What is the Strongest Kava?

Dear Kava Guru,

What is the strongest Kava?


San Bernardino, CA

This is a question I’ve been asked perhaps over 100 times, but I apologize that it took me until now to get around to answering it. This is really a 2-part question in my mind. There’s “What is the strongest Kava?” and “What is the strongest Kava product?“.

Why the distinction?

Well, most of us even somewhat familiar with Kava know that, in it’s natural, non-extracted state, Kava powder has about an 8% – 14% Kavalactone content. From years of working with Kava and looking through many hundreds of lab tests on Kava, I would say that one average, there’s about a 10%-12% Kavalactone content. Some of the mellow roots from Samoa or Fiji, tend to have slightly less, perhaps 6% – 8%. Some of the more potent strains are often from Hawaii or Vanuatu, and can have as much as 16% – 18% Kavalactone content. Is this strong? I would say that shells of Kava are plenty strong, and after consuming Kava almost daily for the past 20 years, I still only need 3-4 shells of Kava to get myself to the relaxed and sociable state. I’ve seen newbies need only a single shell, and they’re good for at least 1-2 hours.

But, this all also really depends on the BLEND that your Kava supplier is selling you:

Kava is typically sold as two separate parts; there are “chips” and there are “roots”. Chips are just the main “stump” of Kava root that can get quite thick and large on a mature Kava plant. These tend to be very smooth drinking, but they also tend to be much lower in Kavalactone content. Laterals on the other hand, are the actual “roots” of the Kava in the way we all imagine roots. These tend to have a much higher Kavalactone content, but they also are a little harsher to drink.

That’s why the perfect Kava drink usually comes from a blend of chips and roots, to arrive at a relatively potent Kava drink, that’s smooth to drink. We usually see about a 50/50 blend of chips to roots, but that can vary depending on the Kava Bar or supplier. If there’s a higher blend of laterals to chips, then the drink is less smooth, but it’s a stronger Kava drink in general. Personal preference is what it comes down to when seeking the strongest Kava product available, as stronger isn’t necessarily always better.

Next up is Part II of the original question; “What is the strongest Kava product?”

Up until a couple of weeks ago, this was a simple question to answer; Kavalactone Oil or Kavalactone Paste is definitely the strongest Kava product available. Whether it’s a 70% concentration that we’ve seen at Root of Happiness, or the 55% that we’ve seen at Kava.com, this is the most bang for your buck. But, it’s not for beginners, and it’s extremely easy to be fooled into taking too much of a good thing.

Now, I did say that this USED to be a simple answer, because there was really just one King of the Hill Kava Product, which is the Kavalactone Paste. But, I was just handed a new product from Kona Kava Farm called “Kava Tincture MAX 12%”. Now, this isn’t a product review, but since that product is unique to the Kava marketplace, I can’t fully answer this question without mentioning this product by name. I could say that a 12% Liquid Kava Extract is the strongest product I’ve been able to find, but to me, that’s splitting hairs.

So, how exactly can something that says 12% be anywhere near as strong as something that says 55% or 70%?

It all has to do with the format of the product. With the Kona Kava Farm Kava Tincture MAX, the package states that just 2 dropperfuls contain nearly an entire day’s supply of Kavalactone. Because it’s so easy to place two dropperfuls in the mouth, because it absorbs so easily when placed under the tongue, I’ve noticed quite a difference in effect. The liquid comes on much more quickly. The numbing of the mouth is very immediate and dramatic. And, the change in my state of being happens quite quickly. The paste has more dissolving and breaking down to do, whereas the Kava Tincture is already in liquid form, ready to be absorbed in the mouth, especially in the soft tissue in the mouth that’s made for absorbing food.

So, when discussing what the strongest Kava is, I would say that Kava powder with a blend that’s more laterals than chips, and is from Vanuatu or Hawaii might be your best bet. But, it’s also important to note that the numbers aren’t everything. I’ve found that Fijian Kava ay have less Kavalactone percentage, but it’s an extremely enjoyable drink, with slightly different psychoactive effects to it.

When we’re asking what the strongest Kava product is, I would say that Kona Kava Farm’s Kava Tincture MAX 12% takes the top spot. Mind you, the Kavalactone Pastes that are available, whatever the strength, are extremely close in the long run, and after a few minutes. But, from a sheer “strongest” perspective, if I’m thinking of immediate effects, would be the liquid.

One thing to note before I go, though, is that everything has a price:

Although the new Kava Tincture MAX has a more immediate effect, it does seem to wear off a little more quickly than the Kavalactone Pastes and Oils. This means you may have to go beyond the recommended daily dose in order to keep that state of mind you are enjoying. Shells of Kava on the other hand, with perhaps 120mg of Kavalactone each in them, can be enjoyed with friends over a few hours. The pleasant sensations are very easy to regulate and keep at an even keel.

It’s really up to personal preference, though, and as long as you’re enjoying Kava responsibly, I say explore and seek the peace in this plant of peace, whatever strength you decide is right for you.

Peace & Mischief,

Allergic Reaction to Kava?

Dear Kava Guru,

I’ve been using Kava for over a year but just had an allergic reaction. Is this permanent?

