Kava for Beginners – The Ultimate Guide to Kava

Dear Kava Guru,

I’m new to kava.  Do you have a Kava for Beginners Guide???

Ken, Cincinnati, OH

Kava for Beginners Ultimate GuideRequests for a Kava for Beginners Guide could be the question that Kava Guru gets asked more than the Where to Buy Kava question!  Not only are there are so many varieties of kava to pick from, there are so many forms of kava; from regular old powdered root, to instant kava mixes, to pills, capsules, dissolving strips and gum.  Let’s take a brief walk through each of the forms of kava first, to give you a better understanding of which kava might be the form you’ll choose for yourself. There are a couple of great guides I’ve borrowed some information from with permission of course if you want a further perspective on Kava:

Where Do I Begin With Kava? (Kava.com) | Kava Beginner’s Guide (Kava.com)

Which Type of Kava for Beginners?

What probably matters most to you in this moment, is simply this: Do I want powdered Kava root, instant Kava mix, Kavalactone Paste, Kava Tea, or Kava and Kavalactone Capsules? Any other form of Kava is going to be a variation on this theme, whether it’s in the form of Kava Singles, Kava Candy, strips, or whatever else people dream up as a delivery method for Kava. All you need to know to answer that seemingly complicated question is what are you looking for from your Kava experience?

  • TO RELAX/CHILL OUT – This is the most common reason people find their way to Kava. People are looking for a safer alternative to sometimes dangerous pharmaceuticals, or as an alterative to alcohol.  If you’re looking for a calming Kava experience, then your best bets would be any Kava that’s in a drink form, whether it’s Powdered Kava Root or Instant Kava Mix.
  • FOR ANXIETY RELIEF – This is perhaps one of the most effective uses for Kava.  Because it’s known as the anti-shyness herb, due to its inhibition-lowering effects, Kava is naturally suited to help fight anxiety.  In fact, we’ve got 20+ clinical studies on the powerful effects of Kava and anxiety.
  • FOR STRESS RELIEF – Anxiety is more of a long-term emotional issue.  Stress is more of an “in the moment” issue.  This can really be helped with taking a moment to simply slow down, take a step back, and take a deep, mindful breath.  What would be perfect for you is to force yourself to go through the process of making a “shell” of Kava the traditional way.
  • FOR PAIN RELIEF – Although we have to be extremely careful with how we discuss Kava as an effective aid to fight pain, I can’t stress enough how effective of a pain fighter Kava can be.  Especially for joint pain and lower back pain.  I have chosen Kava Tincture Plus over aspirin on several occasions.  Although Kava doesn’t have any anti-inflammatory properties to it, it’s an amazing aid for pain.  Also, after interviewing the folks over at Kava.com, I was told that lower back pain is when Kava for pain relief is most effective.
  • AS A SLEEP AID – Now here’s something that might turn some people off when looking for something natural to relax with, but let me make a quick, important distinction: Kava does not make you sleepy.  What Kava does do, is help you get into a state that can be conducive to sleep.  So, it’s often used as a sleep aid, and from my own personal experience — it can be an amazing one at that.  Personally, I blend some Valerian Root Capsules and Kava, in any form, and that makes for an unrivaled sleep combination.
  • AS A LEGAL HIGH – Let’s face it; we’re human, and humans are seeking ways to alter their consciousness.  Although “legal high” has gotten a very bad rap, it’s probably because we’re not being honest with ourselves.  Some who are looking for a Kava experience are looking to get kicked in the pants, and honestly, as long as you’re being responsible and not hurting anybody, then that’s your choice.  and, you should have the freedom to make that choice.  For you, let me say this: There is no such thing as an overdose from Kava.  Also, despite the bad press, there is no known link, according to the World Health Organization, between water-extracted Kava and liver damage.  So, for you, I have two great recommendations; Kava Tincture Plus and Kavalactone Paste 55%, both manufactured by Kona Kava Farm.
  • AS AN APHRODISIAC – This is a curious usage of Kava that has been hidden from the Western World.  When explorers first visited the Hawaiian islands way back in the days of Captain Cooke, one of the curious features of Hawaii was the yearly Summer Festival.  This celebration of life, love and nature took place when taxes were being collected, and the king was making his way through the people.  Kava was renown for lowering inhibitions, for inspiring the deeply meaningful, hip-gyrating Hula dance.  Any form of Kava can be a great aphrodisiac, simply because of its very nature.  Kava helps even the toughest customer relax.  It’s not known as the “anti-shyness” herb for nothing!  In addition, there is a curious product called KavaLOVEtone that was invented by Kona Kava Farm.  It’s not only a Kava-based aphrodisiac, it has additional ingredients such as Damiana that have been clinically-proven to increase blood flow to the genitals.  We’re not legally allowed to make any mention of Viagra and KavaLOVEtone Capsules in the same sentence, but it is definitely worth checking out.

