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Ultimate Kava Guide

Your One-Stop Shop for Kava Information

If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop that gives you a peek at all the details about kava, look no further—you’ve arrived! Welcome to our Ultimate Kava Guide, where we’ll explore the world of this fascinating plant that’s grown from a hidden gem in the Pacific Islands to a global relaxation sensation. Dive into the depths of this guide and check out the wonderful qualities, history, tips, and tricks that make kava so special.

Borogu Kava from Kalm with Kava on a desk with books

What is Kava?

Kava, also known by its botanical name, Piper methysticum, is a small shrub grown in the Pacific Islands. A member of the pepper family, kava is estimated to have over 100 different varieties, each with its own unique properties. When the roots and stump of the kava plant are ground down, made into a drink, and consumed, the effects of kava’s active ingredient—kavalactones—help promote psychological and physiological relaxation. For thousands of years, islanders in the South Pacific have used kava plants for social rituals, religious ceremonies, and medicinal purposes. Learn more about the amazing properties of kava.

The Science Behind Kava’s #Kalm

To better understand kava’s uncanny ability to relax your mind and muscles, you must first understand the science of kava’s active ingredient–kavalactones. Concentrated in kava’s roots, kavalactones are responsible for kava’s calming, bad mood-busting qualities. Kavalactones interact with the body’s limbic system of the brain, notably the amygdala. The amygdala helps regulate emotions, which is why many people experience a sense of clear-minded calm when drinking kava.

There are thought to be 18 different kavalactones, with a large majority of active ingredients coming from just six. Each of the main six kavalactones is assigned a number (1-6) to make up that kava’s chemotype. The chemotype lists in order from highest to lowest the amount of each kavalactone present in a particular variety. This number tells you the chemical makeup and kavalactone effects of any variety of kava you are purchasing. Learn more about the science behind kava’s calming properties.

Where is Kava Found?

Kava is a perennial tropical shrub native to and cultivated in the South Pacific islands, including Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Hawaii. Kava plants thrive in climates where rainfall is plentiful, the soil remains moisturized, and temperatures and humidity are high all year round.

The Puzzle of Kava Cultivation

Kava is a curious plant, particularly when it comes to cultivation. Firstly, kava is a sterile plant, meaning it can’t reproduce naturally. Therefore, its seeds were not carried from island to island on the ocean breeze or due to migrating birds. If kava did originate in Vanuatu, as many researchers believe, it spread by hand as people migrated from one island to the next. Kava farmers must cultivate each plant from a small section of stalk they remove from a mature plant and transplant into the ground to propagate kava. Learn more about kava cultivation.

Kava plants in Hawaii getting watered
Names for Kava
  • Fiji – yaqona, yogona, yongona, grog
  • Samoa – ava, ava pepper, ava root
  • Tonga – kava, kava kava, kava root, kava pepper
  • Vanuatu – malok, malogu
  • Hawaii – ‘awa, pū’awa
  • Kosrae – seka
  • New Guinea – wati
  • Pohnpei – sakau

The Many Names of Kava

Piper mesthysticum is the genus name of kava, which is one of the many members of the pepper family. Kava is the Tongan name for Piper mesthysticum and is the name most people are familiar with in Western culture. Derived from the Tongan and Marquesan languages, kava literally means “bitter,” reflecting the plant’s naturally sharp, earthy taste.

There are other kava names that are just as, if not more, popular than the name “kava.” In fact, every island in the Pacific Islands has a different name for kava and grows different varieties of the plant than other islands. See a list of the different islands’ names for kava below, and learn more about the various names for kava.

Names for Kava
  • Fiji – yaqona, yogona, yongona, grog
  • Samoa – ava, ava pepper, ava root
  • Tonga – kava, kava kava, kava root, kava pepper
  • Vanuatu – malok, malogu
  • Hawaii – ‘awa, pū’awa
  • Kosrae – seka
  • New Guinea – wati
  • Pohnpei – sakau

The History of Kava: Origins of Kava

Unraveling the history of kava’s origins is a bit like solving a mystery. Today, most believe kava originates from Vanuatu. More specifically, some theorize kava originated in Northern Vanuatu on the island of Maewo. Supporting this theory is the fact Vanuatu hosts the most extensive kava varieties (over 80) of any nation. While the exact origins of kava may never be known, its significance in important cultural traditions in most South Pacific island nations dates back hundreds of years. Dr. Vincent Lebot, a leading kava expert, researched kava origins extensively and found the first descriptions of the plant from 1786, but it was most definitely consumed far before this time. Learn more about the history of kava’s origins.

Building in Vanuatu

Original Uses of Kava

Kava’s cultural significance goes far beyond just being a beverage common in South Pacific nations. In addition to ceremonial purposes, kava has been used for medicinal purposes on the islands for centuries. Village healers and medicine men used kava to calm, relax, and sedate individuals struggling with stress, anxiety, and insomnia. It was also used as a muscle relaxant, a use that has carried on into modern times.

