The secrets of Kava Kava



Kava (Piper methysticum ) is a plant that derives from the western pacific islands and is sold all over the world.  The roots are distributed in various forms such as powder, course root, or extracts/tinctures.

The name is from Tongan and Marquesan; other names include ʻawa (Hawaiʻi), ʻava (Samoa), yaqona (Fiji), sakau (Pohnpei), and malok or malogu (parts of Vanuatu)

Traditionally, plants are harvested around four years of age, as older plants have higher concentrations of Kavalactones. After reaching about 2 m height, plants grow a wider main stalk.

The roots of the plant are traditionally used to produce a drink with supposed sedative, anesthetic, euphoriant, and entheogenic properties. Consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia. Indigenous cultures claim that the product is sedating and is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity. Its active ingredients are called Kavalactones.


The several cultivars vary in concentrations of primary and secondary psychoactive alkaloids. The largest variety is grown in The Republic of Vanuatu, and so it is recognized as the origin or “home” of Piper methysticum and was historically grown only in the Pacific islands of Hawaii, Federated States of Micronesia, Vanuatu, Fiji, the Samoas and Tonga. Also grown in the Solomon Islands since World War II and imported. Kava is a cash crop in Vanuatu and Fiji.


There are many different strains.  One element is where the plant has been cultivated, considering that some areas can produce different Kavalactone variations.  Other factors include the part of the root.  There are basal root and lateral root.  Lateral root dominant blends are actually sold for more than basal root blends, as they are more potent and highly sought after.

Cultivars not only differ in requirements for successful cultivation but also displays unique characteristics both in terms of its appearance and in terms of its medicinal and psychoactive properties.


Fresh root contains on average 80% water. Dried root contains approximately 43% starch, 20% dietary fiber, 15% Kavalactones, 12% water, 3.2% sugars, 3.6% protein, and 3.2% minerals. Kavalactone content is greatest in the roots and decreases higher up the plant.

Kava root juice is the highly concentrated water extract of fresh Kava roots. Root juice is dehydrated to form an Instant powder that dissolves in water. Instant Kava isn’t ground, it doesn’t contain the fibrous root material and doesn’t require straining. This concentration is typically twice as potent as traditional Kava root powders.


Harvest happens after Peak Kavalactone content develops in mature roots of the Kava plant, about four to five years. Most Kava plants produce around 50 kg (110 lb) of plant root material. Kava root is classified into two categories: crown root (or chips) and lateral root. Crown roots are the large-diameter pieces that look like (1.5 to 5 inches (38 to 127 mm) diameter) wooden poker chips. Most Kava plants consist of approximately 80% crown root upon harvesting. Lateral roots are smaller-diameter roots that look more like a typical root. A mature Kava plant is about 20% lateral roots. Kava lateral roots have the highest content of Kavalactones in the Kava plant. “Waka” grade Kava only contains Lateral Roots.

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