For me, though, especially if you’re beginning your experiences with Kava, I think it’s best to immerse yourself in the spirit of Kava by going through the traditional preparation method.  For me personally; I think it’s the most desirable kava experience.  And that method simply uses powdered kava root. I like the fact that the whole energy of this ancient, and often sacred plant is preserved.  We like that ingesting kava this way is in alignment with the ancient traditions of Oceania [1]. Most of all, I like that the traditional method of working with kava has a 3000-year history of use to back up its effectiveness. While this form of kava requires a bit of preparation, as you will have to steep the powder in water and then strain it, I believe the effects and the connection to tradition are worth the effort.

Main Types of Kava Available

Of course, I understand that sometimes—sadly, perhaps most of the time in our 24/7 culture—there isn’t time to prepare kava the traditional way. Well, my Kava for Beginners – The Ultimate Guide to Buying Kava will not disappoint!  There are many kava products that cater to on-the-go relaxation. Let’s look at some of those below:

INSTANT KAVA DRINK MIXES: The closest in form to a traditional brew, instant kava powder can be mixed up in minutes and doesn’t require any straining or steeping time [2]. For some people, flavored instant mixes offer the added benefit of disguising the taste of kava. (Though the Kava Guru personally enjoys kava’s peppery, earthy flavor, many people find it takes some getting used to.) Make sure that any instant kava mix you’re considering is made with a kava root extract; plain kava root that hasn’t been extracted in some way will not be effective. One way to tell the difference is that a truly instant kava mix should dissolve completely in liquid without leaving a residue. Mix it up with water, fruit juice, or nut milk for delicious results!  There are Instant Kava Mixes and Instant Kava Singles available from Kona Kava Farm or Kava.com.

KAVA ROOT/KAVALACTONE CAPSULES: Another way to tastelessly get your kava dosage is in capsule or pill form [2]. Again, check to make sure the capsules are made with a kava root extract—this is a rule for any instant kava product. Kava capsules may contain either a powdered or a liquid kava extract (in liquigels). A quality kava vendor should also list the amount of kavalactones in the capsules, either as a percentage or in milligrams. Kavalactones are the relaxing constituents in kava root, and most research suggests that a dose of at least 70 milligrams is necessary to generate an effect[3].

There are 2 main types of Kava Capsules; Kava Root Only Capsules and Kavalactone 30% Capsules. It’s

While kava capsules generally aren’t as strong as a kava brew, they may be helpful for helping you cope with stressful situations such as demanding workdays and plane trips, and the capsule format means they can be taken easily and discreetly.

KAVALACTONE PASTE 55%: There aren’t many vendors who sell this concentrated paste extract, yet some “kavasseurs” absolutely swear by it! Kavalactone paste is a semi-liquid kavalactone extract with a yellowish color and the consistency of cake batter [2]. Kava pastes with a blend of select kavalactones and full-spectrum kavalactone pastes are both available on the market. The Kava Guru prefers full-spectrum pastes that contain a ratio of all the kavalactones and other active constituents in the kava root. In our opinion, full-spectrum kava pastes are best for those who want to access the whole energy of this healing plant. Kavalactone paste can be taken alone in small amounts or added to a kava brew as a “booster”—though we recommend waiting on this until you have experience with kava and know how it affects you.

