Kava Buyer’s Guide: What Type of Kava Should I Buy? (2020)

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There are so many different kinds of kava currently available, it can be difficult to decide which one to buy.

Before you decide which kava products to buy, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. What form of kava are you looking for? (root powders, capsulesteas, tinctures, concentrates)
  2. What effects are you looking to get from the kava? (heady or heavy)
  3. How much are you willing to spend for top-quality kava?
  4. What part of the world do you live in? Is kava legal where you live?

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to find the best brands and products depending on how you answered the questions above.

We’ll cover the different forms kava comes in, with the advantages and disadvantages of each. We also discuss some of the different kinds of kava and how this determines their different effect profiles, along with some tips to finding high-quality kava, and how to get kava depending on where you live.

This guide is very in-depth, so feel free to jump around to the sections that are of particular interest to you.

With that aside, let’s dive straight in.

A) Kava Root Powder

Kava root powder is the most common form of kava people use — it’s made from the dried, powdered root of the kava plant without any additional processing.  

Unlike capsules, kava powder doesn’t come in pre-measured doses. You’ll need to weigh out the dose yourself. For novice users, this is less than ideal, but for people who are a little more experienced, this feature is a major benefit. It allows you to dial in the exact dose of kava for your body.

If you want a stronger dose, simply take a little bit more powder. If you want something smaller, you can measure out a smaller amount of powder.

To use powdered kava, simply mix the powder in with some water and stir it for a few minutes until it’s dissolved.

Most people will add somewhere between 15 or 20 mL of water for every gram of kava powder they use.

Learn how to prepare kava root powder.

Pros: 

  • This is the traditional way of using kava  
  • Adds an extra layer of benefit from the preparation ritual
  • Allows you to choose different types of kava with different effects

Cons:

  • Takes 10–15 minutes to prepare properly  
  • Doesn’t taste great
  • It can be difficult to take precise, consistent doses

Best Kava Root Powders

  1. Root of Happiness Superior Fijian Kava Powder — Best Kava Powder Overall
  2. Kavafied Kava TONGA — Best Kava For Socializing
  3. Kalm With Kava Samoa Ava Kava — Best Balanced Kava
  4. Root of Happiness Fresh Frozen Hawaiian Kava — Best Fresh-Frozen Kava
  5. Kalm With Kava Loa Waka Kava — Best Kava For Anxiety
  6. Kava Society Pacific Elixir Traditional Kava — Best Kava in Australia & New Zealand
  7. Root of Happiness Papua New Guinea Kava Powder — Madang Short — Best Kava For Sleep
  8. Kava Roots Tonga Choice — Best Kava in Canada

 

B) Kava Capsules

Kava capsules are among the easiest way to use kava and are the most popular form of kava supplements in the Western world. They provide a simple, consistent dose of kava, and can be kept in a pocket, backpack, purse, or desk drawer for whenever you need them.

The downside of using capsules is that it can be hard to tell what cultivars were used to make the capsules.

Most of the generic kava capsules on the market won’t list the specific type used. You’ll need to order kava from a specialty manufacturer in order to get this information.

Additionally, kava capsules often come with fillers and additives and tend to have weaker effects overall compared to raw kava rootstock or teas.

Pros: 

  • A super simple way of using kava  
  • Offers a consistent dose every time

Cons: 

  • Lacks the benefits of the kava ritual  
  • You have less control over the type of kava you’re using
  • Allows you to avoid kavas less than ideal flavor

Best Kava Capsules

  1. Root of Happiness Kava Extract Capsules — Best Kava Capsules for Sleep
  2. NOW Supplements Kava Kava Extract — Best Kava Capsules for Stress
  3. Pure Organic Kava Kava Capsules — Best Mild Kava Capsules
  4. Royal Kava Pure Noble Kava Capsules — Best Raw Kava Root Capsules

 

C) Instant Kava Powder

Another common form of kava you’ll find is instant kava.

These products come as a fine powder designed to be added to a cup of warm water.