Best Regards,

Another great question; thank you Marc! It’s actually very rare that we hear about allergic reactions to Kava. Most of the allergic reactions to Kava occur after long-time usage, and in amounts that are far far more than the casual Kava drinker. I’ve been enjoying Kava for over 20 years now, and consume, nearly daily, up to 1000mg of Kavalactones (that’s about 4-6 shells of Kava per day). After bi-annual blood tests, and exhaustive self-observation, I haven’t noticed any allergic-type effects to Kava. But, everyone is quite different.

I bring that short snippet up because after looking through all available research on allergic reactions to Kava, it seems that the only documented allergic reactions occur after extensive use, like you, but also with heavy use. You didn’t tell me how much you were consuming per day, but I’m guessing that’s it’s far under the amounts that typically cause allergic reactions. Having said that, though, my best guess as someone who is not a doctor, is that if you discontinue use for a couple of weeks, and then try it again, that you will not have an allergic reaction. There are often a lot of factors that go into allergic reactions, and the only time I’ve seen allergic reactions to Kava in small quantities, is when it’s combined with alcohol.

For me, I can’t consume anything more than a shot a spirits if I am imbibing in Kava, and in all honesty, I can’t really mix the two ever. I get nauseated, and I get itchy skin when I combine the two. The moment I don’t combine the two, I’m fine. And, I know of at least 4-5 friends who regularly combine Kava with alcohol, and they suffer no ill effects whatsoever. It’s really because everyone is different, and different bodies will react to different conditions, and it becomes very hard to predict individual cases.

Just be smart about it, and take a break. When you finish you r break, just try to slowly ramp up your usage and observe carefully. I’m extremely interested to hear how you fare, as stories of allergic reactions are so rare. I’d be happy to share your experience with readers or keep it private; whatever you choose.


Keith @ Kava.Guru

How to Choose Your Kava By Effect

Happy Kava Custom Kava BlendsImagine if you could choose your Kava by effect! Perhaps one person wants some anxiety relief, while another is looking for an energy boost, while another is looking for something to help ease into a meditative state Kava can be a panacea for anything related to stress relief, anxiety reduction, mental clarity, or even as an aphrodisiac. But what if the power of Kava was boosted by a corresponding concentrated herb that makes the Kava even more potent? This is where Happy Kava Blends come in. Continue Reading

Where Can I Buy Kava?

This is where we review various websites and their Kava Kava products.  Our focus is Kava root, but we have tried every kava product from every website we can find, and post what we think.  We accept no donations or solicitations from any website that sells Kava, and if we have a bad experience with any Kava site, we will always try a second and a third time before making any final judgement on the experience and the quality of Kava on that particular website.
Continue Reading

Where Can I Find a Kava Bar?

We have a vastly easier INTERACTIVE KAVA BAR MAP instead of this dull, static list below.  Visit that page instead; and if you’re a Kava Bar, let us know and we’ll add you immediately!

United States Kava Bars

  • Los Angeles, CA – Kava Shack
  • Cave Junction, OR – Commune I Tea
  • San Diego, CA – Kava Lounge
  • Rancho Cordova, CA- The Root of Happiness Kava Bar
  • Santa Cruz, CA – Luminescence Day Spa, Kava Bar and Tea Room
  • Boca Raton, FL – Nakava
  • Hollywood, FL – Mystic Water Kava Bar & Yoga Studio
  • West Palm Beach, FL – Purple Lotus Kava Bar and Kavasutra
  • St. Petersburg, FL – Bula Kafe
  • Deerfield Beach, FL – Kahuna ‘Awa Bar
  • Tarpon Beach, FL – Sawgrass Tiki Bar
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL – Fiji Kava Bar
  • Hilo, HI – Bayfront Coffee, Kava and Tea
  • Hiwa, HI – Kava Kafe
  • Kailua-Kona, HI – Kanaka Kava Bar
  • Pahoa, HI – Uncle Robert’s Kava Bar/’Awa Club
  • Boone, NC – Noble Kava
  • Asheville, NC – Vanuatu Kava Bar
  • Wilmington, NC – Kat 5 Kava Bar
  • Ithaca, NY – Mystic Water Kava Bar & Yoga Studio
  • Portland, OR – Bula Kava House
  • Austin, TX – SquareRüt Kava Bar

Worldwide Kava Bars

  • United Kingdom – Kava Pub

This is just a partial list of the Kava Bars that are listed on the Interactive Map! Simply zoom in and click around; you’ll discover just how many Kava Bars there actually are in the world! And, the exciting part is, is that the number of Kava Bars began to grow exponentially in 2016. This is exciting news, as Kava.Guru is all about spreading the love and word of Kava as far and wide as possible.

What About Baking With Kava?

Dear Kava Guru,

What about baking with Kava?


Planet Earth

Another great question; thank you Abbey! Most who know the fragile nature of Kavalactones have a number of 140 degrees Fahrenheit in their minds. This magical number is the temperature at which Kavalactones begin to break down. (If you’re not sure what a Kavalactone is, you can see Kona Kava Farm’s “Kava Chemotypes Decoded” for more.)

The key word is “begin“.

Most of my Kava career, I’ve been too afraid to heat Kava up beyond 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Baking with Kava seemed like a pipe dream. I wrote about “Cooking With Kava” in a previous post, and discovered some interesting things when it came to cooking or baking with Kava. It turns out Kavalactones are somewhat sturdier than Kava aficionados have been led to believe. If you are to use it when you are baking, it is imperative you are a capable baker, which can be achieved by attending one of the Bakery classes by Delhi bakers Club.