KAVA TINCTURE/KAVA TINCTURE PLUS: There aren’t many reliable vendors for Kavalactone Tincture as this oily extracts does not blend well with water or alcohol.  We highly recommend the Kava Tincture Plus from Kona Kava Farm or Kava Tincture from Root of Happiness Kava, as both products have a verified 6% Kavalactone content.  Given that Kava root naturally has about 12% Kavalactone content in it, taking 2 dropperfuls (not drops) of either of the above Kava tinctures will give you a full on Kava experience, complete with a numbing effect on your mouth.  There are weaker versions of Kava Tincture for the timid, with about 3% Kavalactone content. Give that a try if you want to get a milder effect from your first Kava experiences.

The Weakest Forms of Kava

Kava Gum/Kava Strips: Both of these intruiging new kava products take advantage of kavalactones’ ability to be absorbed through the mucus membranes of the mouth. They’re also almost as easy to use as a kava capsule and just as discreet. Kava gum is essentially a gum infused with a kava root extract; it can be chewed to release the kavalactones into the mouth over a few minutes.  Kava strips, or K-strips as they are often called, are dissolvable strips of paper infused with a kava extract. They can be dissolved sublingually (under the tongue), or added to a warm beverage like your afternoon cup of tea…just make sure not to add these strips to liquid that is over 140 degrees Fahrenheit, as kavalactones are destroyed by higher temperatures.

Kava Tea: I didn’t include Kava tea in the main list of Kava types because Kava tea is barely Kava at all.  There is so little Kava in Kava Teas that we have not noticed much of an effect at all.  In fact, the folks over at Wonderland-Labs have tested all kinds of Kava, and have reportedly found only trace amounts of Kavalactone in the Kava teas they tested.

Kavalactone Lineups

One of the most basic bits of information you may want as our Kava for Beginners Guide winds down, is the Kavalactone percentage, and the Kavalactone lineup of your Kava.  Most mass marketed Kava from places like GNC have no idea what their true Kavalactone content or the Kavalactone lineup is.  Why does this even matter?  Well, for obvious reasons, the total Kavalactone content is relatively important.

One our favorite and fun ways to learn about Kava is over on YouTube, with a video called “Kavalactone Lineups”.  It is super entertaining, and just a few minutes long.  There’s no product plugs until the very end, and even then, it’s mild.  I’ve watched the video dozens of times, and it’s made a big difference in helping me to choose which Kava is best for me.  I think it would be a huge help for anyone who is a beginner with Kava, and is looking for some solid advice on how to proceed.

If it’s embedded correctly, there should be a video below:

Go Go Go, You Kava Guru!

No matter what form of kava you choose, always make sure the product is made using only the kava root and never the above ground stems or leaves, which are inedible and potentially poisonous.  Now that you’re not a Kava beginner any longer, just remember these few additional tips:

  • NO SUCH THING AS AN OVERDOSE – There is no such thing as an overdose for Kava.  If you happen to take too much Kava, you will not be able to operate heavy machinery (such as a car) for a while, and, you may just go to sleep for an hour or two.  If you are getting nervous that your heart rate is increasing too much, fret not, as that’s natural, and you are perfectly safe.
  •  NO LIVER DAMAGE– Despite the mountains of media hype, please believe the World Health Organization on this one rather than the media.  The World Heath Organization did their own study on Kava, which consisted of taking every bit of Kava data and clinical trials there were, and they arrived at conclusions based on 100+ case studies.  What did they conclude? – That there was absolutely no connection to liver damage when consuming water-based Kava extractions using roots only Kava.  High quality vendors such as Kava.com only carry products from verified vendors who wouldn’t dream of using anything other than pure Kava to any of their products.
  • HAVE FUN/BE RESPONSIBLE – Kava can be an immense joy, and is really meant to be shared.  Even if it’s one loved one or an entire group, Kava brings people together. It can make feelings of well-being arise in us, and it can have a lasting positive effect on our life.  Life is short, love as much as you can.  Kava can help!

