How Kava makes you happy, (not high)


kava happy not highHow kava makes you happy, not high, and answers to other common questions from those looking to try kava as a natural mood elevator for social recreation.

One of the many beneficial effects of kava is its ability to elevate a persons’ mood and make them feel happier and more social.

People become interested in drinking kava when they are looking for a natural way to relax and have fun socially that doesn’t involve drinking alcohol, or taking prescription / regulated drugs. The questions they ask are focused on directly comparing the effects of kava to those of alcohol and drugs. For example:

  • How will kava make me feel? Will kava make me high?
  • When will it kick in? When will the effects wear off?
  • What’s the dosage with kava? How much kava should I take?

Kava is totally different from alcohol and drugs. It is an herbal natural mood elevator, so these questions, as framed, are often hard to respond to. That said, below we do our best to provide answers and the real information that anyone new to kava needs to know.

Will kava make me high?

The kava community and kava aficionados oppose the term “getting high” when referencing the effects of kava since this is a term most closely associated with federally regulated drugs, including marijuana, which continues to be illegal in many states. Kava is not a drug, it is not regulated by the DEA and is not illegal in the United States. It is correctly categorized as an herbal supplement and to avoid any confusion that might lead to kava being perceived as a drug, in the kava-world, different language is used to describe how kava makes you feel.  After all, when people ask ‘will kava get me high?’, what they are really wanting to know is whether kava will make them feel good. And it will.

Some effects of Kava consumption are an increased sense of emotional wellbeing and cheerfulness. Kava is a natural mood elevator that can lift peoples’ spirits. People who drink kava describe feeling calmer and happier. Some even talk of feeling mildly euphoric.  And, when people feel happy they are more inclined to want to socialize, go out and have fun.  This is why kava is becoming increasingly popular as a drink for social relaxation.

Kava drink effects are both mental (heady) and physical (heavy). With most kavas the mental relaxation precedes the physical relaxation. There are many different varieties of kava and each cultivar has a different balance of heady and heavy effects depending on its particular mix of active ingredients, (kavalactones). Heady kavas are calming and will also tend to give you a boost of energy, help you lose your inhibitions and make you more talkative – making them the better kava to drink for social relaxation.

The great thing about kava is that it while it relaxes the mind & body, it doesn’t impair cognition so you are not likely to slip into a brain fog, slur your words or talk gibberish, as can happen if you drink too much alcohol.

Similarly, kava is not associated with aggression or aggressive behavior, quite the opposite. A drink of kava will generally chill you out and put you at peace with the world. This is one of the reasons kava has been traditionally used in tribal negotiations and drunk on ceremonial occasions on the South Pacific Islands. Kava drinking is also part of the culture of the Hawaiian Islands – well known for their relaxed ‘aloha’ vibe.

Given all the positive effects of kava, it is easy to understand why kava bars have opened up all over the country. And people are flocking to them for a social night out with friends, just as residents of Vanuatu have been gathering in ‘nakamals’ to do the same for centuries.

*Pro Tip: if drinking kava in the evening, dim the lights as drinking kava can make you more light sensitive. Kava Bars often have comforting low lights and light music to fully enjoy the kava experience.

Kava Happy 2How long will the effects of a kava drink last?

Here’s a description of a typical kava drinking experience.

A few minutes after drinking kava, the first thing you’ll notice is a numbing sensation in the mouth for a minute or two. This is good news. It is a sign that you are drinking a high quality kava with the power to relax you naturally. The real effects of drinking kava will start to kick-in 15-20 minutes after you’ve consumed a shell or cup of kava. You’ll first start to feel a calming of your mind and a sense of peace, tranquility and happiness followed by a release of any muscle tension as a relaxing heaviness seeps through your body. The extent to which you experience each of these effects will depend on the variety of kava you are drinking and your own body chemistry. These mellowing effects will last for around hour to 90 minutes at which point you can choose whether to drink another shell, cup or serving.

