Kava Dosage: Beginner’s Guide to Dosing

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

One of the most common questions I get asked is, “how much kava should I take?”

This is a great question — but the truth is that the right dose is different from one person to the next. Although there are guidelines you can follow for dosing (which I’ll provide later in this article), it’s important to experiment with this dose to find what works best for your body.

The right dose will depend on your size, the type of kava you’re using, and the reason for using kava in the first place.

For example, if using kava to support creative work, the dose is going to be much lower than if you were using kava to fall asleep.

Generally speaking, the standard dose of dried, powdered kava is around 10 grams per person — but this can vary a lot. 

In this guide, we’ll cover the ins and outs of kava dosing. We’ll cover some basic guidelines to get you started and cover some of the signs that kava is working, and how to tell if you’ve taken too much.

By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll have all you need to get started dosing kava yourself.

How Much Kava Should I Take?

As you’ll learn throughout this article, there’s no ONE dose for kava. You have to consider all the factors that work together to impact the dose from one person to the next. We’ll cover each of these in the next section.

For those of you looking for a simple starting point, start with 10 mg of dried kava powder. For tinctures and capsules follow the instructions on the label. 

 

1. Kava Root Powder Dose

The kavalactone content of kava powders can vary from 3 – 20% by weight.

Let’s explore this concept using kava powders of different strengths.

From this information, we can set some basic guidelines for dosing kava safely. If you have a weaker kava powder that has closer to 3% kavalactones by weight, you’ll need a lot more of it to get the same effects as a stronger kava with closer to 20% kavalactones by weight.

Most kava on the market has around 8% kavalactones by dried weight.

Doses of Raw Kava Powder Based on the Desired Dose and Strength of Kava

Dosage Target Kavalactone Dose Weak Kava Dose (3%) Average Kava Dose (8%) Very Strong Kava Dose (20%)
Low Dose Range 70 – 140 mg 20 – 40 grams
(0.7 – 0.14 oz)
10 – 13 grams
(0.3 – 0.5 oz)
4 – 7 grams
(0.15 – 0.25 oz)
High Dose Range 200 – 250 mg 60 grams
(2 oz)
20 – 30 grams
(0.7 – 1 oz)
10 – 13 grams
(0.4 – 0.5 oz)

2. Kava Capsule Dose

Capsules make this dosing easy because they usually list the exact amount of kavalactones per capsule. Always follow the label on your kava capsule container. The dose will vary depending on how concentrated the company decided to make its capsules. 

Check out the best kava capsules

3. Kava Tinctures Dose

Just like kava capsules, you should follow the directions on the tincture bottles to determine the dose. Companies will make their tinctures at different potencies, so suggesting a specific amount for all tinctures doesn’t work. 1 mL of kava tincture from one brand could be dramatically different from 1 mL of tincture from another company. 

Check out the best kava tinctures

 

How Much Water Should I Mix With My Kava?

After you’ve measured your kava, you should mix it with water. If measuring your dose in grams (recommended), you should add about 20 times much water in milliliters as grams of kava.

— A 15 gram dose of kava would need about 300 mL of water.

Some people add a source of fat to the kava to improve the extraction of the fat-soluble kavalactones into the mix. You should add around 25% of the liquid content if using milk or nut milk. This measurement works whether you’re measuring your kava in weight or volume.

Using the same example as above, you would mix about 225 mL of water with 75 mL of milk and add it to the kava.

Common sources of fat used to make kava include:

  • Milk (use for 25% 0f the liquid volume)
  • Lethicin (use half as much lethicin as kava in mg)
  • Coconut milk (use for 25% 0f the liquid volume)
  • Nut milks (use for 25% 0f the liquid volume)
  • MCT oil (use the same amount in mL as kava in mg)

 

Why You Should Measure Kava Doses By Weight Rather Than Volume

Most of the resources on the internet recommend kava in volume measurements rather than weight. They’ll tell you to use 2 or 3 tablespoons, for example.

The problem with this is never going to give you accurate, predictable results. Kava also comes in different grinds depending on the manufacturer. For example, you can find both coarse grind, and fine grind kava (micronized) — both of which are going to fit different amounts of kava in the same amount of space.

Micronized kava packs into tighter spaces, so a tablespoon of this kava could equate to 5 grams of powder. Coarse ground kava, on the other hand, doesn’t pack down as well — a tablespoon could contain as little as 2 grams of powder. This is a significant difference in the dose you’re getting from one tablespoon to the next.