Remember; which kava product you choose will depend a lot on how and where you want to use it. Do you want to relax with kava at the end of the day, inject some calm into a hectic workday, or use kava to soothe nerves on a long trip? When deciding which form of kava is right for you, your intention and the context for its use will guide you to the kind of kava that is right for you.  Hope this Kava for Beginner’s Guide was helpful. As always, let me know if you have any comments or suggestions to make it better, and I’ll add onto the article as needed.

Share the love, feel the joy, and let’s connect at the roots!

Mahalo & Aloha,
Keith Cleversley

REFERENCES

1. “Piper methysticum.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed February 28th, 2014.

2. “Kavalactones Dosage.” Kava.com. Accessed February 28th, 2014.

3. “True Kava Side Effects“. Kava.com. Accessed February 28, 2014.

4. “Where Do I Begin With Kava?” – Kava.com

5. “Kava Beginner’s Guide” – Kava.com

What Kind of Kava Should I Buy?

Thinking of buying kava? Not too sure where to begin with kava varieties or asking yourself what kind of kava to buy? Well, you have come to the right place! I share what kind of kava is best for what scenario, but: The very free Beginners Guide to Kava offers a more detailed analysis and is just a click away. That article outlines the various reasons people come to Kava, whether it’s to relax or chill out, as a way to fight anxiety and/or stress, as a sleep aid, or even as a legal high or an aphrodisiac.

So, you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “Arghh, there’s so much kava to choose from; I’m so confused!” Or “What kind of kava is best for me?”  By the end of this article, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of kava is right for you, but really, read the Beginner’s Guide to Kava to be an instant expert.

If you want to keep things traditional, the best plan might be to go with the most traditional form of kava kava, which is Powdered Kava Root:

Powdered Kava Root:

Although authentic and quality kava root is hard to find online and is a bit hard to come by in Western and European countries (although this is quickly changing), it is bountiful throughout Oceanic island nations.  The root is traditionally chewed up and spit out into a communal bowl, in order to speed up the fermentation process.  It is then mixed with water or other solubles to create a drink with sedative and anesthetic benefits.  But who wants to do that, just to relax?  Not me!

Having trouble deciding between fresh kava root and dried kava root?  If you wanted to break the kava down into a powder to mix into a shake or turn into a kava drink, then dried kava root is the better option, plus you keep all of the wonderful benefits by retaining its purest form!  If, on the other hand, you really wanted to get in touch with kava culture you could chew up fresh kava root and mix it with water or coconut water and make a traditional kava beverage!

Are you a busy person, looking to get the benefits of kava, but don’t have the time for traditional preparation? Here are some quick options:

Instant Kava:

Instant kava supplements work kind of like instant coffee.  They’re derived from the original plant matter – in this instance kava root – but are manufactured in such a way that they do not require any preparation.  You can toss instant kava powder into a shake on your way out the door, or mix it with water and toss it into a to-go cup – and better yet, instant kava doesn’t require any steeping or straining! Also, it’s important to remember when using instant kava or other kava options that are mixed with water, that kavalactones are destroyed in temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

You also want to make sure that you get a kava instant mix that has kava root extract.  The kava extraction process is how we gain access to the beneficial kavalactones.  Instant kava that is just root (not traditionally prepared) will leave you missing out on all of the wonderful things kava has to offer!

Kava Capsules:

Just like with instant kava – you want to make sure to get a capsule that is made with extracted kava, in order to retain all of those pleasurable kavalactone qualities!  That being said, it’s best to get a supplement that indicates the amount of kavalactones it contains – some sources suggest that 70 milligrams is the minimum amount required to experience the sought-after effects.

However, kava capsules – like with any supplement that deviates away from the purest form – don’t have all of the same benefits as pure kava kava.  Kavalactones are absorbed through mucous membranes, so the capsules miss all of that salivation action going on in your mouth on their way down into your stomach. But, if you’re in a rush or wish to be discreet and need quick relief from a stressful moment, the capsule option may be just right for you.

Can’t stand the taste of kava? 