*Pro Tip: Kava is ALWAYS most effective on an empty or near empty stomach. Many people will not feel the effects of kava if consumed close after a large meal. It’s recommended to drink kava 3-4 hours after eating. A small amount of people will feel slight nausea when drinking kava on a totally empty stomach and prefer to eat a piece of fruit or small snack before or after their first shell to eliminate this.

What’s the dosage? How much can I drink?

Drugs have a dosage referenced in milligrams. Alcohol is measured in fluid ounces. And when it comes to drinking kava we talk about serving size. When trying kava for the first time we always recommend you follow the instructions listed on the product to prepare your drink. Generally speaking, 3 Tablespoons of traditional kava root powder or 1 Tablespoon on Instant/Micronized Kava is considered a serving size. These are mixed with 8-12 ounces of water or juice to make your kava drink.

After trying kava a few times you’ll soon gauge how a single serving affects you. As you become a regular kava drinker and gain more experience of the beverage, you’ll discover your own personal kava drinking preferences – what kava gives you the effects you are looking for and how many servings is best.

*Pro Tip: Kava has a unique built in mechanism to let someone know it they’ve had enough – if you start to get a little dizzy or slight nausea, its kava’s way of telling you that’s enough for the night.

How to prepare kava teaReverse tolerance: two cups of kava for first time drinkers

One thing those new to kava should know is that when drinking kava for the first time you may not immediately feel any effects. This is because of something called reverse tolerance. This means that the more you drink kava, the better your body understands how to react and produce the mind and body relaxation effects. Similarly, you may need a double serving the first time to feel these positive benefits. Essentially, your body needs to adjust and be trained to respond to the active ingredients in the root. Some kava bars will ask customers if this is their first time drinking kava. If the answer is yes, the customer is given an introductory offer of two kava cups for the price of one as the bar wants them to enjoy the relaxing effects of the beverage on their first visit.

If at home you don’t want to drink two cups your first time, instead drink a cup a day for four days and see if you start to experience the effects.

*Pro Tip: Do not combine drinking kava and alcohol or drink kava if you are taking any anti-anxiety prescription medications or natural remedies as this can lead to negative side effects. Instead focus on experimenting with different types of kavas and preparation methods till you find the one that gives you the effect you are looking for.

Of course the best way for you to really appreciate the effects of drinking kava is to try it for yourself. Check out our guide to buying kava for the first time and read this informative article on how to choose the kava that is right for you to begin.

Once you start drinking kava you’ll soon learn that a kava is not just comparable to a glass of wine or beer or a joint to unwind at the end of the day, it is much better – at least in our humble opinion!

If you have other questions about kava, feel free to email us directly at

We look forward to hearing from you and helping to make your introduction to kava drinking smooth and easy.


5 Responses

  1. Rachel Mcdonald
    | Reply

    Does the micronized Kava come in the more sedating varieties of Kava?

    • Mike
      | Reply

      Hi Rachel,
      Yes, we have all the varieties available in Micronized / Instant Kava that we do in Traditional Kava. The more sedating ones would be Borongoru, Melomelo and Vula Waka.
      Kalm with Kava

  2. Rachel Mcdonald
    | Reply

    Wow this kava worked great for me the very first time I used it. I am going to try the Borongoru tonight to help me sleep. Prescription drugs and alcohol are like poison to my brain so I gave them up awhile back.
    In the starter kit which I received today, there are two little bottles. What are these exactly and how do I use them?

  3. John M
    | Reply

    I want to try kava but which one is the most effective? How fast does it kick in?

    • Mike
      | Reply

      Hi John,
      All kava is effective for relaxation and/or mild anxiety. It really depends on what time of day you’re looking to use it. Evening or more sedating varieties include Borongoru, Vula Waka and Melomelo which are good for occasional sleeplessness. Daytime varieties that provide relaxation without the sedation would be Pouni Ono, Samoan Ava, or Borogu. As a beginner, we would recommend trying out the micronized kava as this is easiest to start with – just add a scoop to any beverage and enjoy!

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