The powder is quickly absorbed into the liquid to produce a kava brew similar to the brew described in the section above.

Instant kava is made by brewing large batches of fresh kava juice or tea before freeze-drying it into a powder.

The result is a super simple and fast way fo making a kava brew yourself. It only takes a minute to make and has a very similar effect and flavor profile to more traditional methods of making kava drinks.

The downsides of this form of kava are that it tends to be more expensive than kava powder and capsules, and won’t be quite as strong as the other forms of kava. This is because the high surface area of the fine powder exposes the active kavalactones to the air — allowing the oxygen to break them down over time.

This is still one of the best ways to use kava — especially if you don’t have the time to spend making traditional kava, and want to use kava as a tea rather than in capsule form.

Pros: 

  • Makes a fresh cup of kava brew in a matter of seconds  
  • Often comes with added flavor to make the brew more enjoyable

Cons: 

  • More expensive than regular powdered kava  
  • Shelf-life is lower than traditional kava powders or capsules/tinctures
  • There are fewer options for kava strains with instant kava compared to powdered kava

Best Instant Kava Powder

  1. Root of Happiness Instant Kava (Hawaiian)Best Instant Kava For Stress
  2. Kalm With Kava Borongoru MicronizedBest Instant Kava For Sleep
  3. Bula House Instant Kava Root MixRunner-Up, Best Instant Kava For Sleep
  4. Kavafied Kava SUPREME Premium Dehydrated Kava JuiceBest Dehydrated Kava Juice Powder

 

D) Kava Tinctures

Kava tinctures are essentially just a liquid form of kava.

The extract of the kavalactones comes premade in an easy to use liquid — which usually consists of water, and a little bit of alcohol or glycerine.

To use, add a few milliliters of the kava tincture to your water, tea, or juice and drink.

You can also take kava tinctures directly in the mouth, but the taste is going to be extremely bitter and can make your tongue tingle.

The dose of kava tincture will depend on the potency of the preparation, so make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle if using this form of kava.

Pros:

  • A super-easy way of taking kava — just drop a few drops in the mouth or your drink of choice  
  • Offers consistent doses of the active kavalactones

Cons:

  • Lacks the benefits of the kava ritual  
  • You have less control over the type of kava you’re using
  • The liquid nature can make it harder to use while on the move than capsules

Best Kava Tinctures

  1. Root of Happiness Liquid Kava ExtractBest Kava Tincture for Sleep
  2. Gaia Herbs Kava Tincture (Extra-Strength) — Best Kava Tincture For Anxiety
  3. Kona Kava Farms Kava TinctureBest Traditional Kava Tincture (Alcohol-Glycerine Base)
  4. Harmonic Arts Kava TinctureBest Kava Tincture in Canada

 

E) Kava Teas (Steep Teas)

Kava is also available as a regular steep tea (think, teabags).

Most kava teas aren’t going to provide nearly the same effects as the other methods listed here.

I’ve found that most companies adding kava to their tea do so as a marketing tool, rather than for its actual benefits.

There’s a good reason for this — most of the active ingredients of kava are fat-soluble, rather than water-soluble. This means the active compounds will stay inside the plant material instead of dissolving into the water.

Simply dipping the kava in hot water for a few minutes as a tea isn’t going to be enough to draw out the majority of the active ingredients locked away in the plant matter.

Kava tea made from powder is different because the extremely high surface area of the dried powder and higher doses allow more of the kavalactones to dissolve into the water.

Pros:

  • This is a super-easy way of using kava — just steep for 10-15 minutes  
  • Often has a better taste thanks to the addition of other tea flavors

Cons:

  • This form of kava is considered weaker than most of the other forms on this list

Best Kava Teas

  1. Buddha Teas Kava Kava Root TeaBest Pure Kava Root Tea Bags Overall
  2. Yogi Tea Kava Stress ReliefBest Kava Tea For Stress
  3. Celebration Herbals Kava TeaBest Kava Tea Blend

 

F) Kava Concentrates

Kava concentrates usually come in the form of a paste or powder.