To keep things accurate, get yourself a small kitchen scale and measure your kava doses by weight. This way it doesn’t matter how fine the kava powder you buy is — it’s always going to be the same predictable dose.

For those of you who still want a rough estimate on the dose of kava you should use in tablespoons, we’ve got you covered. Just remember this is a rough estimate, and shouldn’t be used as a reliable indicator of the dose.

 

How to Determine the Strength of Kava Powder

It can be difficult to tell exactly how much kavalactone is in each kava supplement unless it’s listed on the package directly — but some companies will list the estimated kavalactone content on the package.

Our kava reviews break down the strength of different kava supplements and provide a rough estimate on the kavalactone content to help you find the right dosage range to get you started.

As a general rule of thumb, the more expensive kava powders are going to be stronger than the cheap kava products — but there are plenty of exceptions to this rule.

If you can’t find the kavalactone content of the kava you bought, it’s best to start at the lowest dosage and build up gradually over time as you get a feel for how strong a particular cultivar is.

Adapting the Recommended Dose to Your Weight

Of course, your weight will also affect the effective dose. Larger people have more blood, therefore, more cells in the body — which means they’ll need a larger dose to experience the same results.

The recommendations above are provided for the average weight — which is around 63 kg (140 pounds).

For slight variances in weight from this, down to about 45 kg (100 pounds) or up to 70 kg (160 pounds) — it isn’t worth it to focus too much on adapting the dose. The recommended range is wide enough that it won’t make much of a difference.

However, if you’re much larger than the average or much smaller — you may benefit from a modified dose that better fits your weight.

The best way to calculate this is to determine the dose of kavalactones in milligrams per kilogram (or milligrams per pound).

Based on the information above from the clinical trial data — A 63 kg person should take between 140 and 300 mg kavalactones total — the dose per kg works out to 2.25 – 4.8 mg/kg — or 1 – 2 mg/lb.

What Strength of Kava Dose Should I Use? 

The desired dosage strength depends on your individual preferences and the reason for using kava.

For sedative effects, a higher dosage is generally required.

For more euphoric or stimulating effects, you’re going to need a lower dose instead.

General Dosage Recommendations By Desired Effects

Effects Low Dose Kava (70 – 140 mg) High Dose Kava (200 – 300 mg)
Desired Uses • Promoting creativity
• As a daily health supplement
• For mild to moderate anxiety
• For social gatherings
• For meditation
• For moderate to severe anxiety
• Insomnia or sleep disorders
• For deep meditation
• For muscle tension and tightness
How it Feels • Mildly euphoric and clear-headed
• Intense focus and concentration
• Relaxed and calm
• May feel slightly energized or slightly relaxed
• Euphoric and relaxed
• May feel like falling asleep
• Couch-lock, heavy sensation
• Carefree and unmotivated
Most Common Side-Effects • Not likely to produce many side-effects in the short term
• The most common side-effect is fatigue
• Not likely to experience any “hangover” symptoms
• More likely to produce side-effects
• May experience skin irritations
• The most common side-effect is oversedation
• Can feel groggy the following morning

Factors That Can Affect the Optimal Dose of Kava

The absorption, metabolism, and excretion of the active compounds in kava can all vary from one person to the next. This means the effective dose for one person is different from the effective dose for someone else.

Let’s cover how each of these factors can impact the effective dose from one person to the next:

1. Absorption

The first step of the process is to absorb the kavalactones through the gut lining. Depending on the health of the gut, the amount of kavalactones that are absorbed can vary dramatically. People with inflammation in the gut, celiac disease, or other intestinal issues may require much larger doses to make up for poor absorption through the gut lining.

2. Metabolism

Once in the bloodstream, the body will begin metabolizing and neutralizing the kavalactones. Most of this process happens in the liver. Everybody’s liver will have differences in the efficiency for removing kavalactones from the blood. If we have fast liver metabolism, the kavalactones may be neutralized at a similar rate as they’re absorbed, which means we’ll need a larger dose to produce the desired effects.

Likewise, if we have slow liver metabolism or the liver is dysfunctional in any way, we may be unable to neutralize the kavalactones effectively — causing them to build up in the bloodstream to produce much stronger, and longer-lasting effects. These people may need to take a lower dose of kava to avoid side-effects.

