Kava Recipe – Kava Chameleon

Kava Recipe - Kava ChameleonLet me first say that this drink is both strong and can be very spicy, so if you prefer a milder-tasting drink (or a spicier one), you can adjust the spices to your own preference; I also like this recipe a lot because, even cold, it is a great relaxing drink for a night when you would enjoy a warm cup of tea.


6 tbsp kava (powdered or shredded kava both work great, but shredded is what I prefer)

2 cups purified/spring water

1 cup soy or rice milk (chocolate is especially good in this recipe)

a few mint sprigs to taste (I use a large pinch per recipe)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

ginger to taste (optional)


In a blender, pour in the kava, water, soy milk and cinnamon and turn the blender on for just a few seconds to stir the ingredients, then let sit for about 30 minutes. This is the reason I prefer shredded kava: the cinnamon seems to either pull out more kavalactones, or just adds a greater effect to the kavalactones that make them even more relaxing (also note that if using powdered kava, you really only need to let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes).

After these ingredients have steeped long enough, turn the blender on high and leave on for about 3 minutes, then add the mint and ginger if desired. Blend for another minute or two. Then you can either choose to strain the kava into a cup with a muslin bag or leave the kava in and just drink everything to ensure that no kavalactones are missed. This recipe is very strong; if you are not experienced with kava, either use less kava, do not drink all of it at once, or share it with a friend.

Kava Recipe – Very Strong Kava

Kava Recipe - Very Strong KavaHere is a method I have developed which seems to work quite all right. Occasionally it can be a bit strong, so drink it slowly over some time (1 cup over 20 minutes or more).

4 tablespoons of kava powder

2 cups warm water –140 degrees Fahreheit or so — I boil it and let it cool for 5 minutes

1 cup milk

Blend on highest setting in a blender for 5 minutes. At this point, the beverage should look very dark, like coffee with cream. Dump this into secondary container(s). Then put a cloth paint strainer (unused for paint *wink*) over the blender pitcher. Pour the kava mix back into the blender-pitcher through the strainer, and let it cool for a bit. Squeeze the strainer dry, and save the used kava root (if you care to). You can get these paint strainers at Home Depot for maybe 60-80 cents a strainer. Very inexpensive, and it’s the best straining method I’ve used so far.

Now you have some fairly strong kava sitting in your blender pitcher. At this point I usually add a lot of chocolate syrup and some sugar (about 3-6 tbsp) for palatability. Blend again for ~30 seconds, until it is very dark and well mixed. Then transfer it to another container if you need to, and let it cool in the fridge overnight. Letting it cool works best for me in terms of effect. I have no idea why this is the case…does anyone know?

Next morning, you will have a good deal of strong kava (about 3 cups of liquid). Drink it slow, like I said. This will definitely bring on effects that I can only describe as inebriating. If drunk too quickly, it can be rather strong to say the least, so please consume in moderation.

When used with respect, though, I can say the effects are very nice. In any event, use caution and common sense, and don’t necessarily start with the amount I’ve used. I’ve been drinking Kava for a long time, and I may have built up a tolerance to Kava. But my recipe fro strong Kava isn’t that strong in the big picture. The usual amount of Kava for a recipe like this is about 2 tablespoons — I’m just double of that for this strong recipe. I also really like some kick to my Kava, so take that into consideration when following this recipe.

Take care,
Big Kap

If you have any great Kava recipes, please let us know.  If we like it we will post your idea and/or recipe and send off a free package of 4oz Powdered Kava Root from any one of the Kava suppliers we list or review here as a personal “Thank you!” to you.

Kava Recipe – Coconut Milk Kava

Kava Recipe - Coconut Milk KavaThis is a “new” kava recipe that I have heard alluded to but have never actually found. After some experimenting, I think I have found an efficient way to make a strong kava brew with some taste to it, and hopefully which maintains the traditional spirit.

1. Mix anywhere from 1/2 oz – 2 oz powdered kava root (depending on the number of consumers and the desired strength of the brew) with 1 can coconut milk, then fill can with water and add it, also. I have also used a can of coconut juice (sweetened water with chunks of coconut) instead of water with excellent results. Coconut definitely helps lessen the bitter-soil taste of kava without overpowering the characteristic “kava” taste.

2. Blend intermittently in short bursts for about 5 minutes. I believe the longer you blend the pulp, the more kavalactones are released.

