Kava Root – Understanding the South Pacific’s Root of Happiness

Kava tea made from the roots of a kava plant has multiple well-researched beneficial effects, the most popular of which is its ability to make you feel happy or euphoric and provide added mental clarity as well as relax you, depending on what variety of you drink. Not surprisingly, kava kava root is often called the South Pacific’s root of happiness. What most people don’t realize is that there are many different varieties and parts to the kava plant and its’ root that can affect the quality and strength of a kava drink and its effects. Read on to learn about the kava kava plant and its parts.


Kava Root Composition

Kava Root Pieces Being Dried
Lawena or diced stump pieces of the kava plant being dried


The Stump: A Kava plant has a thick, fleshy stump at the bottom or base of the stem, where the root begins. In Fiji this is called Lawena. This part of the plant often has a lower concentration of kavalactones, the active ingredient in kava that provides it’s relaxing effects. Kava products made from Lawena or this part of the plant are not as potent kava products. Their advantage though is they often taste much smoother with less of the peppery earthy taste that kava lateral root is known for. This makes Lawena-based kava good for anyone looking to try kava for the first time who is looking for a milder tasting, less potent brew.


The Lateral Roots: The kavalactone content is highest in the lateral roots of the kava plant. It often can be 2 times stronger than in the stump portion, but with the strength there also comes a much stronger or more peppery taste. The Fijian word for the lateral roots of the kava plant is Waka. Below you can see video of a freshly harvested kava plant preparing to have the stump and lateral root portions separated.

Kava Root Coarse Fibers: the roots of the kava plant also consist of coarse fibers. With the traditional method of preparation, the basal stump and/or lateral roots of a Kava plant are both pounded or ground into a powder, placed in a muslin bag and kneaded in hot water to make a kava tea. When the traditional method is used to make a kava drink, it is the insoluble, coarse fibers of the root that are left over in the muslin bag after the tea is prepared. In Vanuatu these leftover coarse fibers of the kava plant are called Makas.

Unfortunately, some companies include these coarse fibrous parts of a kava root in the making of their instant or micronized kava products. Micronized kava is kava root that has been processed to make a very fine kava powder that can be mixed directly into a beverage to make an instant kava drink, avoiding the more time-consuming, traditional preparation method.

Unfortunately, the coarse fibers of the kava root are low in kavalactone content, so micronized kavas made with them are weaker and less effective. Regardless, some kava companies who don’t want to spend time or pay money to have the coarse fibrous parts of the root separated from the main lateral roots will take short cuts and grind everything together. For a higher quality, more potent micronized or instant kava, seek out an online vendor who filters out the makas in processing which is what we do at Kalm with Kava.

Shop Micronized Instant Kava

Pouni Ono Tonga KavaDrinking kava root is an easy and excellent route to experiencing a dose happiness – and let’s face it, we can all do with that every now and then. That said, knowing the specific kava root composition of what you are drinking could make all the difference to the level of happy you experience!

Best Kava Root for a Dose of Happiness 

If you are looking for a kava that is more likely to make you feel happy and lift your spirits, we’d recommend our Tongan Pouni Ono. It is a heady, daytime kava that our customers say makes them feel energetic and happy, as well as calmer.

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