3. Excretion

Once the liver has metabolized kavalactones, the metabolites are excreted through the kidneys. Some of these kavalactone metabolites may remain active until this happens. If the kidneys are slow at filtering blood, the effects of kava may last for longer periods of time. This is why people with kidney disease should avoid taking kava.

If kidney function is lower than normal, it may require a smaller dose of kava to avoid side-effects.

 

How Do I Know if Kava is Working?

So you’ve taken a dose of kava — how do you know if it’s working or not?

The first thing you’re likely to experience if using kava tea or tinctures is a numbing or tingling sensation in the mouth — this is completely normal.

About 30-45 minutes later, the effects should gradually begin to set in. This process is subtle, and you may not notice them at first. Be patient, don’t take more kava after 45 minutes just because you don’t feel it. Sometimes it can take up to an hour and a half for the effects to set in. If you take a second dose after 45 minutes, you may end up with negative side effects when the effects finally set in.

As the kava begins to take effect, you may notice a feeling of contentment. You feel carefree and relaxed. Sometimes senses such as sight and smell are heightened, and you may feel as though your body is much lighter.

As the effects continue to increase in strength, some effects will change. You may feel moments of euphoria, and vision may become distorted. With higher doses, those feelings of being light will change and you may feel extra heavy, or like your body is starting to melt into the chair or couch you’re sitting on.

For very high doses, you may begin to feel drowsy and drift off to sleep.

The Effects of Kava May Include:

  • Numbing sensation in the mouth
  • Feelings of contentment and relaxation
  • Sight and smell senses are heightened
  • Muscle weakness and relaxation
  • Feeling extra light or extra heavy
  • Very high doses can cause drowsiness

If you don’t feel any effects of the kava after about two hours, it’s safe to take another dose.

Don’t rush it! Kava is different for everybody, and it’s best to play it safe when just starting out. If you took 5 grams of kava and didn’t feel anything, take 7.5 grams the next time, then 10, then 12.5, etc. Keep increasing the dose by about 2.5 grams each time until you find the effects you’re looking for.

If you experience any of the milder side-effects, don’t worry. Simply go back to the last dose you took that didn’t produce any side-effects the next time.

The more you use kava, the easier it is to use properly. Once you know how the kava affects your body you’ll be able to dial the dose in perfectly each time. This takes practice just like anything else.

 

What Happens if I Take Too Much Kava?

Although kava is a safe supplement, it’s possible to take too much.

Too much kava can mean experiencing effects that were stronger than you wanted. The most common dosing mishap is to have a dose that makes you feel sleepy when you wanted to use kava socially or at work for its creativity-enhancing benefits.

Other times, too much kava leads to negative side-effects like a skin rash, indigestion, abdominal pain, or others.

Most of the negative side-effects of kava will go away on their own, but if you experience any tightness in the chest, severe skin rashes, or difficulty breathing — visit a doctor immediately.

Most of the time, you simply need to wait the kava out and make sure to take a lower dose the next time. If you’re experiencing sedation, the best thing to do is simply sleep it off.

For skin rashes, you can apply creams containing aloe, calendula, or CBD to help with the itching. And for nausea or vomiting, try making a strong ginger tea or laying down with your eyes closed for a while.

Side-Effects of Kava May Include:

  • Skin rash
  • Visual disturbances
  • Urinary retention
  • Abdominal pain
  • Indigestion
  • Sedation
  • Nausea

 

When to Avoid Using Kava

Not everyone should use kava. There are a few situations where it can be dangerous to use this herb.

The most important one is with liver of kidney disease. As mentioned earlier, both of these organs are involved in the metabolism and excretion of the kavalactones — which can cause further damage to these organs if they aren’t functioning properly.

It’s also important to avoid kava when taking medications that have similar effects. Combining the two can amplify their effects and cause negative side-effects. This includes drugs such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, blood thinners, dopaminergics, and antidepressants. Speak with your doctor before using kava if you’re on any medications.

You should also avoid using kava if pregnant or breastfeeding. There’s no research currently available to determine if kava is safe for a developing fetus or small children, and therefore, should be avoided at all costs.

Who Should Avoid Using Kava?

  • People with liver disease (cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, or hepatitis)
  • People with kidney disease (nephritic or nephrotic syndrome)
  • People with blood disorders (hemophilia, leukemia, or thrombocytopenia)
  • Parkinson’s disease patients
  • People suffering from clinical depression
  • If you’re on antipsychotic medications or sedatives
  • Pregnant or nursing mothers
  • Anyone with a history of kava or Piperaceae family allergies

 

Kava Dosage Used in Medical Research

The active components of kava that provide the bulk of its effects on the body are referred to as kavalactones. This refers to their presence in the kava plant, and the chemical structure of these compounds (lactones).

