Tinctures are one of the best ways of using any herb therapeutically — including kava.
The practice of using herbal tinctures has been around for thousands of years and still employed today by professional herbalists today.
A tincture is essentially a liquid form of a herb. All the active ingredients are separated from the plant matter itself and suspended in a liquid base.
Kava tinctures have distinct advantages over other forms of using the herb. They’re quick and easy to use, deliver precise doses when you need it, and come in much smaller bottles than the conventional half-pound sack of kava root powder.
If you’re interested in trying kava tinctures yourself, keep reading to see my selection of the four best kava tinctures on the market today. I’ll also include some tips on what makes one kava tincture better than another, and how to use them (including dose).
Let’s dive straight in.
Table of Contents
Best Kava Tinctures, Oil & Liquid Extracts to Buy in 2020
- Root of Happiness Liquid Kava Extract — Best Kava Tincture for Sleep
- Gaia Herbs Kava Tincture (Extra-Strength) — Best Kava Tincture For Anxiety
- Kona Kava Farms Kava Tincture — Best Traditional Kava Tincture (Alcohol-Glycerine Base)
- Harmonic Arts Kava Tincture — Best Kava Tincture in Canada
1. Root of Happiness — Liquid Kava Extract
Root of Happiness is one of the most well-known kava manufacturers in the world. They sell every category of kava product you can think of — including this high-grade tincture.
This is our number one kava tincture pick because it’s made using the company’s own “Polynesian Gold 70% CO2 Extract”, which is one of the highest-quality kava concentrates we’ve tried. This concentrate is then mixed with an MCT carrier oil base.
There are three factors that make this product stand above the rest:
- It’s alcohol-free (doesn’t burn the mouth when you use it)
- It’s exceptionally potent (offers 100 mg per serving)
- Made from a reputable and well-known kava brand
|Tincture Base||MCT Oil|
|Kava Type||Mixed Noble Kava Cultivars|
|Recommended Serving Size||1 mL (1 full dropper)|
|Potency||100 mg/mL (High-Potency)|
2. Gaia Herbs — Kava Root Tincture (Extra Strength)
Gaia Herbs is a large herbal extract company. The company makes two kava tinctures — a regular version and an extra-strength version.
I much prefer the specs for the extra-strength version, which delivers a potent 75 milligrams of pure kavalactones per milliliter.
These tinctures are made with a mixture of different kava cultivars from Vanuatu.
The only real problem with this tincture is that it’s made with alcohol — everything else is just right. Alcoholic extracts are harsh on the mouth, so it helps to add this tincture to some water or juice to mask the flavor.
With that aside, this is one of the best kava tinctures available. The company provides clear evidence of testing for purity and potency, and the extract is very potent. The company only recommends taking about 20 drops, which is less than 1 mL of tincture. Experienced kava users may find they need closer to 40 drops, but effects can vary.
|Kava Type||Mixed Noble Kava Cultivars from Vanuatu|
|Recommended Serving Size||20 Drops (0.67 mL)|
|Potency||75 mg/mL (High-Potency)|
3. Kona Kava Farm — Kava Tincture
Kona Kava Farm specializes in Hawaiian kava cultivars. The company sells raw powders, capsules, and this high-grade kava tincture.
This company has chosen to use a solvent base of alcohol and glycerine combined. This provides all the benefits of using alcohol (higher extraction rate, longer shelf-life, better absorption), without many of the negatives (very harsh taste).
Glycerine is an alternative solvent option for herbal tinctures with a sweet taste and a relatively long shelf life. The only problem is that glycerine can’t dissolve nearly as much of the active ingredients and tend to be much weaker tinctures overall.
Kona Kava Farms has done a great job at meeting in the middle with their alcohol-glycerine blend.
The company claims this tincture contains 3% kavalactones and recommends about 40 drops per serving. The bottle lists each serving at around 60 mg.
Kona Kava Farm tinctures are the only tincture I’ve seen that actually tells you the kava chemocode — which is 246. This indicates this kava tincture falls on the “heady” side of the effect spectrum. I’d say this is about accurate but higher doses feel quite a bit heavier.
|Tincture Base||Alcohol & Glycerine|
|Kava Type||Mixed Noble Kava Cultivars from Hawaii|
|Recommended Serving Size||40 Drops (1.3 mL)|
|Potency||45 mg/mL (Medium-Potency)|
4. Harmonic Arts — Kava Tincture
Harmonic Arts is a herbal supplement company based out of Vancouver Island, Canada. The company was founded by revered herbalist Yarrow Willard, and has become one of the most well-known sources of herbal extracts in North America.
The company sells many different herb extracts, including this high-grade kava extract.