Also, thanks to the diligence of Wonderland-Labs, a testing lab that specializes in Kava, we now have a handy chart. This chart accurately shows at what temperatures and times that Kavalactones actually break down. Why do we care? Because we can do a lot more with Kava when we can cook with it. Kona Kava Farm has reported that countless people have offered them a number of recipes for cooking, and that the effects can pack quite a punch! There’s actually a good article on Kava.com called “Boiling and Baking With Kava” that also explains this curious topic. So, here’s the breakdown for you:


140°F – Heating for 8 hours
150°F – Heating for 7 hours
160°F – Heating for 6 hours
170°F – Heating for 5 hours
180°F – Heating for 4 hours
190°F – Heating for 3 hours
200°F – Heating for 2 minutes
210°F – Heating for 1 hour
220°F – Heating for 30 minutes

They also found that Kavalactone, under pressure, can withstand even higher heats for longer periods of time. This is exciting news to bakers, and explains why the many people I’ve spoken with swear by Kava cookies. Even better news, is that starting from an extract, such as 33% Kavalactone powder can yield very pleasant baked goods. Even if 50% of the Kavalactones were to break down during the baking process, you’d still have a solid 15% of the Kavalactone remaining. No, it’s not as strong as something made from 33% Kavalactone or 55% Kavalactone Paste, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

Something equally as interesting to note is that Kavalactone typically absorbs into the human body via fats. So, coconut milk, very popular in Oceania, can help quicken the absorption of Kavalactones, making the effect even more noticeable. When we’re baking with Kava, there are several sources of natural, healthy fats such as margarine, vegetable oil, nuts, or chocolate chips.

In my humble opinion, Chocolate and Kava is the PERFECT pairing! Kava King also has a Kava Chocolate Bar that’s pretty darn awesome.

So, to me, one of the beautiful things about natural herbal products such as Kava, is the freedom we have to explore them as much as we want, and without fear. If you’ve got an idea for adding Kava to a recipe, I’d love to post it here. If you want to see what it’s like to take a capsule of Kava alongside some chocolate chips, you might be surprised at how extra-pleasant the experience turns out to be. From here at Kava.Guru, I say that baking with Kava can be quite an extraordinary adventure!

Live a little, try out some recipes and share them with us here! If I post your recipe, I’ll send off a 4oz package of Kava.com’s Instant Kava Mix, Natural flavor.


Is Kava from China Dangerous?

Kava from China DangerousI understand that asking if Kava from China is dangerous is a very broad statement for a very broad market. And, after interviews with Kava importers as well as Wonderland Labs (a testing facility that specializes in testing Kava), the results were quite consistent across the board. From more than a dozen testing results from various China-based companies selling Kava in various forms, from powders to Kavalactone extracts in various strengths, the results fell into 2 main categories.

The Kavalactone lineup for 85% of all the Kava we studied from China had a Kavalactone lineup of 2-5-3, and a consistent Kavalactone content of about 11%. Most of this Kava root was advertised as “Noble” Kava root, although 2-5-3 lineups are almost exclusively Tudei Kava. Tudei Kava is actually a non-noble variety of Kava. Another 15% had a consistent Kavalactone lineup of 2-4-3, which is actually consistent with Noble Kava from Vanuatu or possibly Fiji.

Equally as interesting, though, is that the advertised percentages of Kavalactone within the test samples were almost always half of the actual Kavalactone content. When confronted with this information, we were told that the manufacturer’s testing shows results that are quite different than the confirmed results we found.

So, what about the 2-5-3 Kavalactone lineup? It tests out as a non-noble variety of Kava. Most Kava connoisseurs prefer Noble Kava root, which is somewhat analogous to single malt liquors or single origin coffees. Noble Kava root can usually be traced to a very specific geographical location in the world, and is typically thought to be a more “pure” form of Kava. for example, Hawaiian Kava has about 13 major varieties, all of which are a Noble kava root. Varieties such as Ne Ne, M’oa, and Mahakea each have very different characteristics, and typically have different Kavalactone lineups.

But, recent research has shown that Tudei Kava and its FKB content has several key health benefits in the amounts consumed by Kava drinkers.

Read on…

Tudei Kava on the other hand, has the same Kavalactone lineup no matter where it grows in the world. Tudei Kava is a faster growing Kava that typically has thicker rootstock. When the Kava market was exploding in the 1990’s, a lot of farmers were having difficulty keeping up with demand, and switched their crops to Tudei Kava. So, what’s wrong with Tudei Kava, one might ask?

The major constituents of ethanolic kava root extract are kavalactones, including kawain, dihydrokawain, methysticin, dihydromethysticin, yangonin, and desmethoxyyangonin. Kava root extracts also contain chalcones, including flavokawain A, flavokawain B, and flavokawain C. We initially screened all 6 major kavalactones and 3 chalcones for cytotoxicity toward HepG2 hepatoma cells using MTT assays. None of the kavalactones, except yangonin, exhibited toxicity at concentrations up to 150 μM.

Tudei Kava is known to have larger amounts of Flavokawain A and Flavokawain B (sometimes spelled Flavokavain) than most Noble Kava root. With all of the controversy over extremely rare cases of liver damage with Kava consumption, recently, flavokavain B is emerging as a possible link to that rare liver damage. In study published in the US National Library of Medicine, they had this to say about Flavokawain B (FKB):

Interestingly, all other compounds tested, including FKA and yangonin, failed to induce cell death in L-02 cells (data not shown). FKB (Fig. 1B) was therefore chosen for further investigation, not only because it was a more potent cytotoxin in liver cells as compared to FKC, but also because FKB was >20-fold more abundant than FKC in acetone or ethanol extracts of kava.