Kava was also used in village meetings for conflict resolution. A kava drinking session would essentially be the last attempt for feuding tribes to come together to reach an amicable agreement. Combatants would gather and sit down to drink kava together and discuss their issues, often finding a way to resolve them without the need for fighting.

While it has always been used in formal ceremonies, kava also eventually made its way into celebrations marking everyday family and village life, such as births, weddings, anniversaries, and funerals. In a traditional wedding ceremony, for example, a gift of kava is exchanged to symbolize the binding together of two families. Learn more about the original and modern uses for kava.

Kava in Cultural Ceremonies

Most notably, kava drinking has been part of prestigious ceremonial occasions throughout the Pacific Islands since ancient times. The installation of a new village chief, agreements between communities, or the welcoming of an important visitor will always include a kava ceremony. In Tonga, the installment of the king or a noble title is not complete until a kava ceremony is conducted.

While kava ceremonies may differ slightly depending on the island, there are many similarities. The drink is often served to the individuals participating in the ceremony in a half coconut cup or bilo (Fiji) or from a traditional, carved wooden bowl called a tanoa (Fiji), also known as a kumete (Tonga). The ceremony typically follows the same format. A group of people will sit around in a circle with a large bowl. The leader—the most important in ranking of the group—drinks from the cup and claps once. Then, the next important person in the group drinks and claps. This continues until every person in the circle has drunk kava. Learn more about kava ceremonies and kava’s journey to the U.S.

Man holding a bag of Kava from Kalm with Kava on the beach

Kava’s Move to the U.S.

The history of kava in the U.S. started during the early part of the 20th century when kava was sold in American pharmacies and incorporated into all sorts of capsules and concoctions as a medicinal aid. Kava’s uses included treatment for gonorrhea, kidney disease, and nervousness. The 1990s saw a kava boom in the U.S. as pharmaceutical companies and medical studies promoted kava as a natural aid for anxiety. Today, the kava bar phenomenon has exploded in the U.S. as well, with the country’s first kava bars having opened in Florida in 2002.

More recently, in 2017, kava proved it has even stronger American roots when two local botanists discovered a form of kava growing in the Louisiana swamplands. The researchers have yet to fully identify the cultivars and establish just how the plant came to be in the southern state. However, one theory is the plants may have originated in French Polynesia and have been brought to the state by French explorers via Europe. Learn more about the history of kava in the U.S.

What is Kava Used For?

For hundreds of years, native peoples in the South Pacific have utilized kava for social rituals, religious ceremonies, and medicinal purposes. They’ve embraced kava’s natural abilities to relax the mind and body and induce a sense of calm and euphoria.

Over the last several years, the popularity of kava has spread worldwide as more and more people uncover the benefits of kava. If you’re curious how kava can fit into and enhance your daily life, read on to learn about eight ways our customers use kava to upgrade their relaxation regime.

Woman drinking kava out of a bilo at a party
1. Ease Anxiety

Whether you are preparing for a first date, a job interview, or a busy week at home and work, kava can help soothe your worries and ease tension. The kavalactones in kava can help you feel happier, lighter, and more relaxed for whatever life throws your way. Since kavalactones interact and bind with neurotransmitters in the brain’s limbic system—which controls fear and anxiety reactions—they can help lessen your anxious feelings and thoughts.

2. Calm Your Mind

Kava, much like yoga and meditation, can help you achieve a more mentally clear and emotionally calm state of mind. Kavalactones bind to the receptors in the brain and help ease frantic activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates fear, anxiety, and stress responses. Drinking kava can help calm the mind while enhancing mental clarity.

3. Social Boost

When consumed, certain varieties of kava can help induce a sense of uplifting calm and euphoria, making it a great complement for social relaxation. While socializing comes easy to some, other people feel shy, nervous, and awkward in social situations. Sipping a good, heady kava can help you feel more sociable, talkative, and lower social inhibitions.

4. Lift Your Mood

When the weekend rolls around, many of us get excited at the thought of getting away from the daily grind of work and spending time out on the town with friends. But between work deadlines, extracurriculars for kids, and a mounting chore list, you sometimes feel too worn out to do anything. Kava can help boost your mood before a night out and help break your bad mood so you can get excited for an activity or even just the rest of the day.

5. Soothe Feelings Linked to Depression

Whether it’s feeling sad or hopeless, struggling to sleep, or losing interest in activities you once loved, we all struggle with bouts of depressive feelings from time to time. The key is having tools at your disposal to help pull yourself out from the dark mood cloud. While the science is still unclear as to whether kava can be used as a treatment for depression (always consult with a doctor first for help treating depression), certain varieties of kava have “heady” relaxation effects that can be helpful in easing feelings linked to depression. Learn more about sipping kava for depression.

6. Sleep Aid

Whether it’s stress, a poor sleeping environment, or drinking too much caffeine, many people struggle to get enough sleep at night. To promote a good night’s sleep, consider adding kava to your nighttime regimen.

