Kava concentrates are made by extracting only the active ingredients in the kava plant. All the unnecessary “filler” compounds, like fibers, sugars, proteins, and cell structures are removed.
A concentrate is like a shot of espresso. You can get a much higher dose of the good stuff with less volume.
As a result, this form of kava is very strong and should be used with caution. You don’t need much of a kava paste or concentrated powder to get a powerful effect profile.
In this article, I’ll discuss the differences between each type of kava concentrate (pastes, powders, liquids), and highlight the best kava concentrates available today.
I’ll also go through a few simple ways you can get started using kava concentrates yourself.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Kava Concentrates
- Polynesian Gold™ CO2 Kava Extract — Best Kava Concentrate Overall
- Pipers United Extract Blend — Strongest Kava Concentrate
- Kalm With Kava Kava Concentrate — Best Liquid Kava Concentrate
- Pride of Papua 70% CO2 Extract — Best Kava Concentrate For Sleep
- Lemon Honey Kava Concentrate — Best Tasting Kava Concentrate
1. Root of Happiness — Polynesian Gold 30% CO2 Kava Extract
Root of Happiness actually has two versions of this product — a 30% extract and a 70% extract.
While the 70% version is clearly stronger, I prefer 30% for two reasons:
The first reason is that this extract can be dissolved into water directly. The active ingredients (kavalactones) are not very soluble in water. The higher you go in concentration, the harder it is to mix with water or other beverages. I’ve found the 30% version to dissolve with a little bit of work, while the 70% basically needs a blender to dissolve completely. Even with a blender, if you let your drink sit for even just a few minutes the concentrate will begin to separate out.
The second reason I prefer the 30% version is because its effects are a little smoother. I’m not sure why this is, but the effects of the 30% extract felt cleaner and had much fewer side effects. I believe there are other compounds in the root that help alleviate some of the side effects (mostly nausea) which have been removed in the 70% extract.
Several of the company’s other products use the 30 or 70% extracts to make other products — such as kava capsules or kava shots.
To use, add 1 gram of this powder to water, nut milk, or another beverage and stir vigorously for about 30 seconds.
2. Root of Happiness — Pipers United Extract Blend
This kava concentrate is a combination of kava (Piper methysticum) and a related species — black pepper (Piper nigrum). The kava extract contains 30% kavalactones by weight.
The black pepper extract is highly concentrated at a ratio of 420:1. This means it takes 420 grams of black pepper to produce one gram of this extract. This is exceptionally concentrated. Most likely what the company means to say is that they’re using isolated piperine — which is a common ingredient in supplements to improve absorption. Piperine is just one of over a hundred compounds in the black pepper seed.
I love this formula. It combines two related species of plants with clear synergy together.
The kava concentrate is primarily made up of kavalactones — which aren’t water-soluble. This means they can be difficult to absorb in the gut. The way our digestive tract is laid out, we have a much easier time with water-soluble compounds.
Piperine in black pepper directly improves absorption in the gut. It causes the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract to separate and spread apart — allowing more compounds to move from the digestive tract to lymph fluid (and eventually to the blood) — ultimately making the extract stronger.
Root of Happiness recommends adding a dose of 1 gram of this powder into your water or other beverage. You may need to stir for a minute or so to get everything to dissolve, but once it’s dissolved you’re ready to drink!
The final preparation has a subtle spicy flavor, with some creamy and bitter notes. It isn’t particularly tasty but isn’t as bitter or peppery as raw kava root powder or some of the other concentrates on our list.
3. Kalm With Kava — Kava Concentrate
This is a liquid concentrated form of kava. It’s designed to be watered down before being consumed and comes in three distinct flavors; guava, kavarita, and iced tea.
The specific concentration of this formula isn’t provided by the company, but the bottle claims to have 425 mg of kava extract (no specific cultivar either). One serving is listed at 30 mL (1 oz) of the liquid concentrate mixed with water or any beverage of your choosing.
This stuff isn’t as strong as some of the other concentrates on this list, but it’s certainly the best tasting. A lot of people use this stuff at social gatherings because it makes it easy to mix kava cocktails for your guests that actually taste good.
I’ve found I need to have two or three of these to really get the most out of it and get the effects I’m looking for — which isn’t a problem since these kava cocktails taste so damn good to begin with.