Before anyone gets in an uproar though, it’s important to note two key items:

  1. What SOLVENT IS USED to extract Kava.
  2. The AMOUNT of Flavokawain-B that needs to be present to cause this cell damage.

Water, the most common extraction method for Kava, is considered a solvent, and therefore, is included on the below chart. What the chart shows, is that very little Flavokawain-B is extracted from Kava when it’s extracted by water. This is of critical importance, especially when researching what the Kava products you choose to purchase were extracted into. Take a look at the chart below:

flavokawain b extraction chart

Out of 46.6mg/g of Kavalactones extracted into water, there was only 0.2mg/g of FKB. In a full day’s serving of 290mg of Kavalactone as recommended by the FDA, that’s only 1.2mg TOTAL Flavokawain-B in your entire day’s Kava serving.

So, let’s take a look at what amounts were measured in the trials: In the quoted study, mice were orally administered FKB in amounts that are equal to 25mg/kg body weight daily for 1 week. Since a mouse weighs about 0.02kg, that means about 0.5mg of FKB were administered per day for a week.

Translating 25mg/kg of weight into human terms, for a 125lb/57kg person that’s 1425mg of FKB every single day for a week. For a 165lb/75kg person that’s 1875mg of FKB every single day for an entire week.

Let’s look at these astounding numbers for a second: So, even if a human consumed several water-based shells of Kava a day (a typical “shell” of Kava contains about 120mg of Kavalactone), they would only be consuming about 1.2mg of FKB in total. That’s about 1,375 times LESS FKB that induced the reported cell death in mice. Even if you had a full day’s serving of Kavalactone per shell (about 290mg per shell) and still drank several shells a day (rarely happens, even with experienced Kava drinkers), that’s still about 458 times less FKB that induced cell death in mice.

To put this another way, to achieve the same levels of toxicity that were done in the quoted study, a person of average weight would have to consume over 1,000 shells of Kava every day for an entire week. Yes, the argument can be made that over time, damage could accumulate, but that’s not how FKB operates. FKB was shown to be dangerous only in extremely large doses, administered daily over the course of a week. It doesn’t “store up” in the human body, and get more toxic over time.

What does this mean for the average consumer of Kava: If you don’t drink Kava, and a lot of it every day, there is little to no evidence that Kava is hepatotoxic in the amounts you would be consumed. If you happened to purchase some bad product from a shady vendor that was extracted into ethanol, you would still need to consume about 100 shells of Kava in a single day, for an entire week to have the same effects that were shown in the study.

So, if much of the Kava coming out of China is actually 2-5-3 and considered Tudei Kava, is it dangerous to consume? It’s only my very non-scientific opinion, but from the various amounts of evidence I’ve gathered, I would have to say no. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking for Noble varieties of Kava root from a reputable vendor when you’re looking to purchase Kava, but it means that Tudei Kava doesn’t appear to be as dangerous as some of the media hype has made it out to be.

In fact, in that same study, they stated this:

Controlling the levels of FKB in kava products by modifying existent extraction methods or possibly by genetically modifying FKB biosynthesis should in principle reduce, if not eliminate, those rare hepatotoxic effects observed in consumers of kava root extracts.

What they are referring to is Kava that is extracted into water. Most consumers are extracting their Kava into water, so it appears that even though this study does show hepatoxicity with levels of FKB that no consumer would be able to physically ingest, even the levels of FKB that could potentially exist in water-based extracts do not appear to be harmful.

As a further note, they also concluded this:

Kavalactones have been proposed to account for kava-induced liver toxicity, but no noticeable toxicity was observed in rats fed with kavalactones (>500 mg/kg, daily for 4 wk). In agreement with this in vivo observation, our data showed that indeed kavalactones had no significant effects on the viability of selected liver cell lines.

This is true for any Kava, whether it’s a Noble variety or the Tudei variety, and this is good news for Kava, wherever in the world it comes from.

Flavokawain B’s Health Benefits?

Now, this will likely be more controversial than any of the other statements in this article, but there’s a peer reviewed study from January 20, 2016 that has concluded that the amounts of Flavokawain B (FKB) contained in the amounts of Kava an average consumer might typically ingest, are not harmful, but protective to our health. Some may find this difficult to believe, but the evidence couldn’t be any clearer. I have taken three of the most definitive conclusions from the study:

Flavokawains promote an adaptive cellular response that protects hepatocytes against oxidative stress. We propose that FKA has potential as a chemopreventative or
chemotherapeutic agent.

And secondly:

Both flavokawains activated Nrf2, increasing HMOX1 and GCLC expression and enhancing total glutathione levels over 2-fold (p < 0.05).

And third:

Calculations by Teschke et al. have shown that the dose of FKB obtained from an ethanolic kava extract is 250-fold below the amount needed to cause modest hepatotoxicity, based on rodent studies (Teschke et al. 2011).

Ths should give plenty of fodder for discussion for those who remain convinced that Tudei Kava is the scourge of the Kava world…


P.S. Read a similar article on Tudei Kava and Flavokawain B called “Is Flavokawain B Dangerous?” to find out more.

Lab Certified Kava – Does It Really Matter?