Kava is well known for its mind and body relaxation properties, making it a wonderful, natural sleep aid for those who have trouble getting to or staying asleep. Heavy kavas like Borongoru and Melomelo are kavas that are good for encouraging a good night’s sleep, as it is best suited to nighttime consumption. Learn more about using kava for sleep.

7. Enhance Your Workout Recovery

Post-fitness soreness is no fun, but sipping kava can help enhance your workout recovery. Kava is an all-natural way to help combat muscle soreness, reduce your risk of injury, boost recovery, and improve your sleep after a serious sweat session. Kava’s kavalactones have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, which can help ease muscle tension and soreness. Learn more about the benefits of mixing kava and exercise.

8. Muscle Relaxation

Stiff muscles are bound to crop up from time to time. Whether it’s from a strenuous hike or sitting hunched over your desk all day, tight muscles can drag down your body and hinder your day-to-day routines. Kava can help ease your muscles so you can get back to your favorite activities. Learn more about kava as a natural muscle relaxer.

How is Kava Made?

Today, kava root drinks and products are available from online retailers, local health food stores, and kava bars. But what exactly is the process behind transforming the green leafy plant into a product you can purchase and use at home? It all starts with kava powder.

Kava powder on a metal spoon

What is Kava Powder?

Kava powder is the traditional way of using kava in the Pacific Islands. The root and stump of the plant are first dried out and then ground down into a powder. The powder is then added to water or the beverage of your choice and drunk as a mixture.

There are three popular forms of kava root powder: medium grind, micronized, and instant kava root powder. Medium grind kava is the most common form of kava root powder on the market. You knead it in water before drinking to release all of the small root particles into the water through a straining bag. Micronized kava powder is finely ground kava root powder that doesn’t require straining because all of the fibers have been removed. Instant kava is made by making medium grind kava “tea” and then dehydrating it. This results in a “true kava powder” that can be easily added to a liquid of choice for a quick and easy kava drink. Learn more about kava powder.

Kava’s Journey from Farm to Cup

Since kava plants don’t reproduce naturally, each plant must be specifically cultivated from nodes on the stalk. Farmers take the stem of an existing plant and chop it into 3-4” long pieces. These stem cuttings are then planted directly into the ground and nurtured for 3-5 years for a mature plant to grow and its kavalactones to fully develop. Kava plants need to be planted initially in shady spots to support their early months. They thrive in climates like the islands of the South Pacific, where rainfall is plentiful, the soil remains moisturized, and temperatures and humidity are high all year round.

Once the plant matures, farmers carefully dig it up. They take special care to extract all the valuable lateral roots, the part of the plant that contains the highest concentration of kavalactones. The stalks are chopped away from the stump, and the stump and the roots are washed to remove dirt. The kava will then be dried either by direct sunlight or with drying houses. Following good drying, the kava is then pounded or ground into a powder and is ready for consumption or export.

Many people new to kava will be shocked to learn the plant isn’t a typical commercial crop. While there are some large kava plantations, most kava comes from independent, small-scale, local family farms that may have a couple of acres planted. They plant kava alongside other crops as a means of bringing in additional money. At Kalm with Kava, we focus on sourcing kava from family farmers because not only does the money allow them to support their families and send their children to college, but it also ensures we get consistent high-quality to sell. Learn more about kava’s journey from farm to cup.

Noble Vs. Tudei Kava

There are over 103 different varieties of kava, but they can all be divided into two simple categories: Noble kava and Tudei kava.

Traditionally, Tudei kava is used for medicinal purposes or special ceremonial drinking only and never for everyday consumption. The name “Tudei” aptly means “two-day” because the effects of it can linger for a good 48 hours. Because of its higher concentrations of the kavalactones DHK and DHM, Tudei kava can make you feel a bit trapped in a drunken state with perpetual sensations of nausea, lethargy, and strong headaches.

Noble kava, on the other hand, is used for more everyday drinking. Thanks to its naturally occurring composition of kavalactones and chemical makeup, it’s considered the purest form of kava. And because it doesn’t produce any of the lingering side effects that Tudei kava does, Noble kava is considered superior to Tudei kava and safe for daily use when consumed responsibly.

At Kalm with Kava, we only sell lab-tested, high-quality, fresh Noble kava sourced directly from farmers we know. To avoid purchasing Tudei kava, we recommend researching the reputation of the company you are buying from. Learn more about the difference between Noble kava and Tudei kava.

Drinking Kava with a Kava Bilo

What are the Different Kava Variety Types?

Between the two main categories of kava—Noble kava and Tudei kava—over 100 kava varieties have been identified. Each variety of kava has a different combination of kavalactones, and based on their effects, is further categorized into three distinct groups: heady, heavy, and balanced.

A heady kava is one that will have more mental and uplifting effects and is great for daytime drinking. They can be mood-boosting, making you feel happy or even euphoric. A heady kava will also make you feel calmer and more sociable. Our heady kavas are Tongan Pouni Ono and Samoa Ava.