Here’s one of my favorite kava cocktail recipes to use with this concentrate ‚ The “Guava Kava”:
- One or two shots of kava concentrate (guava)
- Freshly squeezed lime juice
- Guava or pineapple juice
4. Root of Happiness — Pride of Papua 70% CO2 Extract
Root of Happiness is one of the only companies I’ve seen offering ISA cultivar kavas — including this ISA kava concentrate. Root of Happiness uses Madang Short kava to make this kava extract — which is one of two forms of ISA from Papua New Guinea.
ISA kava comes from a different species of plant than most kava — they’re made from a species called Piper wichmannii rather than Piper methysticum. These kavas tend to have very heavy effect profiles and are more likely to result in side effects such as nausea or sedation.
Despite having more side effects, ISA kavas are a great option for people who use kava to sleep or like the heavy effects of kava. They’re very strong sedatives and can even be used as a pain-killer.
I recommend you avoid using ISA kavas unless you have a lot of experience with kava and understand how it affects your body individually. This kava isn’t as bad as some people suggest, you just need to make sure you don’t use too much. I tend to use about half as much of this stuff as I would for another kava concentrate.
As far as ISA cultivars go, this concentrate is on the gentler side. The Madang Short cultivar is the most popular ISA cultivar by far and it can be quite enjoyable to use. I like to add a little bit of this kava concentrate to other kava preparations when I want it to have more sedative action.
5. Root of Happiness — Lemon Honey Kava Concentrate
You may have noticed a common trend on our recommendation list. The honest truth is that Root of Happiness has simply nailed it on the kava concentrate front. They offer some of the best kava concentrates on the market — both in terms of price and potency.
This concentrate is a bit of an add-on to the company’s other products. It’s made from the same 70% extract mentioned above, but with a twist.
This concentrate comes in a small jar with added honey lemon flavor and a few other base ingredients (such as cane sugar or lecithin) to improve the consistency of the concentrate. This product comes as a paste that can be scooped out of the jar and eaten directly as-is.
What Are Kava Concentrates?
Herbs are not like drugs — instead of offering one active ingredient to carry out its effects, herbs have dozens, even hundreds of individual ingredients.
This makes doing research on the plants difficult because there are way too many variables to account for.
In an attempt to remove some of the noise and understand exactly how a particular herb, like kava, works — scientists will isolate what they believe to be the active ingredients.
This is essentially what a kava concentrate involves. It’s a preparation that contains as much of the active ingredients as possible, with most of the inert or unnecessary compounds removed.
Comparing the Ingredients of Kava Root Compared to Kava Concentrates:
|Kava Roots||Kava Concentrates|
What are the Benefits of Kava Concentrates?
1. Concentrates are Stronger
The most obvious benefit is that they’re much stronger than the raw herb. You can find concentrates that contain up to 70% active ingredients (kavalactones). Compare this to your average kava root which only contains about 8% kavalactones. This means a kava concentrate is up to 10 times as strong as raw kava root.
Providing stronger effects means the package can be much smaller as well. If you’re using kava concentrates you just need a small jar or tube of kava paste instead of the half-pound bags most kava powders are sold in.
2. Concentrates are Simple to Use
Concentrates are also much easier to use. Most of them can be eaten directly while on the go, or mixed in with some water.
You can use kava concentrates just like instant kava products. Add a little bit to your water, juice, or tea, give it a quick stir, and add some honey or sugar to sweeten.
3. Concentrates are More Consistent
The final benefit of kava concentrates is that they’re more reliable and consistent in their effects.
What do I mean by this?
Kava roots can be unpredictable. The active ingredients are influenced by the growing conditions (sun exposure, rainfall, harvest times, soil quality, etc.). Roots of the same cultivar can be different from one harvest to the next, which can make the effects somewhat unpredictable at times.
With concentrates, this problem is much less common because many of the interfering compounds in the plant have been removed. You can expect virtually identical effects from one bottle of kava concentrate to the next.
What Are the Downsides to Kava Concentrates?
There are a few negatives to using concentrated kava to be aware of as well. Let’s cover the three main negatives.
1. Concentrates Lack the Benefits of the Kava Ceremony
The kava ceremony is a big part of kava drinking. It forces you to stop and take some time and attention to the kava itself.
This has a major impact on the outcome of the kava itself. Traditional kava preparation forces you to be present and intentional about why you’re using kava — sort of like a meditative process. Over time, your mind will begin to associate the ritual of making kava with relaxation mode. Even before you drink your first shell you’ll feel a lot more calm and relaxed — trust me.