Kava for Beginners Ultimate GuideOne of the questions I’m getting asked more and more these days is whether “lab certified Kava” means anything. After all, Kava is a natural plant product that grows in places like Hawaii, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and a few other places. That means it’s mostly untouched by the perils of the modern world right? Well, after just a bit of investigation, the answer is a resounding; “Yes, Lab Certified Kava is critically important to your health.” Whether or not the Kava you are purchasing has been tested in a lab and manufactured in an FDA-compliant facility, it can mean the difference between a pleasant experience and an upset stomach, or worse; a trip to the hospital.

Before anyone sounds alarms of me being alarmist, let me present the facts.

First, I went to Amazon.com and purchased 6 random samples of Kava. I wasn’t too particular, I just wanted to get a wide range of Kava products. I purchased ones that appeared to be very “official” and also had claims of “GMP Kava.” I also purchased ones that said “Lab Certified Kava”, as well as ones that didn’t appear to have any Supplement Facts on them whatsoever. (Supplement Facts are required by the FDA for any consumable product.) I got what I felt was a “representative” selection of Kava products.

Let’s first take a brief class on what the different terminologies mean:

Lab Certified Kava” – This means any Kava was sent to a lab that can test for things that the FDA requires of all dietary supplements. The typical tests are biological (testing for mold, yeast, Salmonella, E. coli, and a few other pathogens). Kava is a root, and because of that, it spends most of its life underground. Dirt, at least these days, isn’t as harmless as it used to be. Chemicals leech into the water table, and contaminants that get released into the air and get into rain. The Earth itself builds up contaminants over repeated cycles of growing and harvesting. So, getting Kava tested in a lab, and subsequently lab certified Kava is an absolute must for anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells Kava at a retail level.

And although not every retailer understands, even if the Kava from a supplier was actually lab certified Kava, that’s not actually acceptable to the FDA. Every person who holds Kava for distribution is required to get their Kava tested in a lab to verify the and confirm the results that they were provided with by their supplier. And this is a requirement for every single batch that’s made. With smaller companies and smaller batches, costs just for testing and getting their lab certified Kava into the marketplace can be an astronomically costly undertaking.

Another integral part of the lab certified Kava picture, is testing for heavy metals in Kava. Again, dirt itself may contain trace amounts of a number of contaminants that occur naturally, or were introduced into the ground from various means. Typically, heavy metals testing for Kava consists of Arsenic Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury. The FDA has set up very specific limits of what is acceptable for both food and dietary supplements. In the Kava we’ve tested. In the Kava that Wonderland-Labs tested (a lab that specializes in Kava testing), it appeared to be extremely rare for Kava roots to contain heavy metals.

Biological contamination is another story, though.

GMP Manufactured Kava” – This is another term that seems to be getting abused recently. Food and dietary supplements need to be manufactured under very strict conditions, to be legally sold in the marketplace. This set of extremely rigorous rules only continues to get stricter. The FDA is making it increasingly difficult for small businesses to survive as a result. For a Kava product to be truly “GMP manufactured”, any facility must follow a very strict set of procedures. They must also maintain a specific level of cleanliness and sterility in their manufacturing facility. This includes ensuring that every product offered in the marketplace has been “lab certified”. And this isn’t just for the initial product supplied from the manufacturer; every individual type of product must have a “Certificate of Analysis” accompanying it.

With costs for complete safety testing and identification of Kava, each product can cost up to $500.00 per product. For a company that has, say 24 different Kava products, you can see how the testing alone can get very costly. From our interviews, this is causing smaller companies to cut corners, and subsequently, to allow less safe Kava into the marketplace.

Now that we know the main terminology, let’s take a look at some actual testing results. All of our examples come from a lab that specializes in testing Kava. I trust their expertise. And, with literally thousands of test results from virtually every brand of Kava, they seem to be an authority on lab certified Kava. I also know them personally.

O.K., let’s get back to those 6 Kava samples chosen at random.

Lab Certified Kava Biological Testing

And then, the additional biological testing:

Nearly all of the samples came up as safe, or at least safe enough, which was quite a relief. But, out of the 6 Kava samples, one had dangerous levels of a biological contaminant. This could mean at least an upset stomach, or worse; a trip to the emergency room:

Kava Labs Results Danger

I want to stress that I’m not here to be alarmist; these are real results from a random sampling of real Kava on Amazon.com. Also, despite repeated requests, I’m not going to reveal the sources of our samples. Each Kava company has been alerted to the testing results, and we have asked for a follow-up regarding their remedy to this situation.

There are difficulties with Kava safety. Kavalactones start to break down after just 20 minutes in heat above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Traditional means of pasteurization of irradiation can’t happen for Kava as a result. This makes it even more imperative that any Kava be handled with the utmost care, from farm to your stomach.

The new American Kava Association hoping to make a difference in Kava testing. They require testing of every Kava product by every member. this forces companies to adhere to the strict manufacturing standards that the FDA requires of every dietary supplement manufacturer. They also offer a number of benefits for their members. This includes Kava testing at reduced prices for any member, trusted Kava suppliers, and knowledge that they are part of an organization devoted to Kava safety.

Lab Certified Kava Conclusions

Even our cursory study has shown how critically important it is for Kava to be lab certified. Look for the American Kava Association logo on any retailer offering Kava. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when making your Kava purchases. Don’t be afraid to ask if the Kava is manufactured in a GMP facility. Ask for a bit of a description of the process they employ to ensure the safety of their Kava products. Anyone who truly does manufacture their Kava in a GMP manufacturing facility, will be able to share enough details of their process to assure you that their Kava is what they say it is.