The predominant effects of a heavy kava will be to make your body feel heavy and to relax your muscles as well as calm your mind. Heavy kavas are usually more even sedative, so they can help lull you to sleep at night. Our heavy kava varieties are our Borongoru and Melomelo from Vanuatu.

A balanced kava variety is one that has a balance of heady and heavy relaxation effects. You can typically drink these kava any time of day. Examples of balanced kavas include Vanuatu Borogu and Fijian Loa Waka.

Learn more about the different kava varieties.

What Varieties Does Kalm with Kava Carry?

At Kalm with Kava, we sell seven varieties of high-quality Noble kava root and powder products sourced directly from small Pacific Island farmers for freshness and strong relaxation effects.

Private Reserve

Kalm with Kava got its start by going to the Melanesian and Polynesian islands to find the best kava farmers in the world. The farmers Kalm with Kava partners with are known for cultivating unique, rarely exported kava that is normally reserved for those on the islands. Luckily, our relationships allow us to tap into these exclusive varieties of kava that can’t normally be found outside of kava-producing nations. Our private reserve kavas are top-shelf, incredible varieties known for their relaxant effects, taste, and texture.

Borongoru

Grown on Vanuatu, Borongoru Vanuatu is the heaviest kava we carry. Borongoru is the perfect kava to drink for stress relief or to reduce feelings of anxiousness. For deep body and mind relaxation at the end of the day, we recommend sipping on Borongoru kava in the late afternoon before dinner or a few hours after dinner when their stomach is empty. If you are looking for help getting a better night’s sleep, Borongoru may also serve as a great sleep aid. Learn more about Borongoru kava.

Loa Waka

The all-around, powerful mind and body relaxation effects of Loa Waka make it one of the strongest kavas on the market, one of our most popular varieties. Great for drinking any hour of the day, smaller servings will calm you and lift your mood, while larger servings relax you physically, too.

House Blend

Our House Blend kava can make an excellent addition to your day or night relaxation practices. With a smooth texture and mild flavor, it is sure to be a staple in your home. More in the “heady” category of kavas, our House Blend can help you feel more peaceful and relaxed.

Melomelo

Relax and mellow out your mood with Melomelo kava. Melomelo is a moderately heavy kava, meaning it can help your body feel heavy, relax your muscles, and calm your mind. In smaller servings, it can be good for soothing anxious thoughts and stress without the full potency of sedation. In larger servings, the heavy qualities of Melomelo kick in and can help you wind down at the end of a long day or help ease you to sleep. Learn more about Melomelo kava.

Pouni Ono

Get bubbly and ready to socialize with Pouni Ono kava. Harvested directly from kava farmers in Tonga, Pouni Ono kava is a smooth, relatively easy-tasting kava, which makes it excellent for first-time kava drinkers. Pouni Ono’s relaxation effects are best described as “heady,” meaning it is more energizing and capable of stimulating euphoria than other kava varieties. Learn more about Pouni Ono.

Borogu

Borogu kava, grown on the archipelago Vanuatu, is often considered the “OG” kava. Classified as a “balanced” kava, Borogu’s potency and unique blend of kavalactones make it equally enjoyable in smaller and larger doses, depending on your preference needs. Borogu kava can help you feel lighter, happier, and more mentally relaxed, and it can help you physically relax, too. Learn more about Borogu kava.

Samoa Ava

Grown in small quantities in Samoa, our Samoa Ava kava is a one-of-a-kind kava that few have been privileged enough to enjoy. With Samoan kava, you get the best of both worlds with relaxation effects. We describe our Samoan kava as a blend of “balanced” and “heady” effects. This combination makes it an uplifting, happiness-inducing kava with little to no sedation. Learn more about Samoa Ava kava.

Just Kava

If you’re missing our discontinued Vula Waka kava, Just Kava is the best kava swap around for your relaxation and sipping tastes. Just Kava includes three different varieties of kava from three different islands: Fiji, Vanuatu, and Tonga. Each Just Kava bag includes one pound of medium grind kava root from its own specified country. Learn more about Just Kava.

What Types of Kava Products Are There?

At Kalm with Kava, our ultimate goal is to bring you premium kava products for natural mind and body relaxation. Since 2010, we’ve worked with nutritionists, food scientists, and chemists to develop innovative products that enhance your personal health regimens and deliver the best relaxation qualities that the South Pacific offers. Check out the range of kava products we offer and learn more about your favorites!

Full line up of products from Kalm with Kava
Micronized Kava Root

For on-the-go stress relief, micronized kava root helps you relax the island way wherever you are. Micronized kava is kava root that has had all of the coarse fibers removed from it to form a fine powder. It can easily be mixed into any beverage, which eliminates the need for time-consuming straining. First-time kava drinkers can be initially put off by kava’s earthy taste. To ease into drinking kava, mixing micronized kava into your favorite beverage can help balance the earthy taste with a flavor you know and enjoy.

