constituents of kava. According to the information I could find, Yogi tea bags contain 78 mg of a peeled kava root extract, plus 23.4 mg of a 30% kavalactone extract. Since the kava root extract itself is not 100% kavalactone (the typical range is 60-70%), this means that the maximum kavalactone content of the tea would be 78 mg, and could be in the lower range of 70.2 mg. In other words, one tea bag would contain about the minimum effective dose of kavalactones for the average person. This can definitely be an effective dose for some, but it will probably not be strong enough for others depending on each individual body’s unique tolerance. The instructions on the box even say to use two tea bags for a stronger effect if desired.

However—a weaker brew isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t know about you, but in the Kava Guru’s opinion not every experience with kava has to be a 15-hour nakamal session with a hard-hitting Vanuatu brew. Kava tea bags might be the perfect option if you just want to relax of an evening, take the edge off after a stressful day, or get into a relaxed, focused state before work or to dive into a creative project. A gentle kava tea is also an excellent beverage option for those mornings when you anticipate a stressful day ahead: the lower dosage of kavalactones can lessen your anxiety while still leaving you alert.

If you decide to try kava tea bags, I’ve included a couple tips for you to get the most out of your kava tea experience. Yogi recommends pouring boiling water over 1-2 tea bags and steeping 5-10 minutes, but I would highly recommend using cooler water—the general opinion is that water heated above 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 Celsius) may degrade the kavalactones and diminish their efficacy. However, Kava Dot Com’s experiments with heating kava suggest that this temperature ceiling can be stretched a bit without harming the kavalactones, as long as you don’t actually boil the kava. What you might do is heat water to just under boiling—say, to 176 Fahrenheit/80 Celsius, the same temperature used for green tea. Especially if you add a fatty liquid such as milk during the steeping process, this temperature will be enough to extract the kavalactones so that you can get the most out of your kava tea bags!


Kava Guru

What Are Some Non-Kavalactone Compounds in Kava?

Dear Kava Guru,

What are some compounds in kava root besides kavalactones?


Reno, NV

By now, you’ve probably heard me gush enough about kavalactones to know that these relaxing, anxiolytic compounds are a big part of what makes kava such a joy to consume. Yet as it turns out, there is actually quite a diverse range of chemical constituents in kava root: beside the six main kavalactones—kavain, dihydrokavain, yangonin, desmethyoxyyangonin, methysticin, and dihydromethysticin—there are many subsidiary kavalactones that occur in much smaller amounts, as well as a totally different class of compounds called chalconoids [1]. Chalconoids are probably the most interesting compounds in kava, besides kavalactones of course. Otherwise known as flavokavains or flavokawains, scientists are starting to realize that the chalconoid compounds in kava have biological actions in the body, and have started to study their effects. There’s even a possibility that the kava market could see a resurgence in demand specifically for flavokavain A, which has been demonstrated to target some types of cancerous cells [2]!

Fresh kava root is about 80% water. Once dried, kava root contains a hefty amount of starch (43%), along with 20% dietary fiber, 12% water, 3.2% sugars, and 3.6% protein [3]. Kavalactones contribute about 15% of the weight of the root. As you can tell from the name, kavalactones are a kind of lactone, a compound widely found in edible food plants, including leafy green vegetables. Without getting too deep into organic chemistry, a lactone compound is classified as an ester formed from the condensation of an alcohol group (-OH) and a carboxylic acid group (-COOH) on the same molecule [4]. The letters in the abbreviations above stand for oxygen, hydrogen and carbon. Don’t worry too much about these terms; I’ve just included them to give you an idea of what chemical class kavalactones belong to.

Some lactones, especially the sesquiterpene lactones found in lettuce and other edible plants in the daisy family Asteraceae, have recognized health benefits. Sesquiterpene lactones are antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that may help protect cells from oxidant damage [5]. In other words, your mother was right when she told you to eat your vegetables—a diet rich in dark pigmented veggies is key to a healthier life!

Kavalactones are not sesquiterpene lactones; they are their own unique class of lactones found almost exclusively in kava kava (Piper methysticum) root. Kava kava’s benefits to health come from kavalactones’ sedative, anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant, nootropic, and anxiolytic effects on the central nervous system [6]. Although pretty much everyone knowledgeable about the kava world knows about the six major kavalactones responsible for these effects, it turns out kava kava may have as many as 14 kavalactone compounds, as well as the chalconoids I mentioned above and other trace compounds. Alexander Shulgin’s 1973 paper lays out a very detailed breakdown of the compounds in kava according to level of concentration, which I’ve reproduced below:

Compounds detectable in kava root at 1% concentration or more: kavain, dihydrokavain, methysticin.