Also, Wonderland-Labs offers free Kava testing for anyone who has become sick from any Kava they have purchased. This is simply a courtesy to the consumer. Hopefully you’ll never have to take them up on their offer. But it’s comforting to know that there’s someone out there looking out for the Kava consumer.

What About Growing Kava Cuttings?

Growing Kava Cuttings

I often get asked about growing Kava cuttings. With over 20 years of working with Kava plants, I’ve got a number of techniques that have proven successful to me. Despite that, though, I’m still torn on whether planting cuttings horizontally or vertically produces the most reliable new Kava plants. I’ll explain as we go. If you are interested in kava plants, you may wish to have a look at them in your local hardware store.

As many of us already know, Kava is a sterile plant. That means that it produces no seeds, although it still produces strange-looking flowers that look like long, skinny bananas, they serve no purpose, other than to perhaps provide a temporary home for a few insects – be careful they don’t actually ruin your plant though, otherwise you might have to call out https://www.lawncare.net/service-areas/new-york/ (or someone similar) to come and deal with the problem. You need to make sure our plant is healthy and pest free to ensure proper growth!

Having said that, the topic at the moment is growing Kava from cuttings, and insects may not necessarily thrive off that. This is the only way Kava is known to propagate. And, it’s important to understand that Kava will only grow from very specific cuttings: They need to be taken from the main stems of the plant.

Wild Dagga Flower

Many plants can grow from any random cutting taken from anywhere on the plant. One of my favorite plants to propagate is Wild Dagga. Not only does it produce a copious amount of seeds, I can take cuttings from just about anywhere on the plant, stick them in water, and roots will start to appear within just a few days.

Kava Stem Nodes

Kava, on the other hand, needs to have at least 1 major node in any cutting you take, and preferably 2 nodes. A node is really easy to see. Take a look at the photo to the left. the left-hand stem is the new Kava plant that grew out of the stem on the right-side. The plant on the right side was placed into the soil vertically. It was a cutting that had two nodes to begin with. I’ve planted cuttings vertically in the past, directly into the soil, but I don’t always get the best results. The root bundle tends to be a bit thin, and they don’t usually take very well when transplanted.

On the other hand, when I take a two-node cutting and place it into a cloner, especially one that uses aeroponics instead of hydroponics,

Aeroponic Kava Cutting

the root bundle flourishes. Take a look at the image to the right. This is from a short two-node cutting of a Hawaiian Nene Kava plant. The root bundle is an explosion of strands, and reacts great to being placed in a rich soil. Some people may not need to grow their plants in this type of soil as if they decide to use hydroponics, the plants are able to grow from the mineral nutrient solutions that can be found in a water solvent. Most gardeners tend to grow their plants in soil though, but hydroponics can be used as an alternative method to help plants grow efficiently.

So this is a check in the “pro vertical cutting” column of Kava plant propagation, but only because of the help of an aeroponics-based cloner. (Speaking of, any aeroponics cloner seems to work just as efficiently as the next. I know I’ll get questions about which cloner is the best cloner, but I just choose the one that seems the most reasonably priced, and with the number of cloning sites that I need, in the space I have.) I have to admit that when space is limited, sprouting new Kava plants from any sized two-node cutting is a joy with the assistance of a cloner.

Growing Kava from Cuttings

So, it doesn’t hurt to make a few cuttings and try out a few different methods to see which one works for you. Another very efficient method (and one I’ve had the most luck with outside of aeroponic Kava growing, is horizontal planting). I also like this method because it feels the most natural to me. With just a little effort, and a box full of rich soil, you can get a bunch of Kava shoots in just a few weeks. Take a look at the image to the left. In about 3″ of well-drained, and very rich soil, mixed very well with plenty of Perlite, I placed several single and double node Kava stem cuttings. Both the single and the double node cuttings bore shoots, but the double node plants seemed to produce stronger shoots.

Two Node Cutting

The single node still worked, but the shoots were a little more sickly. If you’ve got a lot of parent plant to choose from, I’d say to try both yourself to see what works best for you. The aeroponic Kava cutting in the thumbnail above had 3 nodes to start with, and consistently, the three node cuttings produced stronger new plants with larger root bundles time and time again. I’m not a botanist, but my guess is that when there are two or more nodes, the core systems of the plant are sealed in between the nodes, perhaps better protecting the plant and any new growth? It also allows the plant to split responsibilities; one node can handle roots, and the other can handle making the new Kava plant. Take a look at the thumbnail to the right; that’s a two node cutting placed directly in the soil. Notice the shoot at the top node. Again, I’m not sure why these produce better results than new Kava plants made from single nodes, but that’s how it’s worked for me time and time again.

As with Kava in general, plants prefer about 30% shade. This seems to be especially true with new Kava cuttings. It’s tempting to give them tons of light, but young Kava plants tend to burn easily. They’re strong plants in general, but they are fussy in a few key areas, and sun is definitely one of them. The good news is that once a plant is mature, you can accelerate the growth by moving them to more sun. I’ve had Kava plants about a year old that were placed into direct sunlight, and they showed accelerated growth over the ones in 30% shade, without any noticeable negative effects. With that in mind, just think about how many Kava plants can be grown in an environment as big as a commercial greenhouse for instance. Growing them in a place similar to this may mean that they will always have access to direct sunlight which can help them to grow at a quicker rate and with the reduced likelihood of any negative effects from the shade. The roots were also slightly larger, which, with Kava, is usually the goal.