Medium Grind Kava Root

Medium grind kava, the most common form of kava root powder on the market, is similar to ground coffee in its particle size. Used in the traditional preparation of kava tea, medium grind kava root powder is placed in a straining bag and then steeped in a bowl of warm. After steeping, the strainer bag is kneaded to release the kava liquid into a bowl. When finished kneading, the kava is chilled in the refrigerator and added to ice before drinking. While more prep work is involved, medium grind kava delivers an authentic island experience in the comfort of your own home.

Instant Kava

For those who enjoy the most pure form of kava out there, instant kava is a great fit. It’s created by taking fresh green kava juice and dehydrating it, leaving only fine powder that can be prepared in a flash. This form of kava is easy on the stomach, and some say it is stronger than micronized kava.

Mints

Take a literal chill pill with Kalm with Kava’s portable and poppable kava mints. Available in two amazing flavors—Cinnamint and Orange—these great-tasting mints can help calm and relax you on the go. Our kava mints come in tiny tins, so you can easily take them with you for quick access to stress relief.

Kava Concentrate

For newcomers to kava or those who want a flavorful alternative to traditional kava, our kava concentrates have been specially formulated to make kava taste good. Available in three fun flavors—Guava, Kavarita (lemon-lime), and Iced Tea—our kava concentrates mix kava extract with fun flavors for an easy-to-enjoy kava experience. Simply dilute one ounce of concentrate with 5 ounces of water to make a quick kava drink whenever you’d like some instant relaxation.

Kava Sampler Pack

Looking for a fun and creative way to dip your toe into kava culture? Our sample pack is your floatie in the kava pool party— it eases you into all things kava. The sampler is a bundle of sample-sized kava products that let you experience a range of varieties without purchasing the full amount. Within one pack, you get the opportunity to taste and see which kava effects fit your relaxation needs, practice straining kava with a straining bag, and determine your favorite kava products, all without breaking the budget.

How to Select the Best Kava for You

To choose the best kava for your needs, consider three key factors: why you want to drink kava, when you plan to consume it, and where you will be drinking it. Understanding the relaxation benefits you seek and your wellness needs will help you decide between heady, heavy, or balanced kava varieties. Additionally, knowing the specific effects of each kava strain can guide you in selecting the right one for daytime or evening use. Consider the form of kava that suits your lifestyle, whether it’s traditional medium grind root for home use, micronized kava for on-the-go convenience, or flavored concentrate for quick and easy preparation. Finally, always buy from reputable vendors to ensure the quality and safety of the kava you choose. Learn more about how to select the best kava for your needs, and use our kava selection tool to get matched with a kava product that best matches your relaxation goals.

When to Drink Kava

Each kava variety offers different relaxation effects, making them suitable for a range of times and occasions. “Heady” varieties like Pouni Ono or Samoa Ava are great for daytime use, providing a mood boost and increased sociability, while “heavy” varieties like Vanuatu Borongoru or Vanuatu Melomelo are better for nighttime consumption and serve as excellent sleep aids. “Balanced” varieties like Loa Waka and Vanuatu Borogu offer a mix of heady and heavy effects, making them versatile choices for various situations. Consider both the time of day and the event or venue you will be drinking kava to choose which kava product is best for the situation.

Kava Preparation and Prep

Preparing kava for the first time is an experience people never forget. Some choose to go the traditional route, which involves a hands-on process of squeezing and straining ground kava root. Others decide to mix a scoop of kava into their favorite beverage and create a kava concoction of their own. No matter the preparation methods you choose, you always remember the calm and relaxation that follows that first sip of kava. Check out our tips and recommendations for kava prep below.

Preparing Kava in a Tanoa
Preparing Kalm with Kava Kava Concentrate

How to Make/Prepare Kava

Depending on what type of kava you are using, the kava preparation process can use everything from a blender to a strainer bag to the quick stir of a spoon. Traditionally prepared medium grind kava root involves placing kava root powder into a straining bag and then letting it steep before finally kneading and squeezing the bag to strain the liquid out of the bag into the bowl. You can also mix it in a blender for a quick, easy preparation method. Visit our quick guide on easy and traditional ways to prepare kava.

With micronized kava, simply add one tablespoon of the mixture to your favorite beverage. With kava concentrate, just dilute one ounce of kava concentrate with 5 ounces of water to make a quick, tasty kava drink. For more kava preparation tips, be sure to reach out to the Kalm with Kava crew. View our full guide to kava preparation methods.

Determining Kava Dosage

Much like with alcohol, your individual reaction to kava and your tolerance level will influence the dosage and number of servings you drink in a given session. Generally speaking, brew three tablespoons of medium grind kava with 8-12 ounces of water. For micronized kava, mix one tablespoon of kava into 8-12 ounces of a nonalcoholic beverage of your choice. The best way to get a specific answer to the question of kava dosage, though, is to experiment with varieties, serving sizes, and products. Learn more about kava dosage.

Make Kava Taste Better with Kava Recipes & Pro Tips

Because kava has a strong, earthy, and bitter taste, some kava connoisseurs have created imaginative kava recipes and tricks to make your kava-sipping experience more enjoyable. From kava hot cocoa to kava guava coladas, whipping up a fun kava beverage can help you relax and be tasty to enjoy, too. For a full archive of delicious kava recipes, visit our archive of kava recipes.