Compounds detectable in kava root at 0.1-1% concentration: yangonin, dihydromethysticin, desmethoxyyangonin, flavokavain A, pinostrobinchalcone, dihydrotectochrysin, alpinetinchalcone, alpinetin, amd dihydrooroxylin A.

Compounds detectable in kava root at 0.01 – 0.1% concentration: methoxy-nor-yangonin, flavokavain B, and methoxyyangonin [7].

The takeaway from this is that while kava contains a range of interesting compounds, most of them are not present in any amount significant enough to suggest that they have biological activity in the body…

…except the chalconoid flavokavains A, B, and C. These compounds are an interesting exception I’ve been wanting to examine in more detail. Chalconoids are intermediary compounds in the biosynthesis of flavonoids—the compounds in plants responsible for pigments [1]. I find this interesting because flavonoids have been found to have a few notable health benefits: researcher are already thinking the flavokavains in kava kava may have antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties [1]. All this despite the fact that in 1973 when Shulgin wrote his paper, flavokavains were not considered biologically active compounds [7]!

However, there may be a downside to the flavokavains’ activity. In 2013, flavokavain B started causing some controversy in the kava world as evidence came to light that it might be harmful to liver cells [8]. Now, before you start to worry about your own kava use, let me make it clear that a) these results were based on lab tests of liver cells in vitro, not in human subjects; and b) flavokavain B only occurs in significant degree in so-called ignoble or tudei kava strains such as Isa and Palisi. I personally think the jury’s still out as to whether consumption of tudei kava prepared the traditional way poses a threat to health—but even if it does, it seems more like a reason to avoid tudei kava strains specifically. Kava researcher Vincent Lebot, who first brought the concerns about tudei kava to public light, has stated that noble kava strains are still unequivocally safe [1].

More encouragingly, flavokavain A may actually be beneficial to health: research by Dr Xiaolin Zhi at the University of California Irvine found that flavokavain A destroyed precancerous bladder cells in mice given the compound as a supplement to their diets [2]. Dr Zhi speculated that the flavokavain A specifically targets and destroys these cancer cells [2]. What’s even better about Zhi’s study is that the mice seemed to tolerate the flavokavain A well and did not experience any liver damage or other adverse effects [2]. Furthermore, a recent University of Minnesota study suggested flavokavain A might have similar preventive effects on lung cancers caused by tobacco smoking [9]. It’s clear we have a lot more to learn about the healing potential not only of kavalactones but of the full range of compounds in kava kava!


Kava Guru


1. “Simple Test for Checking If Your Kava Is Tudei”. Kava Forums: Connecting Kava Lovers Around the World. Accessed July 30th, 2014.

2. Vasich, Tom. “Can Kava Cure Cancer?” UC Irvine News, Accessed April 9th, 2014.

3. “Kava | Composition”. Wikipedia. Last modified July 27th, 2014.

4. “Lactone”. Wikipedia. Last modified June 11th, 2014.

5. Chadwick, Martin, Harriet Trewin, Frances Gawthrop, and Carol Wagstaff. June 2013. “Sesquiterpenoid Lactones: Benefits to plants and people”. International Journal of Molecular Science 14 (6): 12780-12805.

6. “Kavalactone”. Wikipedia. Last modified June 30th, 2014.

7. Shulgin, Alexander T. 1973. “The narcotic pepper- the chemistry and pharmacology of Piper methysticum and related species”. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Bulletin on Narcotics 2: 59-74.

8. Ping Zhou, Shimon Gross, Ji-Hua Liu, Bo-Yang Yu, Ling-Ling Feng, Jan Nolta, Vijay Sharma, David Piwnica-Worms, and Samuel X. Qiu. December 2010. “Flavokawain B, the hepatotoxic constituent from kava root, induces GSH-sensitive oxidative stress through modulation of IKK/NF-kB and MAPK signaling pathways”. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal 24 (12): 4722-4732.

9. “Preliminary study in mice suggests possible lung cancer preventative effect of South Pacific herb.” January 8th, 2014. PR Newswire.