Kava is the common name for the Piper methysticum plant, a tropical shrub that grows almost exclusively in the Pacific Islands. In traditional Polynesian culture the roots of the kava plant are dried, ground, and mixed with water to create a thick drink used for ceremonial, medicinal, and recreational purposes. Kava has been consumed this way for thousands of years, but more recently has gained worldwide popularity as a useful ingredient for relieving stress and anxiety.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kava is neither intoxicating like alcohol nor stimulating like coffee. The active compounds in kava are called kavalactones, which act on your brain as a natural antidepressant and mood booster. In higher doses they can also affect your central nervous system, subtly relaxing your body and muscles. For this reason kava has a reputation as a safe and effective way to promote a state of mental wellbeing and physical relaxation, without impairing your mental clarity or motor skills. While everyone is different and results may vary, you can typically expect to feel relaxed, at peace, and ready to socialize.
Remember how we mentioned that the kavalactones in kava can interact with your central nervous system? When you drink kava the first place this will start to happen is in your mouth. Depending on your sensitivity you may experience a numbing sensation or tingling in your mouth, tongue, or throat... but don't worry! This is totally normal and will fade after a few minutes.
The amount of kava you should consume varies from person to person, and also depends on the effects you hope to achieve. While some kava drinkers prefer large doses in order to have a more powerful experience, we recommend that first-timers start with a sip or two every few minutes. This will help you learn your own reactivity and gauge how much kava is right for you. For most people just a few sips can help to “take the edge off,” while consuming larger quantities can provide enough relaxation to act as a sleep aid. You may even feel a little “buzz” from it! Kava also has a reverse tolerance effect as it builds up in your system, so the more frequently you drink it the less you will need to feel the same effects.
Kava is safe for most healthy people, but moderation is always a good idea. The recommended daily dose is about 300 mg of kavalactones, and consuming more could potentially cause stomach upset or drowsiness. It is also best to skip out on kava if you are taking pharmaceutical antidepressants, suffering from a pre-existing heart, lung, or liver condition, or frequently drinking large quantities of alcohol. Pregnant and breastfeeding women may also use discretion, although there are no known reports of complications with kava and pregnancy.