Using concentrates eliminates much of this process.
While concentrates are excellent in a pinch, or when you don’t have time to make a fresh bowl of kava tea, it’s not going to offer quite the same benefits when it comes to stress-reduction, anxiety-relief, or sleep support as traditional kava preparations.
2. Concentrates are More Likely to Cause Side-Effects
There’s no doubt the kavalactones are the primary active ingredients in the kava plant — but they’re also the main cause for side effects.
Concentrating the active ingredients can, therefore, make it more likely to cause side effects — primarily nausea, lightheadedness, and sedation.
Traditional kava tea is more dilute and forgiving in this respect. You can feel when you’re reaching the limit and can simply lay off drinking a few more shells for a while until the effects start to wear off.
Getting the dose right with concentrates is very important — even a few milligrams too much can deliver substantially higher doses of pure kavalactones.
3. Concentrates are Less Versatile than Raw Kava Root
Kava has many associated benefits. The main benefits relate to anxiety, overstimulation, sleep, and muscle tension — but there are many other benefits associated with the herb as well. It’s antidepressant, supports metabolism, can fight pain and inflammation, and much more.
Many of these accessory benefits aren’t tied to the kavalactone content in kava. Studies that use concentrated forms of kava root have been unable to reproduce many of these effects, yet when you look at studies involving the whole root these effects become much more clear.
There are other active ingredients in kava roots that are responsible for these effects — ingredients that have been removed to increase the overall dose of kavalactones while manufacturing a concentrate.
Exploring the Different Types of Kava Concentrates
There are a few different forms of kava concentrates to choose from — each with their own pros and cons.
1. Kava Pastes
A concentrated paste resembles the consistency of toothpaste. It’s a thick, resinous extract often sold in squeezable tubes.
This form of concentrate maintains a high concentration of fatty substances from the kava. This includes the kavalactones, but also maintains the fatty acids, sterols, and plant esters produced by the kava plant as well.
Most kava pastes are made using a supercritical CO2 extraction. This process uses high-pressure, low-temperature CO2 as a solvent. It’s very efficient and safe. It allows manufacturers to remove most of the active ingredients in the plant without having to use harsh chemicals like hexane or butane.
In general, this is the strongest form of kava concentrates you’ll find.
Best Kava Pastes
2. Kava Concentrate Powders
Powdered concentrates have had most of the fatty substances removed from the mix, or have additional chemicals added to “dry” out the concentrate.
Powders need to be added to water or other liquids before they can be used.
A lot of people prefer powders because they tend to be a lot easier to mix into water, or other kava preparations due to the lack of fatty-substances (which don’t mix well with water).
These concentrates can be as high as 70% but usually fall closer to 30%.
Best Kava Concentrate Powders
- Pipers United Extract Blend
- Polynesian Gold™ 30% CO2 Kava Extract (Water-Soluble)
- Polynesian Gold™ 70% CO2 Kava Extract
- Pride of Papua 70% CO2 Extract
3. Kava Concentrate Liquids
Some companies provide their concentrates in liquid form. These are by far, the easiest to combine with other kava preparations, water, or virtually any liquid you want. The active ingredients are already dissolved in a water-based solution.
Some of these concentrates can even be consumed as-is without needing to any mixing at all. They’re usually pre-flavored to make the kava taste better.
This is the weakest form of kava concentrates available — usually around 20% or less.
Best Liquid Kava Concentrates:
Final Thoughts: Kava Concentrates
Kava concentrates offer clear advantages over other forms of kava. They’re simple to use, offer consistent effects, and provide high-doses of kava in a small amount of concentrate.
The major trade-off with a concentrate is that they lack the benefits of the kava ceremony itself — which adds a lot of value to the kava drinking experience as well as its effect profile.
If you’re interested in trying kava concentrates, I recommend you start out with a very small dose for the first time — much smaller than you think you need. Once you know how it affects your body individually you can increase the dose.
Concentrates, by definition, are very potent — it doesn’t take much to take too high of a dose. This can make you feel nauseous, lightheaded, or fatigued.
If you’re not sure where to start, my favorite kava concentrate at the moment is the Lemon-Honey Kava Concentrate by Root of Happiness — it comes in a discrete container, has a delicious lemon-honey flavor, and provides a powerful dose of kava in a pinch. I always keep a tube in my desk at work for when I need a quick dose of kava.