For thousands of years, the people of the South Pacific have been growing and harvesting Kava Kava plants. Traditionally, Islanders use the root of the plant to create a relaxing, non-alcoholic beverage for medicinal and cultural purposes.
Making Kava the Traditional Way
To make the kava tea, they grind the root stalk of the kava plant to make a fibrous pulp. Then they make essentially giant kava tea bags by filling large porous muslin bags with the ground root stalk. The tea bags are steeped in large containers of water by submerging and "mixing" it around generously with water. It produces a muddy, caramel brown non-alcoholic beverage. Sometimes additional flavoring like coconut or mango is added, and then is consumed quickly after its production.
Kava is still consumed in this fashion on South Pacific Islands such as Vanuatu and Fiji, as well as Hawaii. Kava bars that serve the kava drink have also popped up in a handful of areas in the continental United States.
What Type of Kava Should I Buy?
Dried Kava Root Powder
Dried kava root powder (or powdered kava root) is the closest kava product available to fresh kava root. This form of kava is prepared in the traditional fashion as described above and requires a muslin bag (or other cloth strainer) and a large container for mixing. Try using three or four parts water to one part kava. Here's a simple recipe on how to make kava tea. Out of all the forms of kava available, root powder takes the longest to prepare.
If you are interested in drinking kava tea but don’t have all the time in the world to prepare it, instant kava may be a good fit for you. Instant kava does not require any steeping or straining; just mix it in water or other beverages and enjoy!
Be sure you do not mix the instant kava into a beverage that is too hot, as kavalactones are destroyed at temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Kava capsules are among the most convenient forms of kava available and commonly found in nationwide chain stores like Whole Foods or Sprouts. Kava capsules come in various potencies, which allows you to determine for yourself what strength of kava you would like to take. However, determining the appropriate strength is sometimes difficult for new kava users.
With kava capsules, you can expect a much slower onset of results. Expect to wait at least 2-3 weeks for therapeutic relief.
Kava extracts offer the convenience and portability of a capsule, and provides the quick relaxing feeling that results from drinking real kava tea or instant kava.
Kava extracts can also be used discreetly in the workplace or other public settings. Simply spray the extract 5-15 times directly under your tongue and allow it to absorb for 15 seconds.
What’s the Best Form of Kava for Me?
Determining which form of kava you should try depends largely upon why you are interested in using kava in the first place.
For example, if you are looking for a fun, natural way to unwind with friends in the privacy of your home, perhaps you should try dried kava root powder to create a more traditional drink. If you are interested in fast relief from anxiety and stress in everyday situations, kava extracts are likely the best fit.