They’re made by removing all the non-essential components from the kava root — such as the fibers, proteins, minerals, or polyphenols.

What remains is a high concentration of kavalactones, terpenes, ketones, and a small amount of sugars and fats.

These products are very potent and tend to produce effects much sooner than other kava products.

You can take kava concentrates straight, or mix into food or beverages.

They’re preferred by people who want a simple way of using kava without having to spend more than a minute or two in preparation.

Concentrates are also perfect for people looking to add kava to other herbal teas or smoothies.

Pros: 

  • Exceptionally potent forms of kava
  • Preparation of kava concentrates is quick and easy
  • The cost of kava concentrates per mg of kavalactones tends to be lower than in tea form

Cons: 

  • Can be too strong for some people
  • The absence of other phytochemicals in kava concentrates can limit the effect profile in some cases

Best Kava Concentrates

  1. Polynesian Gold™ CO2 Kava ExtractBest Kava Concentrate Overall
  2. Pipers United Extract BlendStrongest Kava Concentrate
  3. Kalm With Kava Kava ConcentrateBest Liquid Kava Concentrate
  4. Pride of Papua 70% CO2 Extract Root of HappinessBest Kava Concentrate For Sleep
  5. Lemon Honey Kava ConcentrateBest Tasting Kava Concentrate

 

G) Kava Drinks

Kava teas are an acquired taste — most new users are put off by the initial flavor of this bitter, peppery, and chalky tea.

The more you drink it the better the taste becomes, but for early days it can be enough of a put-off for people to skip out on using the herb.

The best option if this is a problem for you is to look for pre-mixed kava drinks (sometimes called kava shots).

These kava preparations are made with kava extracts, flavoring agents, stabilizing agents, and in some cases other herbs and supplements.

Kava drinks tend to be more expensive than kava powders or concentrates (in terms of cost per mg kavalactone content) — but you really can’t beat the convenience and improvements in flavor for these products.

Kava drinks are also the best for making kava cocktails!

Pros

  • Dramatically better flavor than traditional kava preparations
  • An added level of convenience (little to no preparation times)
  • A great option for novice users

Cons

  • More expensive than other forms of kava
  • It’s hard to find single-origin kava drinks
  • Lacks the ritual of traditional kava preparation

Best Kava Drinks

  1. Root of Happiness Kava ShotBest Kava Drink Overall
  2. Root of Happiness Kava Drink MixBest Kava Cocktail Mix

 

Shopping for Kava By Effect Profile

If you chose a capsule, tea bags, or tincture, you likely won’t be able to choose the specific strain of kava that has the effect profile you’re looking for.

However, if you decide to use kava powder, you’ll be able to choose exactly which strain you’re interested in using.

Each strain has its own unique effect profile — due to different ratios of the primary six kavalactones.

Some strains are stronger overall, due to a higher kavalactone content.

Some have more of a sedative, body-high effect (heavy), others better for producing feelings og euphoria and creativity (heady).

There are also strains that can be place somewhere in the middle (balanced) providing a little of both.

Let’s cover some of the key effects you can choose between for kava strains.

A) Heavy Kava

Heavy kava is aptly named for the focus of effects on the body, rather than the mind. These kavas are often described as making you feel heavy like you’re sinking into the chair, or bed you’re laying on.

Heavy kavas are best for relaxing the muscles, supporting sleep, and reaching deeper states of meditation.

Best Heady Kavas:

All the aspects that make this kava better for sleep and relaxation make this kava a poor choice for people using kava socially, or during the day.

 

B) Heady Kava

Heady kava provides more of an effect on the mind than the body.

It’s less useful for relaxing the muscles or inducing sleep, but much better for use during the day, socializing with friends, or for promoting creativity for work or hobbies.

Heady kava is described as producing a feeling of being care-free and euphoric. In higher doses, this kava can actually have a mildly stimulating effect. This effect is more of a stimulating sensation from the emotions, rather than causing actual stimulation to the mind. You can still fall asleep very easily with a heady kava.