Many people struggle with the taste of kava, but power through it so that they can enjoy all of the beautiful things kava has to offer.  Personally, as a kava guru – the flavour of kava is homey and right in line with everything my taste buds crave – but, for those that are a bit new to kava culture the taste may take some time to get used to.  So, here are some tasty alternatives to pure kava kava:

Instant Kava Drinks:

Instant kava supplements are often flavoured and are a good method of consuming kava for those who find the taste of pure kava kava less than appealing.  Also, because of the instant form, this kava supplement can be added to shakes or other tasty drinks to mask the overall flavour of kava. Instant Kava is the quick, easy, pain and mess free method of getting an idea of what the Kava experience might be like.

Kava Capsules:

Since kava capsules are swallowed and not chewed or dissolved in your mouth, they are essentially tasteless! So, if kava’s flavour is something that you just cannot bear, masked or otherwise – perhaps this is the best option for you.  You could always start with the capsules and move on to the gum and then to the instant mix and maybe even one day to the root itself – building up a tolerance for the flavour over time.

Kava capsules are a solid option for those who are relatively new to kava or only want to use it occasionally here and there to help ease a moment or day that is particularly stressful.   Since the kava capsules tend to not be as strong as some other forms of kava, they are a good option for those who want to try it out for the first time, but are feeling a bit shy or uncertain.  As you become accustomed to the effects of kava you can increase your dosage as recommended by a physician or other health practitioner or move on to other forms of ingestion.

Want a flexible kava option? Kava Paste:

 Kava Paste:

There is also a nifty option for kava consumption, blandly referred to as a kava paste or kavalactone paste.  It’s a yellowish to orange substance with the consistency of cupcake batter.   Products that are FDA-compliant contain about 55% Kavalactone in them. There are full-spectrum options that contain all of the goodness that pure kava kava contains – all of its kavalactones as well as the various alkaloids – or isolated kavalactone paste, that is infused primarily with just kavalactones.  If you are looking for a flexible method of kava ingestion, the paste is a good place to start.  You can easily regulate the amount you consume, use it as your primary kava source or add it to a tea before bed to get an extra dose of kava as you ease your way into a peaceful slumber.

This is also a great place for veterans who like to take things up a notch when enjoying Kava. Kava Paste is often added to plain water extractions of powdered Kava to take things up a notch. Please remember that 55% Kavalactone content in a paste is quite hefty, and not for the faint of heart.

A Kava veteran and want to kick it into the highest gear? – Kava Tincture:

Kava Tincture:

If you want to experience the maximum Kava has to offer and are interested in the strongest Kava you can buy, then there is no other choice than Kava Tinctures with a 12% Kavalactone content in them. Yes, 12% is not as big a number as 55%, but the liquid extract absorbs quickly in the mouth, especially when placed under the tongue. Kona Kava Farm has a brand new Kava Tincture MAX 12%, which is stunningly potent. Within seconds, the numbing effect that one can feel from Kava is there almost immediately. The effects as well are nothing that beginners should be thinking about until they learn what the Kava experience is all about. As the saying goes; “With great Kava, the ground will come up to meet you…”

Mahalo,

Kava Guru

 

 

 

 

How Many Kava Varieties?

Dear Kava Guru,

How many different varieties of Kava are there, and how do I know which variety to choose?

Kava Lover, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Any plant that’s been cultivated for a long time tends to branch out into different strains: just as apples, tomatoes, lettuce, and other produce have their varieties, so kava has its treasured strains. This article will help you know what to expect from the most commonly available kava varieties in terms of taste and effects.

Although kava kava is technically one species (Piper methysticum), there are many kava varieties spread out across millions of square miles in the South Pacific. “How many kava varieties are there?” is a question whose answer keeps changing as botanists and phytochemists come up with different methods of distinguishing between strains of kava. Vanuatu alone grows at least 30 and as many as 70 kava varieties depending on the source one consults. However, many Vanuatan kava strains are never exported to the world market because they are classed as “ignoble” strains of unreliable quality and strength. By law, only “noble” strains of kava that have a reliable kavalactone content can be exported from Vanuatu for global trade.