Aside from creating a custom kava beverage, there are other ways you can combat the strong taste of kava and still relax. Whether you want to mix micronized kava in your afternoon smoothie, eat a fruity kava chaser after your morning grog, or add in a fun spice to your evening bilo of kava, there are many inventive ways to enhance the flavor of kava without diminishing its relaxing impact. Check out our tips and tricks on how to make kava taste better.

Kava Accessories

At Kalm with Kava, we have all the kava accessories you’ll need for an authentic kava drinking experience and lifestyle. From bilo cups to straining bags, we are your one-stop shop for everything kava.

Bilo

A bilo is half a coconut shell hollowed out, smoothed, and carved to form a cup. Authentic bilos are handmade and range in size and style depending on their island of origin. The history of serving kava in a bilo dates back centuries to the early ages of the Pacific Island cultures. Since ancient times, drinking kava has been part of significant ceremonial occasions, and bilos were used to serve kava during the proceedings. Learn more about bilos and shop for your own.

Tanoa

To preserve the cultural traditions of drinking kava in the Pacific Islands, many kava drinkers enjoy preparing their kava drinks in a traditional kava bowl, also known as a tanoa. A tanoa is a wooden kava serving bowl, usually round or elliptical in shape and ranging from highly decorated to very minimalistic in design. They typically have three or more legs, are shallow, and are made of hardwood or clay. Each country in the Pacific Islands has its own variation of a kava bowl, so every tanoa is 100% unique. Historically speaking, tanoas were passed around and used as part of religious, cultural, and community rituals in the Pacific Islands. Kava was either drunk directly from the tanoa or from bilos, which were dipped into the bowls and passed around to share. Learn more about tanoas or shop for your own.

Kava Bag/Kava Strainer

Unlike regular tea, kava needs to be kneaded and squeezed in water to allow kava’s kavalactones to separate into the water. To do this, you utilize a strainer bag. Modern kava strainer bags are made out of natural and synthetic fabrics that work better to keep kava root out of your drink. At Kalm with Kava, we carry three types of kava straining bags: muslin, synthetic, and authentic. Choosing which type of bag will work best for you largely depends on the amount of kava per brew and how often you make kava. Learn more about choosing the best kava strainer for you.

Using your kava straining bag is simple. Place your desired amount of kava root powder into the bag and then knead in a bowl of room-temperature water for 5-10 minutes. After straining your kava, the easiest way to clean your bag is to simply wash it with other clothes using a gentle, natural detergent.

There’s nothing like a freshly strained cup of kava to soothe your soul and relax your mind. To start relaxing the island way, shop our selection of kava straining bags.

Kava Pouch

If you’re looking for an easier way to prepare your kava, our KalmPouch can make your kava experience a smooth one. Designed for those who love kava but might have difficulties preparing it traditionally, the KalmPouch makes preparing kava quick and easy. Made from reusable, food-grade nylon material and measuring about 4 inches by 4 inches, our KalmPouch revolutionizes preparing kava. Shop our KalmPouch.

Group toasting kava drinks and bilos

Kava Bars

A great place to spend time with friends, relax, and enjoy your favorite kava beverage, kava bars are one of the hottest trends in the world right now. Kava bars are simply that, a bar-like setting where kava is served, consumed, and enjoyed with others. While kava bars are only now increasing in popularity, they’ve been around for thousands of years in the South Pacific.

“Nakamals” are the original kava bars in the Pacific Islands. These were the original community meeting places in Vanuatu where locals would gather to drink kava. Nakamals have existed and been part of tradition in Vanuatu for over 1,000 years. Early kava bars centered around a group of people gathered together in a shared space. Nowadays, kava bars vary dramatically from simplistic and traditional to upscale, modern bars with a tropical vibe that give customers island vibes. Most kava bars serve traditionally prepared medium grind kava root either in bilos or in similarly shaped, modern cups.

Learn more about kava bars and find a kava bar near you using our interactive kava bar map.

Is Kava Safe?

Residents of the South Pacific have enjoyed kava’s calming nature for thousands of years. Kava’s reputation as a natural, non-addictive alternative to substances like alcohol and nicotine makes it particularly appealing. But as kava has become more common around the world, so have the frequently asked questions surrounding kava safety. Anyone researching kava for the first time can come across scattered blog posts, and articles that claim kava drinking is bad for your liver or overall health. We want everyone to enjoy the relaxing vibes kava offers while staying informed and safe. Read on to learn more about concerns surrounding kava’s safety as we set the record straight.

Woman holding a bag of Melomelo Micronized Kava from Kalm with Kava

Busting the Myth of Liver Toxicity

One of the kava’s lingering rumors is that it can cause liver toxicity. This notion is derived from research conducted 15 years ago in Germany and Switzerland. The study suggested that kava was linked to liver damage, which led to a kava ban in several European countries.