When can you actually take new cuttings from a Kava mother plant?

I’ve tried all different time frames to see which one made the best shoots. In my mind, thought that perhaps young plants were more pliable, and that younger Kava plants would make better new Kava plants. I also thought that perhaps mature plants are more established, that they could stand up to being cut and stuck into soil better. After testing out numerous Kava plants at different ages; from 6 months all the way up to about 5 years, I didn’t actually notice much of a difference in success rate. What mattered far more was the method of propagating the new cuttings. And, the downside to using younger Kava plants (6 months or less), is that you have a lot less plant to work with. On a mature plant, you’ve got a number of sections to choose from, and you can cut down an entire stalk, knowing that there are plenty left for the plant to flourish.

On a younger Kava plant, there are fewer sections, and cutting an entire Kava stalk from the plant may have a more detrimental effect on the overall health of the plant. I personally haven’t seen a plant suffer from cutting one of just two stalks, but older plants definitely have many more candidates to pick from, and you’ll have more Kava plant left when you’ve taken a new round of cuttings. The bottom line is growing Kava cuttings is a fun and rewarding experience on many levels. Kava plants aren’t always easy to come by, so having your own collection of Mother Plants to choose from ensures you’ll have plenty of freshly-harvested Kava root to pick from.

To me, there’s nothing better than fresh Kava root. Yes, dried root still has all the pleasurable effects, but it is definitely more permeating and pleasant of an experience with fresh roots. Perhaps the inherent Kavalactone content is greater, but then perhaps something is lost in the drying process. Either way, few things have brought me more joy than my first shell of Kava made from freshly-harvested Kava roots from plants that I tended to myself. I’d love to hear about your Kava growing experiences below, and the best of luck to you if you decide to try.


How to Make Strong Kava

How to Make Strong KavaHow to Make Strong Kava

This is a question I’ve asked quite often: how can I make my Kava stronger?

First, let’s think about what makes Kava into something our bodies can be affected by. If you don’t know, Kava is traditionally extracted into water or coconut water. There are many variations on this. But it makes sense to understand that the active component of Kava is Kavalactone. And, lactones dissolve in fats best and not water.

Traditional Water Extractions

So, why does tradition tell us to extract Kava into water? Well, part of the reason is because traditionally, Kava was first chewed by the female members of a family. They then spit the masticated Kava into a community bowl. So, it makes sense that since saliva is water-based that the drink made from this chewing would need to be water-based as well. I’m not saying this is the actual reason why traditional Kava drinks are extracted into water, but this sounds like a viable theory to me.

Another reason may be because liquids with fats in them may not be as easily consumed as liquids that are water-based. Kava Is made for gulping, so what sounds more enticing to you – gulping down a cup of water or trying to gulp down a cup of heavy cream? It’s also important to remember that making a drink from powdered Kava roots will thicken whatever liquid it’s extracted into by its very nature. Kava is a natural thickener, so if you are starting with a thick liquid, the final drink will likely be difficult to consume.

Knowing what we’re up against, what are our options?

Something With Fats In It

Well, luckily, lactone is about 10% of the total Kava material. So, what might make sense is to extract that into a mix of 90% water and 10% of whole milk, or something like 50% water and 50% of almond or soy milk. Either will help the extraction process out. Kava will extract into water, just not as effectively as into fats or oils. The problem is that oil and fats do not play well together. So the fat-containing liquid we choose should blend well with water. This blending effect is known as emulsifying. If we try to mix olive oil with water, they will quickly want to separate. But, if we mix milk with water it is a different story. This is because the facts in the milk are already emulsified.

Emulsified liquids make very efficient and potent extractors for your Kava powder.

So, one way of making strong Kava is to first pick a fat-containing liquid that you like to drink. Pure coconut milk and whole milk (or cream) contain the most fat, but neither are something everyone enjoys drinking. Also, it doesn’t take a super fatty liquid to extract most of the Kavalactones out of your Kava, so whole milk, coconut milk, and pure cream is a bit of overkill. Personally, I enjoy almond milk or soy milk equally. Even though their fat content is much less than something like whole milk or pure coconut milk, my homemade shells of Kava are plenty strong.

Having said that, some of my favorite Kava experiences were from drinks made with vanilla coconut water and Kava powder, and no milk whatsoever.

As a general rule, though, the lighter the fat-containing liquid you choose (like soy milk or almond milk), you may want to use a higher ratio of that to water. As mentioned earlier, I do a 50%-50% water-almond milk blend since soy and almond milk have much less fat than whole milk. If I use pure coconut milk, I only use about a 95% water and a 5% coconut milk blend. It’s not required that your fatty liquid blend well with your water, but it will make for a much more pleasant drink. That’s why milk of some kind if the perfect choice, whether it’s cow, soy, almond or coconut.

Kava Additives

Next, many may have heard of additives during a Kava extraction. The most common additives is soy lecithin. Soy lecithin is a fatty material perfect for extracting lactones out of Kava. Soy lecithin also blends well with water, and not much is necessary to make an extraction stronger. It also has a very neutral flavor to it, and is not noticeable at all when blended into a Kava drink. This has been a choice for as long as I can remember, and it works well if you’re looking for an initial “punch” to be as strong as possible.