The ideal dose of kavalactones is about 150 – 250 mg per day of the active kavalactones. The maximum dose is around 300 mg, with some people consuming as much as 400 mg (not recommended).

For most kava on the market, this means using about 5 to 10 grams of powder per dose. For beginners, it’s best to start at the lower dose (5 grams) and build up incrementally by 2 grams per day or per dose.

A common preparation used in research for testing the effects of kava in humans is called “kava extract WS® 1490” which is standardized to contain 70 mg of kavalactones per capsule. Studies will usually give one or two of these capsules for a total of 70 mg or 140 mg kavalactones per day.

5 Examples of Clinical Trials Using the Standardized Kava Extract WS® 1490:

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder — This study found that two capsules (140 mg kavalactones) of WS® 1490 per day significantly reduced symptoms of anxiety compared to the placebo control group [1]
  2. Sleep Disturbances — This study concluded that two capsules (140 mg kavalactones) of WS® 1490 showed statistically significant improvement in sleep quality compared to the placebo control group [2].
  3. Menopausal Anxiety — This study found that three capsules (210 mg kavalactones) of WS® 1490 was able to reduce anxiety symptoms with minimal side-effects [3].
  4. Safety — This study looked at the safety of using kava extract WS® 1490 along with alcohol. The study involved three capsules per day (210 mg kavalactones) and found no negative effects of the combination, concluding that kava was safe at this dosage [4].
  5. Non-Psychotic Anxiety Disorders — This study was a meta-analysis reviewing the outcomes of 6 different clinical trials on kava extract WS® 1490. Each study used between 140 and 300 mg of kavalactones during the course of the study. The analysis concluded that kava has clearly demonstrated benefits on non-psychotic anxiety and even suggested it as an alternative to benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) [5].

What’s the Takeaway of this Research? How Much Kava Should I Take?

All of this research used a standardized kava preparation WS® 1490 — which makes it much easier to apply the information to other products. The studies listed above found an effective and safe dosage range of 140 – 300 mg kavalactones.

 

Summing it All Up: How Much Kava Should I Take?

Deciding how much kava to take depends on the following:

  • The form of kava you’re using (capsules, powders, tinctures, tea)
  • The cultivar of kava you’re using (which can determine how potent it is)
  • The desired effects you’re looking for (higher for sedative effects, lower for euphoric effects)
  • Specific aspects of your individual physiology (absorption, metabolism, and excretion)

The best way to find the right dose for you is to start with a lower dosage and build up gradually over time until you reach the desired effects. The more you use kava, the easier it is to find the right dose — even when using cultivars you’ve never used before.

With that said, the optimal dosage of kava falls within the range of 140 – 300 mg of kavalactones — which equates to about 10 – 15 grams of kava powder. For weaker varieties, you may need as much as 60 grams, and for really strong kava the dose could be as low as 4 grams.

For capsules and tinctures, simply follow the instructions on the label as the potency can vary from one product to the next.

For more information on how strong a particular cultivar of kava is, make sure to review our guides.

References

  1. Volz, H. P., & Kieser, M. (1997). Kava-kava extract WS 1490 versus placebo in anxiety disorders-a randomized placebo-controlled 25-week outpatient trial. Pharmacopsychiatry, 30(01), 1-5.
  2. Lehrl, S. (2004). Clinical efficacy of kava extract WS® 1490 in sleep disturbances associated with anxiety disorders: Results of a multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Journal of affective disorders, 78(2), 101-110.
  3. Warnecke, G. (1991). Psychosomatic dysfunctions in the female climacteric. Clinical effectiveness and tolerance of Kava Extract WS 1490. Fortschritte der Medizin, 109(4), 119-122.
  4. Herberg, K. W. (1993). Effect of Kava-Special Extract WS 1490 combined with ethyl alcohol on safety-relevant performance parameters. Blutalkohol, 30(2), 96-105.
  5. Witte, S., Loew, D., & Gaus, W. (2005). Meta‐analysis of the efficacy of the acetonic kava‐kava extract WS® 1490 in patients with non‐psychotic anxiety disorders. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives, 19(3), 183-188.