However, subsequent research refuted the findings of the original studies. Reviews of the original data revealed that the cases of liver toxicity occurred due to participants consuming other substances known to negatively affect liver function. Also, the researchers used parts of the kava plant not meant for consumption. While the kava ban was lifted in 2015, the prevalence of misinformation stemming from that initial study dominates online articles.

The reality, though, is that there have been a very small number of instances of kava being linked to liver damage. According to the National Library of Medicine, only 1 in 1,000,000 cases of kava consumption were linked to liver damage. Learn more about kava safety.

Can You Get Addicted to Kava?

The pharmacology of kava is very different from other addictive substances. So, when consumed correctly and responsibly, kava is non-addictive.

Kava works by altering the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA is the same neurotransmitter system that alcohol and benzodiazepine medications (such as Xanax and Valium) affect. However, unlike alcohol or benzos, Kava also affects the norepinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitter systems. Therefore, kava does not have the same negative cognitive effects as those drugs do. Unlike other substances, you will also not build up a tolerance to kava, so your body won’t require more as time goes on to produce the same effects. Learn more about kava’s non-addictive nature.

Preparing Kava and pouring it into Bilos

Don’t Drink Kava and Drive

To stay safe and enjoy kava to its fullest, we do not recommend drinking kava and driving. In-depth studies on the impact of kava consumption and driving has indicated that drinking large amounts of kava before driving has a negative impact on temporal order judgment. These effects—while still vastly different from alcohol, cannabis, and other euphorics and hallucinogens—are enough to warrant an advisory to not drink kava and drive. Learn more about safety around kava and driving.

Effects of Kava

Having been consumed by residents in the South Pacific for thousands of years, kava is often referred to as the “elixir of the Pacific.” Known for its relaxing qualities, kava has shown promising effects on people with a variety of challenges, including insomnia, anxiety, stress, muscle tension, and moodiness. Read on to discover more about kava and the positive impact it can have on your life.

What Happens When You Drink Kava?

Anyone familiar with kava and kava culture understands that kava isn’t just a beverage to be quickly consumed and forgotten about. Rather, it is an experience that is meant to be savored.

Drinking kava is an immersive experience, interacting with many of your senses. Before you’ve even tasted kava, you may catch a whiff of kava’s strong, peppery smell that many find unpleasant. As for kava’s natural taste, many people can find it unpleasant at first. This is a normal reaction because, at the end of the day, kava is just a ground-up root. Many people describe kava as having a very earthy taste that is both bitter and spicy, while others describe it as tasting like muddy water. After the first couple of sips of kava, your lips and tongue may experience a slight numbing sensation. This numbness is normal and only lasts for a minute or two. It is a sign that the kavalactone content in the kava you are drinking is strong, meaning it is high-quality and will have the effects you desire.

Depending on the kava variety and whether it is heady, heavy, or balanced, people can experience euphoria, relaxation, sedation—or some mix of all of the above—when drinking kava. Other effects can include feeling happy, mild sleepiness, relaxed muscles, and mental ease. How long the kava drink effects last will vary depending on the variety and strength of the kava you drink, but in general, the effects can be felt for anywhere between 1-3 hours. Learn more about a customer’s personal experience drinking kava for the first time.

Woman drinking Kava on a porch swing

What to Expect for First-Time Kava Drinkers?

Drinking kava for the first time is quite an unforgettable experience. It can help you feel calmer, relax mentally and physically, ease sore muscles, feel less stressed, and sleep better. However, without the proper preparation, some people who try kava don’t enjoy their experience and never try it again. To help ensure you have a positive experience trying kava for the first time, here are our top things to keep in mind when having your first kava drinking experience.

1. Kava has a distinct, earthy taste

Kava’s taste can be challenging, described as earthy, spicy, and similar to muddy water. Mixing micronized kava with juice or using flavored kava concentrates can enhance the overall taste for a more enjoyable experience.

2. Kava can make your mouth feel tingly and numb

Don’t worry if your lips or tongue feel slightly numb after sipping kava; it’s normal and lasts only briefly. This sensation indicates the kava is potent, ensuring the desired relaxing effects that will gradually take over your mind and body.

3. Each kava variety delivers different effects

Kava comes in various varieties, each containing different blends of kavalactones that produce distinct relaxation effects: heady, heavy, and balanced. Heady kavas provide a mood boost and sociability, ideal for daytime consumption, while heavy kavas relax both body and mind, better suited for evening use. Balanced kavas offer a mix of heady and heavy effects and can be enjoyed at any time. The Kava Quick Selection Tool helps you easily find the perfect kava variety to suit your preferences and needs.

4. Each kava variety produces different methods of preparation

There are a wide assortment of kava products available, and each requires different preparation methods and offers distinct potency levels to cater to different preferences and needs. Double check the serving size and preparation instructions that come with your kava product to prepare them efficiently.