Something that is relatively new to the market is a products sold on Kava.com called “Kava Blender“. This product is organic and plant-based. It has a very mild flavor to it, it suspends in water, and seems to be quite effective at pulling lactones out during an extraction. I have tried the Kava Blender side-by-side with soy lecithin, and honestly, I don’t have a preference. The good thing about the Kava Blender is that it blends very well with water. It disperses quite evenly and, especially when using a blender, it is very easy to work with. Soy lecithin on the other hand almost requires the blender, because this fatty material, even when using granules, doesn’t always evenly disperse.

Add More Kava

Here’s something I don’t want to overlook. It’s perhaps the most effective way to make a strong Kava drink: Add more Kava!

The FDA tends to be very conservative with servings, especially when it comes to Kava. There is no known overdose with Kava. And, despite the media hype over the past decade, the world health organization has determined that Kava, when extracted by traditional methods into water, has absolutely no measurable link to liver damage.

What this means for you, is that you can try larger amount when extracting. Lactones do not take up a lot of room in your extracted liquid, so it is possible to double, triple, or quadruple the amounts of, powder you initially start with. You will be able to extract nearly double, triple or quadruple the amount of lactones into your drink if you wish. Well, this isn’t quite the case, but it is one very easy way to make a stronger Kava drink without the use of any additives.

Heat Your Kava

Some people have asked if they could heat up their Kava to make it extract better. This is delicate territory as Kavalactones start to break down at just 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Mind you, I said “start” to break down. It’s not like all of your Kavalactones will suddenly lose its effectiveness the moment it touches 140 degrees. What happens definitely takes some time. That time is about 4 hours or so.

So, this may sound like blasphemy to some, but personal experience and loads of recipes from customers who have made Kava brownies, hot Kava tea and other wondrous treats, all have heated Kava way beyond the 140 degree mark. And, 100% of those people have also said that they were able to enjoy the full effects of Kava. This has been confirmed by a series of tests that Kava.com ran on their Kava and their sterilizer. They heated Kava powder to a series of temperatures, 10 degrees at a time, up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. What they found is that they could heat Kava powder almost indefinitely at 140 degrees without reducing the Kavalactone content, and about 30 minutes at 220 degrees. Wow!

So, although heating will eventually make your Kava less effective, you can experiment to your heart’s content. Be a mad scientist and play with your Kava! Try different things out. Make it a social event. Have fun and discover ways that work great for you, and makes a strong Kava drink that you can be proud of.

Add Stronger Kava

Okay, so this one might also seem obvious, but one of the most efficient ways to make a stronger Kava drink is to add stronger Kava to your Kava drink. Kona Kava Farm has two great products that are used just as much for making your Kava extractions have more “kick” as they are enjoyed on their own. These products are Kava Tincture Plus and Kavalactone Paste. [January 1, 2018 update: Kona Kava Farm now has Kava Tincture MAX 12% which is the strongest Kava product I’ve ever tested.]

Both can easily be added to your Kava extraction. Without question either will take it up a notch. But this is where I want to make something as clear as possible: KaAva isn’t necessarily meant to be the strongest possible punch in a single drink.

Kava is meant to be shared, to be enjoyed socially, to integrate into an evening of stories, conversation, music and fun. For me, I typically enjoy 3-4 shells of Kava in the course of an evening. And, the effects definitely “stack” on top of each other, as long as you gulp your Kava in the range of more than 1 per hour. At about 45 minutes, I’ll start on another shell, and it doesn’t take long to really start to feel the effects of Kava after that.

Kava headspace is definitely a unique and pleasant sensation, but driving isn’t always an option when that headspace kicks in. I’ve consumed Kava for nearly 20 years, and have tried every possible combination and form. But despite all of that, my favorite way to enjoy Kava, my favorite way to make strong Kava, is to simply consume more shells than one per hour over the course of an evening. It’s always been worth the sometimes bitter taste and the chalkiness.

In Conclusion

So, what options are typically available? Let’s review:

  • Extract into something oily or fatty (i.e. soy milk)
  • Use a natural additive (such as Kava Blender or Soy Lecithin)
  • Add more Kava (increase the amount of Kava you use)
  • Heat Your Kava Up!
  • Add something stronger (like Kava Tincture Plus or Kavalactone Paste)

Any of the above options are a good place to start. Since there are no hangovers, since it’s as safe as safe and be, I will typically consume 3-5 “shells” of Kava in an evening out. As previously mentioned, there is definitely a headspace that happens once one gets into their third, fourth, or even a fifth shell if the inspiration strikes. When consumed before the previous shell wears off, the effects can stack on top of each other, and things can get very interesting.

So, it’s not always about making as strong a drink as possible right off the bat. Kava likes you to relax, to take your time, to share with friends. So, Kava has made itself best enjoyed in gulps over the course of an evening, rather than doubling or tripling the amount of Kava you use in your efforts to make strong Kava for yourself or your friends. Maybe take the time to get to know Kava, to learn what its effects are, whether it’s a single shell, or several shells over the course of an evening. The Kava experience continues to surprise me in both the most subtle and the most obvious of ways. And, Kava has enriched my life and connected me with people and experiences that will last a lifetime. I hope you find the same.

Bottom line is to simply play, enjoy, and find the happiness that is within each shell of Kava!