3. Pour into nylon stocking or other strainer and wring out into large kava bowl (there will be a thick white emulsion that I call “Kava Butter”; I believe this is potent stuff and try to scrape all of it off of the strainer, but its texture can make it a little bit tough to gulp down from the cup.) Make sure to wring as much liquid from the pulp mass as possible, but take care not to tear the strainer (important for nylon hose).

4. This should make about 2-3 coconut shells or coffee cups of kava, which can be drunk in 1/2 cup increments. Personally I prefer to knock back 1-2 shells/cups quickly and then relax in a dimly lit room and enjoy that warm, relaxed feeling.

5. Pour the kava from the strainer back into the blender (especially if you used a larger amount). Even though traditionally kava is not kept but rather consumed immediately, I have found that it keeps for a day or two in the refrigerator and since I use 2 oz at a sitting, I generally get 2-3 batches out of this amount. You can also start with a smaller amount (1/2 oz) and save it and add another 1/2 oz per batch.

6. Finally, the amounts above are guidelines. I find 1/2 an ounce to be a rather small amount for me (200+ lbs.), but it would probably be fine for a smaller person. If I were having a gathering in which several people were going to partake, I may use even 3 or 4 oz, depending on the type of heaviness I wanted the brew to invoke.

I hope you find this recipe idea tasty and effective.

Bright blessings,

If you have any great Kava recipes, please let us know.  If we like it we will post your idea and/or recipe and send off a free package of 4oz Powdered Kava Root from any one of the Kava suppliers we list or review here as a personal “Thank you!” to you.

Kava’s New Home

This is the start of the Kava Guru Knowledgebase, soon to be brimming with everything you’ve ever wanted to know or ask about Kava Kava; the ancient Oceanic Elixir.

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!


Kava Guru


“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.

Pure Kava Kava Does Not Cause Liver Damage

Dear Kava Guru,

Can Kava really cause liver damage?

Linda, Carson City, CA

To answer your question simply – there hasn’t been any formal or concrete evidence to indicate that pure kava kava causes liver damage or toxicity. In fact, South Pacific Island populations have been using kava kava (Piper Methysticum) for centuries on end without any known incidences of liver damage [2].

Now for lengthier Kava Guru wisdom on the topic of liver damage:

Kava kava has effects that are said to be similar to those felt from the consumption of alcohol – alleviation of stress, mood elevation, contentment, and overall relaxation. Kavalactones, the kava compounds believed to grace us with those benefits, have been shown to have anesthetic and muscle relaxation effects as well [1]. Given these much sought-after qualities, it’s no wonder it has been used as a remedy for anxiety, insomnia, and other neurological disorders and is steadily growing in popularity just like the use of cannabis-based products such as boost edibles that have similar outcomes.

Additionally, kava kava has been shown to actually improve cognitive functioning, making it a worthy alternative to other neurological medications that impair cognitive functionality. For instance, the University of Maryland Medical Center recently published an article that documents a 2004 case study. This case suggests that 300mg of kava kava can actually improve cognitive functioning while alleviating anxiety. As the article also indicates, this is quite a significant result given that standard anti-anxiety medications, like diazepam (Valium), have been proven to cause cognitive impairment [7].

This information could substantiate the reasoning behind the recent evidence that pharmaceutical giants have conducted false and corrupt reports about kava kava and liver damage, in order to have them banned from hosting countries. Given that kava kava has become an increasingly popular anti-anxiety, and insomnia remedy, with the added benefit of cognitive improvement – it’s no wonder that some may think that pharmaceutical companies might have a vested economic interest in devaluing kava kava.

Not to mention that there are even reports about “fake kava” being distributed that are actually chemical elixirs intended to induce a “high” and have nothing to do with kava at all! These elixirs are reported to cause some pretty serious health risks due to the types of toxic chemicals used in their preparation and these cases have been lumped in along with other information regarding kava – and it’s not even kava! Inevitably these types of cases end up in skewed and misinformed data regarding kava.

According to LiverTox and the World Journal of Gastroenterology, there are some documented cases indicating that some individuals have had liver damage and in a few cases required liver transplants after using kava kava [2,3]. However, several other sources, including the American Association of Family Pharmacists (AAFP) and the Journal of Toxicology have indicated that there is no evidence of permanent liver damage [5]. Additionally, Yadhu Singh – an author that writes extensively on the subject of Kava – states that these problems were not encountered with the traditionally prepared beverage, which was prepared as a water infusion. Commercialized Kava extracts, that are extracted with organic solvents, are the source of Kava used in the potential cases of liver toxicity [4]. Further yet, a professor out of Menzies University – Medical School has studied aboriginal populations of Australian Northern Territories, who were first introduced to kava kava as an alternative to drinking alcohol in the 1980’s, and there were no records of hepatotoxicity related to kava kava during those studies. And interestingly enough, the subjects of these particular cases ingested a substantially larger amount of kava kava (10-50 times) than what is recommended by European standards [9].