Botanists can often distinguish kava strains by the appearance of kava’s aboveground stems and leaves: kava ranges in color from light to dark green depending on the strain; some strains also have white or purple spots on their stems or leaves. As a consumer, you’re more likely to encounter kava in its powdered root form. Kava powders from different strains will have distinct aromas, colors, tastes, and effects. For instance, some kava varieties can be very uplifting, while others may be sedating and encourage introspection. Likewise, some kava varieties are renowned for their physically relaxing and analgesic effects, while others may work primarily on the mental or emotional plane. The list below will introduce you to the most common strains and their typical effects, so you can make the best choice for your needs.

Fu’u: From Tonga, Fu’u is a very finely ground kava with a complex, nutty, almost coconut or almond-like flavor. It also has very low bitterness. Said to inspire humor, creativity and lively conversation on a wide range of topics, Fu’u is probably best enjoyed at a social occasion with lots of opportunity for conversation.

Tongan White: As the name suggests, this kava is very light tan when prepared —like coffee with a lot of cream—and has a creamy, smooth taste that is quite accessible to the newcomer. It also brews up thicker than other kavas, so you might want to use a bit more water than the typical recipe calls for. Tongan white kava offers palpable muscle relaxation and endows the mind with a calm alertness. Along with Hawaiian Mahakea, many “kavasseurs” mention Tongan white as their favorite kava for relaxing after the workday.

Fijian Kava: Kava seems to have come to Fiji later than other regions of the South Pacific. That didn’t stop Fijians from adopting this healing root as a national staple, and Fijian kava’s stress-relieving and anxiotlytic effects make it easy to see why! Brewing to a rich golden tan, Fijian kava is creamy with an underlying hint of pepperiness and lightly sedating, relaxing effects on the mind and body. Fiji kava helps many people simply feel at ease and is a wonderful variety for relaxing on a weekday night.

Melo Melo: Along with Fu’u, this Vanuatan kava is perhaps the best “party kava” the Kava Guru has encountered. Unlike some varieties that make one want to lay down and contemplate the universe, Melo Melo has a laidback yet euphoric energy that makes us want to get up and dance (though not too fast!), and while the evening away telling stories and cracking jokes. However, as the name suggests, Melo Melo can also be a very “mellow” kava should you decide to approach it that way.

Isa: Also known as Tue Dai or Tudei (pronounced “two day”) kava, the Isa strain from Vanuatu has caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the kava world for its supposed strength, bolstered by the rumor that it is actually Piper wichmannii, the ancient wild relative of kava. As far as the Kava Guru is aware, this claim is marketing hype that has never been confirmed. There is some controversy surrounding Tudei kava strains, however: they can be high in Flavokawain B, a compound that may deplete the liver-protective enzyme glutathione. Since there are so many strains of kava to choose from with purely beneficial effects, in general it may be better to abstain from “tudei” kava cultivars.

Mahakea: Because the Hawaiian Islands are relatively isolated from the rest of the South Pacific, they have given rise to unique kava strains found nowhere else. Take Mahakea: often thought to be the sweetest and least bitter of the kava varieties, Mahakea is rich and earthy with black tea-like undertones. Less cerebral than Vanuatan kavas, Mahakea tends to be very physically relaxing and analgesic, making it helpful for easing sore muscles, headaches, backaches, and general stress relief.

Mo’i: Another famous Hawaiian varietal, Mo’i is often known as the kava of kings: before European Contact, its use was restricted to Hawaiian chiefs and their families—not surprising given its intriguing and unique effects! Mo’i is mentally stimulating and feels physically lighter than other more sedating kava strains. It’s up there with Melo Melo as a euphoric, energizing kava that can make worries disappear and conversation flow freely. With a flavor that is smooth and buttery with hints of cocoa, we believe Mo’i kava really is fit for a king.

With so many varieties of kava, we believe there is a strain to suit everyone—or really several strains, based on your own mood and intention for a particular kava session. When you read the list above, consider what you want to use kava for, as well as the kind of experience you wish to have. You’ll quickly discover the kava varieties that appeal to you!

Mahalo,

Kava Guru

Sources

“Kavasseur: Your Number #1 Source for Kava Reviews and Kava News.” Accessed March 4th, 2014. www.kavasseur.blogspot.com.