5. When relaxation effects kick in will vary

When trying kava for the first time, the effects will vary based on your body’s response, the amount consumed, and other factors. After about 15-20 minutes, you’ll likely experience a gradual relaxation of tension and stress, leading to a calmer, happier, and sometimes euphoric state.

6. Length of relaxation effects vary

The duration of kava effects vary based on the kava variety and strength. Euphoric effects can last 1-3 hours, and relaxation effects can potentially lead to sleepiness. Experimenting with different kava types and ratios allows you to find your preferred dosage, as kava isn’t a one-size-fits-all herb.

7. Don’t drink kava on an empty stomach and follow it with a chaser

For the best effects, drink kava on an empty stomach to enhance the absorption of kavalactones. If you experience slight nausea, have a light, sweet snack called a kava chaser to counter the bitter taste of kava. Examples of kava chasers include fruits, nuts, and cheese.

Looking for more detailed information on kava tea and the kava experience? Check these resources for first-time kava drinkers.

Is Kava Alcohol?

Swapping cocktails for kava can be a natural alternative for those questioning the impact of alcohol on their lives. While both kava and alcohol offer a happy buzz and social relaxation, kava lacks the negative effects and hangover risks associated with alcohol. Additionally, kava is considered non-addictive, with a reverse tolerance effect that enhances its effects over time when consumed responsibly. Learn more about the difference between kava and alcohol.

Is Kava a Drug?

Kava is legal in the United States and classified as an herbal and dietary supplement by the FDA. Its active ingredient, kavalactones, interact with the limbic system to reduce anxiety and promote a sense of calm without impairing cognition, making it a natural mood-enhancing remedy. This differs from the “high” associated with other drugs. When you drink kava, 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 or consume other drugs.

Kava Vs. Nicotine

Kava is increasingly being seen as a natural nicotine substitute, offering relaxation without the risk of addiction or withdrawal symptoms. Unlike nicotine, kava’s pharmacology includes a reverse tolerance effect, preventing the development of tolerance to its effects. Furthermore, kava boasts a long history of relatively safe use spanning at least 1,500 years, while nicotine has decades of research suggesting harmful effects and potential diseases. Learn more about the differences between kava and nicotine.

Is Kava a Nootropic?

Kava is known for providing various mind and body benefits, with its most notable effect being relaxation without cognitive impairment. Studies have shown its effectiveness in treating anxiety symptoms, and it has been found to enhance neurological function, making it a natural nootropic. Kavalactones in kava target the brain’s worry and stress centers, promoting relaxation and anxiety relief while also improving short-term memory, accuracy, and speed. This evidence supports kava’s status as a cognitive enhancer and a mood booster. Learn more about kava as a nootropic.

Man holding a bag of Micronized Kava

Is Kava an Aphrodisiac?

Kava, often overlooked and unknown as a natural aphrodisiac, can enhance the sexual experience by releasing kavalactones into the brain, which helps reduce worry and anxiety. While it may not immediately induce sexual desire, kava’s authentic calming effects can provide a bedroom boost similar to aphrodisiacs. Learn more about kava as a natural aphrodisiac.

Kava Vs. CBD Oil

Kava and CBD are gaining popularity among health-conscious individuals seeking natural relaxation and wellness remedies. Both are non-addictive and aid in reducing anxiety, promoting calmness, and alleviating pain and inflammation. However, while CBD has low psychoactive properties, certain kava varieties’ kavalactones can enhance mood, leading to euphoria, sociability, and empathy based on the dosage. Learn more about the difference between kava and CBD.

Kava Vs. Kratom

While kava and kratom are both natural mood enhancers and social stimulants, they have significant differences. Kava’s kavalactones are not opiate agonists and do not pose the risk of addiction; kratom, on the other hand, has effects that resemble opiate drugs, leading to concerns about addiction and abuse. Additionally, kava is widely accepted as a safe and legal herbal product, whereas kratom is increasingly facing regulation and bans due to its potential risks. Learn more about the differences between kava and kratom.

Kava Glossaries

There are many different terms thrown around on the Kalm with Kava website and blog that discuss the different parts of the kava plant, methods of preparation, tools used to harvest or drink kava, and more. To help you feel welcome in the kava community and learn all about kava, we created the below glossaries so you can quickly become well-versed in kava lingo:

Man holding up Melomelo kava sitting in hammock

Where to Buy Kava

In order to fully relax the island way, you’ll want to consume fresh, high-quality kava from a vendor you trust. That’s where we come in! Since 2010, our mission has been to create great-tasting and effective Noble kava products to help people relax more naturally. To ensure freshness and quality, our products are sourced from kava root sourced directly from small farmers throughout the South Pacific islands. Whether you’re looking to relax with friends or unwind from the worries of life, Kalm with Kava has a kava product for everyone. Shop Kalm with Kava products.

For those wanting to purchase Kalm with Kava products for use in a kava bar, nutrition retailer, natural food store, or distributor, you can submit our wholesale request form to get more information and details on pricing.

Relax Your Mind & Body Naturally

Now that you’ve graduated from Kalm University, why not try some for yourself?