However, the same studies do address a temporary change in liver functionality. This change in liver function – namely, fluctuations in the liver enzymes gamma-glutamyl transferase and alkaline phosphatase [2] – may allow for some understanding about the misrepresentation of kava kava with regard to liver damage. Furthermore, it is important to note that changes that do occur from using kava kava, are temporary – that is, liver functions become normal after a short period of time after using kava kava. Additionally, there is some indication that kava kava ingestion could disable certain enzymes, such as cytochrome P450 and cyclooxygenase [10]. It is possible that due to the change in liver function, enzymes normally used in the metabolizing of ethanol and other substances may not properly function during the short period of time that kava kava is in the system. As a result, consumption of alcohol or drugs while taking kava kava could result in liver toxicity. It is possible that the subjects of documented liver damage cases had a history of alcohol or drug abuse, and that they either had damaged livers prior to the case studies or that they were actively using other substances during the studies. This toxicity then is not necessarily due to kava kava itself, but is more likely due to the misuse of kava kava with other substances. It would be wise then to not use kava kava with other substances, and this recommendation does not differ from the solo-usage requirements of other medicinal remedies [6,7].

There is also a body of evidence indicating that cases of kava kava liver damage or toxicity, if any, are due to an improper usage of the plant itself. The AAFP suggests that cases of liver damage may arise from use of parts of the plant other than the root. The leaves, stem and other aerial parts of kava kava that are not directly derived from the root, do come up in some bodies of evidence as poisonous or toxic. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that the kava extracts, used by the subjects in many of the cases of liver damage, could have been impure (tainted with other substances). Many commercial kava kava extracts contain as much as %60 ethanol, and are labeled as “standardized” simply on the basis that they contain a prerequisite amount of a given substance (in this case, kava kava) [9]. This suggests poor-quality and/or contaminated kava kava raw material, as a possible explanation for toxicity – not pure kava kava derived only from the plant’s roots [5,6,7].

In his discussion of prospective considerations with regard to hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity) due to kava kava, Rolf Teschke thoroughly addresses all of the above reasons for the misinformation surrounding kava kava. Teschke indicates that in the cases where liver damage has been linked to kava kava, there was evidence of co-medication and improper adherence to dosage recommendations. He furthermore addresses the possibility that the incorrect, and toxic, parts of the plant were used in those studies. “By improving kava quality [purity] and adherence to therapy recommendation under avoidance of co-medication, liver injury by kava should be a preventable disease…” (Teschke, p. 1270).

Furthermore, the Journal of Toxicology not only indicates that there have been no cases of liver damage directly and undeniably linked to kava kava, but also that there is no evidence of liver toxicity or damage in Pacific Island populations – populations that have traditionally and properly been using kava kava for centuries [2].

Also, like with pretty much anything, overly high dosages are likely to play a factor in cases of toxicity. If you take too much kava kava, no matter the source – there are likely to be negative consequences. It’s probably similar to how a glass of red wine a day has been proven to alleviate stress and be beneficial in other ways – and yet, as we all know, too much alcohol can be quite damaging to our livers!

Kava Guru thinks it breaks down to this: anything in large quantities, or used incorrectly, is going to reap unhealthy results. Sources suggest that small to moderate dosages of pure kava kava root – not the stem or leaf – do have benefits and are a solid alternative to pharmaceutical methods for alleviation of anxiety, insomnia, pain and other neurological problems.

And if you take nothing else away from reading this, do remember the following three bits of wisdom:

1) Do not combine kava kava with drugs or alcohol. Like with most – if not all – other medicinal substances this can not only interfere with the benefit of kava kava, but could also cause liver damage (as stated in more detail above).

2) Moderate and monitor your use! If your intended use is for a longer duration of time – such as for medicinal purposes – then do ensure that you seek out a physician specialized in medicinal plants for advice on dosage amounts and duration.

3) And, as any guru of any product would remind you – always do your research on the vendor! Only buy kava kava from those companies that give you a guarantee that their product is pure kava kava made strictly from the root of the plant. If they cannot vouch for their purity, that’s probably an assurance that the product is not pure.

If you follow those three points of wisdom, you will be sure to revel in the benefits of kava kava – a comfort that has been quietly enjoyed by the traditional people of the South Pacific islands for many upon many blissfully peaceful centuries.