“Kava- Strains and Origins.” Wikipedia. Last modified February 21st, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kava#Strains_and_origins

Kilham, Chris. 2000-2005. “Kava, The Plant” in “Kava: an Ethnomedical Review”. University of Massachusetts teaching notes. Last modified March 27th, 2009. https://www.erowid.org/plants/kava/kava_article1.shtml.

“Hawaiian Kava.” Kona Kava Farm. Accessed March 4th, 2014. http://www.konakavafarm.com/kava-hawaiian.html

“Tudei Kava”. Kona Kava Farm. Accessed March 5th, 2014. http://www.konakavafarm.com/kava-tudei.html.

Is Kava a Food or Dietary Supplement?

Is Kava a Food or Dietary Supplement?This is quite a complicated question depending on whom you speak with.  The Kava Guru has done his research, and has arrived at several conclusions regarding the current status of kava kava in the United States and throughout the world.

In as short an answer as I can provide:  kava kava is currently sold in the United States as a dietary supplement, and is not currently accepted as a food ingredient.  This isn’t to say that several very food-like products are coming out that are based on kava kava.  For example, over at the Kava Marketplace, there is Kava chocolate from Kava King.  Now, chocolate bars are typically thought of as a food, but the folks over at Kava King insist that their product is a dietary supplement and have the data and research to back it up.

The same is true of a Kava Gum that has recently (2013) appeared on the market.  I have spoken with the owner of that company, and he stated that he has a 29-page legal document that justifies the gum part of the kava gum as being nothing more than a delivery method for the kava.  I am not an expert, but I don’t see any reason why that kind of use cannot be justified, and would think that the FDA would have a difficult time taking issue with the kava gum product.

As far as kava chocolate and the Kava Candy that has also appeared, in my discussion with an FDA consultant, just because someone calls something a rose, doesn’t make it a rose.  So, just because someone is calling these kava products “dietary supplements” doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what they are.  It’s all a whole lot of gray area, but the Kava Guru is here to help you through the gray!

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 defines a dietary supplement as “a product (other than tobacco) that is intended to supplement the diet and that bears or contains one of the following ingredients: a vitamin, a mineral, an herb or other botanical, an amino acid, a dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total daily intake, or a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of these ingredients” [1]. In other words, dietary supplements are substances meant to be taken in addition to a balanced, healthy diet; they are not intended to make up a large portion of a meal or of someone’s daily caloric intake [1]. The Food and Drug Administration’s definition of a dietary supplement also notes that these are often taken in the form of pills, capsules, tablets, powders or liquids [4].

One helpful way to determine if kava is a dietary supplement or a food is to look at its intended use. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts contain macronutrients (healthy fats, carbohydrates, and proteins) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) that contribute to overall health. In contrast, a dietary supplement is often taken to generate a very specific effect [1]. For instance, people take a kava kava supplement to relax, relieve anxiety, and treat insomnia. Kavalactones are a very specific class of compounds that give kava these physiological effects. In other words, many dietary supplements are targeted to address specific ailments or generate specific effects that contribute to wellness. In contrast, healthy foods keep you healthy by giving your body a broad range of the nutrients it needs to maintain wellness.

Is Kava Part of a Healthy Diet?

Let’s briefly look at what’s in kava besides kavalactones: by weight, fresh kava root is about 80% water, 43% starch, 3.2% sugars, 3.6% protein, and 3.2% minerals. Kavalactones make up about 15% of the root by weight [2]. Though kava is usually prepared as a beverage, if you were to eat kava root it would provide about 20% of your daily fiber needs [2]. Not bad!

However, contrast that with maca root, a relative of the turnip frequently called a superfood for its rich array of nutrients: maca root contains high levels of many health-essential macro- and micronutrients, including polysaccharides; complex carbohydrates; essential fatty acids; glucosinates; proteins; several minerals such as calcium and potassium; and trace elements including magnesium, selenium, iron, manganese, and zinc [3]. Maca contains a range of chemical constituents that our bodies require to maintain bodily health, making it by definition a “functional food” rather than a dietary supplement [1]. In contrast, even though kavalactones have demonstrable benefits for health, our bodies do not require them as they do micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, or macronutrients such as carbohydrates and proteins.

