Dear Kava Guru,
How much Kava is the right amount of Kava for a relatively healthy 185lb man in his 30’s?
Chris, Austin, TX
Kava dosage and how much kava you take has everything to do with the type of kava you’re taking, as well as your body type and weight. To answer your questions, first, we always suggest following the directions on each individual package of kava that you purchase. On that package, if it’s from a legitimate kava company or farm, will be the standard “Supplement Information” panel on the package, giving serving suggestions.
But I understand that these instructions don’t always cover you! This dietary supplement has so many methods of ingestion that it can get quite confusing quite quickly. At least know that there is no single dangerous kava dosage.
First, there’s good old fashioned kava root. This typically comes as a powder, and needs to be extracted. Most of the kava recipes we’ve found use a ratio of 1 tablespoon of powdered kava root to 1 cup of water . Sometimes a vegetable fat is added, such as a teaspoon of soy lethicin or vegetable oil . This will act as an emulfisier to help extract the kavalactones into the water. Alternatively, you can substitute some of the water for a fatty liquid such as coconut milk—one effective recipe calls for 2 cups of water and 1 cup of coconut or another nut milk. Since some kavalactones are soluble in fats and others in water, combining the two will help you make a stronger kava drink.
The usual serving of prepared kava in the South Pacific is 2 to 4 fluid ounces. Depending on how it’s prepared, a bilo (coconut shell bowl) of kava can contain anywhere from 150 to 500 mg of kavalactones, and indigenous islanders often consume several bilos in a kava drinking session . In other words, although the Kava Committee has issued an advisory upper limit of 300 mg of kavalactones per day, many Pacific Islanders consume far higher doses of this wondrous plant daily without ill effects. If you’re planning to make kava the traditional way from powdered root, the Kava Guru suggests starting with the standard recipe and seeing how it works for you. You can always adjust the ratio of kava to water, and thus the strength of your brew, until you achieve a satisfying result.
I know that the imprecision of the traditional method will not appeal to everyone. If you want to know the precise amount of kavalactones in your serving of kava, consider a supplement that contains a kava extract, such as an instant drink mix, kavalactone paste, or capsule. For most people, the smallest effective dose of kavalactones is about 70 milligrams. One of the Kava Guru’s favorite kava-related blogs offers this rubric for determining how many milligrams of kavalactones to take: in general, 70-210mg of kavalactones is the average effective dose for reducing stress and anxiety . Between 150 and 250 milligrams is more useful for addressing insomnia, especially if it is taken an hour to 30 minutes before bed .
Note that some kava supplements list kavalactones as a percentage rather than in milligrams. In this case, you’ll have to calculate the milligrams of kavalactones per serving based on the total number of grams or milligrams in one serving of the supplement. For instance, a kava capsule that is 30% kavalactone will contain 30mg of kavalactone per 100mg of material. To reach the average threshold dose of 70mg of kavalactone, you must take 230 mg of the supplement. However, should you choose a supplement that combines kava with other relaxing herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm, or valerian, the required dosage of kavalactones may be less because the other herbal ingredients will contribute to the supplement’s relaxing effects.
It’s true that every body is different, and you may find yourself needing a larger (or smaller) kava dosage for satisfying effects. Where it gets tricky is that kava can sometimes have reverse tolerance, meaning that the new kava drinker won’t feel any effects the first few times they try kava . Some people interpret reverse tolerance to mean that kava doesn’t work on them. The Kava Guru’s advice is to be patient with kava, as reverse tolerance usually goes away after a few kava sessions. With patience and a little experimentation, the Kava Guru is confident you will find the right amount of kava for your individual constitution.
1. “Kava Recipes for Kava Drinks.” Kona Kava Farm. Accessed March 4th, 2014. www.konakavafarm.com/recipes.html.
2. “Kavalactones Dosage”. Kava.com. Accessed March 4th, 2014. http://www.kava.com/?p=587.
3. “Kava Brew Recipe”. The Vaults of Erowid. Last modified February 5th, 2011. https://www.erowid.org/plants/kava/kava_recipe1.shtml.