Some people even prefer this type of kava for supporting stress and anxiety than heavy kava because it’s not quite as sedating.

You can take this kava all day without feeling fatigued.

Best Heady Kava

 

C) Balanced Kava

As you may have guessed, balanced kava is somewhere in between heady and heavy kava. This is by far the most common kava.

Balanced kava is a spectrum — you can find balanced kava with more of a heavy lean, and others with more of a heady lean. This can be hard to determine without trying the kava yourself because it often changes from one person to the next depending on their individual physiology.

Balanced kava is the most well-rounded. You can use it for sleep, stress, meditation, for work or hobbies, study, or social events.

Best Balanced Kava

 

Why is Kava so Expensive? How Much Should I Spend? 

Kava comes in all price ranges. You can find cheap kava and expensive kava. There’s a big difference between the two.

The kava plant (Piper methysticum) takes a long time to grow and requires specific growing conditions. You can only cultivate these plants in certain parts fo the world, often in places that lack an abundance of space to grow the crop. Kava plants need to be around 6 years or older before they’re considered “high-quality”.

To make matters worse, you need a fair bit of kava for every dose.

All these factors make kava more expensive than other herbs or nutritional supplements.

Some manufacturers have found ways to make kava cheaper, like harvesting plants when they’re younger than 6 years, growing the kava in greenhouses, or by mixing kava with fillers to bulk it up. Unfortunately, all of this will dramatically affect the quality of the powder, and the effects it produces.

If your top priority is to save money, we recommend going with capsules instead of a powder. Capsules contain isolated kavalactones rather than raw kava root powder. So the quality of the kava isn’t as important because the extraction process removes all the plant material anyway — leaving just the active kavalactones behind.

However, if you’re looking to use a kava powder we highly recommend spending a little more on a high-quality kava powder instead. Ultimately you’re going to get a lot more out of the kava you buy this way. The effects will be stronger and the flavor more enjoyable.

Pricing Guides: Kava Powder

Kava Format Low-End Kava Mid-Range Kava High-End Kava
Kava Powder      
(Prices listed per 10-gram dose)
<$1.30 $1.30 – $2.30 >$2.30
Kava Capsules    
(Price listed per 170 mg equivalent capsule)
<$0.50 $0.80 – $1.50 >$1.50

 

Buying Kava Near Me: Consider Your Local Kava Laws

The final consideration you need to make is to ask whether the product you’ve chosen will ship to your address.

Although kava is legal throughout most of the developed world, there are some exceptions. Make sure you check with your local kava laws before ordering kava to make sure there are no issues with your shipment at the border.

If kava is shipped to a country where kava is restricted or regulated, it may get confiscated by border officials. A lot of people also report no issues with their order, as kava is very low on the list of concerns for border security — but this is something to be aware of nonetheless.

Summary of Legal Status For Countries Where Kava is Popular

Kava Legal Legal Grey-Area Kava Regulated Kava Banned
  • Canada  
  • United States
  • Germany
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Brazil  
  • Isreal
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Australia  
  • France
  • Netherlands
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland  
  • United Kingdom
  • Poland

Once you’re familiar with the legal status of kava in your country, you’ll need to find out if the company you want to order from ships to your region.

Luckily, you can order kava online at Amazon, which is present in virtually every country on earth.

Summary: Buying Kava Online

Kava continues to rise in popularity around the world — and with it the number of options available to choose from.

In this guide, we’ve covered what questions you need to ask yourself before deciding on the best kava to use, as well as some tips for making the best decision.

Ultimately though, you’re going to need to try a few different types to see what works best for you. Like most herbal supplements, kava reacts differently from one person to the next. You may find one kava capsule or kava tincture doesn’t work as well as you’d like, while another one suits you perfectly.

Likewise, you may initially opt for a capsule, but eventually find out powdered kava is the best options because of the relaxing preparation ritual that comes along with it.

We encourage you to try different types of kava, using the guide above as a starting point. You may be surprised by what you find out!