Is Kava a Food or Dietary Supplement?

Maca root (Lepidium meyenii) is a nutrient-rich Andean superfood from western South America.

Of course, just because the FDA does not consider kava a food doesn’t mean you can’t mix it with foods in any recipe you choose! The Kava Guru is passionate about finding new ways to cook with kava, and we add our favorites to our Kava Recipes page as often as we can. And as always, we welcome comments below about your favorite kava recipes and creative ways to enjoy this dietary supplement!

Sources

1. Halsted, Charles H. 2003. “Dietary Supplements and Functional Foods – 2 Sides of a Coin?” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 77 (supplement): 1001-1007.

2. “Kava – Composition” Wikipedia. Accessed March 12th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kava#Composition

3. “Lepidium meyenii – Constituents.” Wikipedia. Accessed March 12th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidium_meyenii#Constituents

4. “What is a Dietary Supplement?” About FDA. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Last Modified December 30th, 2009.http://www.fda.gov/aboutfda/transparency/basics/ucm195635.htm

Kava Review – Kava Dot Com

This Kava Supplier definitely counts as being one of the most interesting websites we’ve ever visited.  For many years, Kava Dot Com has been a source for unbiased Kava information.  In 2013 they made a bold move; they decided to go from being an informational website to an eCommerce website.  Are we glad they did?

They started the Kava Marketplace; an online store featuring Kava Kava from a number of different Kava suppliers.  They also introduced their own brand of Kava in two disctinct grades; Hawaiian Kava with about 4% kavalactone content, and Vanuatu Noble with a minimum of 8% kavalactone and a very “happy” 4-2-6 chemotype.  We were a bit skeptical of their Vanuatu Noble variety and thought perhaps that was nothing more than some marketing hype.  But we’re pleased to report that their Vanuatu Noble Kava truly lives up to its name, and a little digging into what exactly a 426 kavalactone lineup revealed some very interesting information.

In short, there are 6 major kavalactones out of the 18 in total that have been discovered.  Those 6 major kavalactones have been assigned numbers, and it turns out that kavalactone levels are actually “fingerprints” for Kava, and allows one to determine the origin of any Kava root.  So, the Vanuatu Kava, with it’s 4-2-6 kavalactone lineup, has a high concentration of kavain (4), with dihydrokavain (2) following, with a 3rd major component of methysticin (6).  It turns out that kavain and dihydrokavain encourage dopamine release in the brain, making the Vanuatu Noble variety one of the most pleasurable Kavas out there.

Interestingly enough, it turns out that a specific cultivar of Hawaiian Kava called “Mahakea” Kava, also can have a kavalactone lineup of 426 as well.  So, whether it’s a Hawaiian cultivar called Mahakea or the Kava Dot Com Vanuatu Noble Kava Root, if a happy, pleasant repose that lasts longer than one might expect is your cup of tea (or should I say “shell of Kava”), then look no further than KavaDotCom and their Kava Marketplace for your Kava.

If you’re looking for flat out strong but giddy Kava Root, then you’ve found your perfect Kava.  If you’re looking for a more complex, and perhaps a more cultured Kava, then the various offerings from Bula Kava definitely fit the bill.

But, Kava Dot Com doesn’t stop at just Kava Root.  They’ve got lots of Hawaiian-themed party favors, vegan chocolate, and an entire line of SuperFoods.  We get it; Kava is good for a healthy life, and SuperFoods are also good to keep a body healthy to enjoy a happy life.  We’re not sure how much SuperFood they’re selling at the Kava Marketplace, but good for them.

Not all Kava Suppliers are represented over at the Kava Marketplace, but we’re hoping to see more Kava Suppliers added as time goes on, as the positive reviews stack up, and other Kava Brands take notice.  I know if I were a Kava Brand, I’d be giving the folks over at Kava Dot Com a call to see if they’d be interested in adding my product to their catalog.

Kava Dot Com gets 5 Shells out of 5.

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