Keith @ Kava Guru


1. Cassileth, Barrie, PHD. “Oncology”. United Business Media LLC, San Francisco: April 15, 2011. Vol. 25-4 p. 384-385.

2. Clough AR, Bailie RS, Currie B. “Liver function test abnormalities in users of aqueous kava extracts”. Journal of Toxicology. 2003. 41(6):821-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14677792

3. Fu S, Korkmaz E, Braet F, Ngo Q, Ramzan I. “Influence of Kavain on Hepatic Ultrastructure”. World Journal of Gastroenterol. January 28, 2008: 14(4): 541-546. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080222111446.htm

4. Singh, N. Yadhu. “Potential for Interaction of Kava and St. John’s Wort with Drugs”. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2005. Vol 100, p. 108-113.

5. Saeed, Bloch, and Diana Antonocci. “Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Treatment of Anxiety Disorders”. Association of American Family Physicians, Aug 15, 2007: 76(4) p. 549-556. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0815/p549.html

6. Teschke, Rolf, MD. “Kava Hepatotoxicity: pathogenetic aspects and prospective considerations”. Liver International: October, 2010. Vol. 30-9, p. 1270-1279.

7. University of Maryland Medical Center. “Kava Kava”. Last modified: May 07, 2013. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/kava-kava

8. U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Kava Kava – Piper Methysticum”. Last modified: March 03, 2014. www.livertox.nlm.nih.gov/KavaKava.htm

9. Whitton, Lau, Salisbury, Whitehouse and Christine S. Evans. “Kava Lactones and the Kava-Kava Controversy”. Pergamon: June 5, 2003. Phytochemistry (64) p. 673-679.

10. Wikipedia. “Kava-Toxicity and Safety”. Last modified: February 21, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kava#Toxicity_and_safety

What Does Kava Taste Like?

Dear Kava Guru,
What does Kava taste like?
Rob, Chicago, IL

Now this is a challenge I’m happy to take on!  First of all, let me say that I have yet to meet someone who has been introduced to kava kava who hasn’t needed to acquire a taste for it.  As my wife said when she tried kava for the first time; “You really have to want to drink this.”

This isn’t to say the taste of kava is unpleasant.  Certainly not.  Even for those who find the bitterness something they’re not used to, especially in the West, don’t think the taste itself is necessarily unpleasant.  A comment we hear often is that kava has an “earthy” flavor to it.  That’s not to say that kava tastes like dirt!  I would agree with the assessment that kava has an earthy flavor.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this complex plant.

For me, I would say that kava is something like unsweetened Turkish coffee.  It’s a strong coffee that has the coffee grounds still in it when consumed.  That’s not entirely accurate either, but it gives you a general idea of what to expect.  Imagine a very earthy coffee with the consistency of a milkshake.  The fact is, is a kava beverage made from fresh kava roots is much thinner than kava that’s made from the kava powder that’s typically commercially available.  Whether you extract kava yourself or purchase it as an instant mix, unless you double the amount of liquid that the instructions tell you to use, the kava drink will be a bit thick.

And the bitterness of kava is difficult to cover with just about any kind of sweetener.  Personally, I’ve found that the traditional mixers for kava continue to be the best at “masking” the bitterness of kava.  And those two key mixers/extractors for kava are coconut water or pineapple juice.

That’s my guess why kava is still a relatively obscure “afcionado” type of dietary supplement instead of a household name; it takes some work to get past the taste if you want to enjoy this complex plant as it has been used traditionally for thousands of years.

The good news is that making kava into a drink isn’t the only way to enjoy this dietary supplement.  There are pastes, cordials, capsules, and even a couple of beverages that have begun to appear on the market.  With kavalactone pastes, you still need to taste the kava, but it’s just a small pea-sized amount that can be swallowed quickly.  Capsules, of course, have virtually no flavor of their own.  But traditionally, kava has been drunk in a single gulp from a half coconut shell.  (A single round of kava brew is called a “shell of kava”.)

I can say this:  of all those who worked to acquire a taste for kava, about 75% of those I’ve introduced to kava have discovered the subtle complexities of the root.  They’ve found a mixer that they actually enjoy blended with kava, and find the taste quite pleasing.  For me, working to acquire a taste for kava changed me forever.  Now, I begin and end each day with a shell; it energizes me in the morning, especially when I eat a healthy breakfast with fruits and grains, but it has the opposite effect in the evening, when I slow down, unwind, and gulp down a shell of kava.  It gives me a relaxed, gentle repose that melts away the stress of my day.

Kava Guru