This particular kava tincture is made with can alcohol (60%) and a mixed variety of noble kava cultivars. It has a mild effect profile, suitable for more casual users. If you need a heavy hitter, this isn’t the product for you. But if you’re just looking for something mild to help with stress, anxiety, or sleep — this is some of the lowest cost kava tinctures available.
This product is made using a 1:4 ratio — which means there’s 4 times as much alcohol as there is kava (in g).
Unfortunately, the company doesn’t list the specific amount of kavalactones inside the bottle, and without knowing the strains the company used, we can’t make an accurate estimation.
However, with the average kava root containing around 8% kavalactones, this tincture should have somewhere in the ballpark of around 15 mg of pure kavalactones per milliliter of tincture.
|Tincture Base||Cane Alcohol (60%)|
|Kava Type||Mixed Noble Kava Cultivars|
|Recommended Serving Size||1 mL (1 full dropper)|
|Potency||15 mg/mL (Low-Potency)|
What is Kava?
Kava (Piper methysticum) is a tropical plant species from the islands of the Pacific ocean. You’ll find this plant thriving in places like Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Papua New Guinea — just to name a few.
This herb has a long history of use alongside humans. Early Polynesian explorers valued it so much they even carried it with them on their voyage across the ocean in search of new lands. It’s these early adventurers that have resulted in the spread of kava throughout the Pacific.
Kava is valued for its mind-altering effects. It’s a powerful relaxant, capable of inducing states of euphoria, and rest. It’s consumed in circles with friends, family, and members of the community during meetings, celebrations, and spiritual ceremonies.
The Benefits of Using Kava Tinctures
You can find just about any herb imaginable in the form of a tincture. It’s the preferred medium for professional herbalists because you can mix them together and prescribe specific doses based on the volume of tincture.
The benefits of kava tinctures, as opposed to powders:
A) They’re Very Simple to Use
Using a herbal tincture is as easy as dropping a few drops into some tea or water, and knocking it back.
You can even drop kava tinctures directly into the mouth and hold it under the tongue for faster absorption. I only recommend doing this if you’re using a tincture that isn’t made with alcohol. Alcohol can be painful if held in the mouth for too long.
B) They Allow Precise, Repeatable Dosing
A quality tincture will be made to the exact same specifications every time. This means that 1 drop of tincture will always deliver exactly the same dose of active kavalactones.
This is important because once you find a dose that works for you, you can just keep repeating the process with reliable results.
Let’s use my favorite kava tincture as an example — Root of Happiness Liquid Kava Extract. I know that for me, 1.5 mL (1 and a half droppers) provides the perfect level of sedative effects to get me to sleep, without going overboard. The dose is the same every time and I know exactly how much to take to get reliable improvements in my sleep.
C) They’re Easy to Carry Around
Tinctures come in small glass dropper bottles. Everything is completely sealed and can be thrown into your pocket, your desk at work, or a purse.
This beats carrying around a half-pound bag of kava powder with you on your way to work or school.
D) They Have a Long Shelf-Life
The alcohol, oil, or glycerine base that makes up the bulk of a kava tincture helps preserve the kava by keeping oxygen out. It also provides a buffer to the temperature of the tincture to resist fluctuations throughout the day that can lead to a gradual breakdown of the active ingredients.
As a result, tinctures have a very long shelf-life — several months longer than dried, powdered kava, and kava capsules.
One of the main reasons tinctures were developed in traditional herbal medicine was as a way to preserve the herbs that weren’t in season. There have been tinctures found in tombs that were found to still contain active ingredients, over three centuries later.
E) They’re Cheap
Kava tinctures are often a more cost-effective way of using the herb. The longer shelf-life makes it easier for companies to produce tinctures in bulk, and the small footprint takes up less shelf space.
Both of these factors contribute to a reduction in the cost to manufacture, and the overall price.
How are Kava Tinctures Made?
Tinctures are very simple to make. You can even do it yourself. The process involves filling a container with dried, ground herb material, and soaking it in alcohol (such as vodka or moonshine) for 2 or more weeks.
Over the course of 2 weeks, the active ingredients will diffuse from inside the plant material, to the alcohol.
Alcohol-based kava extracts are common, but there’s just one problem. Many of the unwanted compounds in kava are extracted with alcohol too. These compounds can lead to symptoms like nausea, dizziness, or fatigue. Traditional kava preparation involving kava powder and cold water doesn’t extract these compounds very efficiently and therefore have a more ideal effect profile.
You can achieve this with a tincture as well, but we need to look past alcohol as a solvent.
Here are three other solvents that can be used to make a superior kava tincture:
A) Vegetable Glycerine
Glycerine (aka glycerol) is the backbone for fat molecules (called triglycerides) in vegetable oils. Through a chemical process, the glycerol molecule can be removed from the fatty acids.
Vegetable-based glycerine is actually an excellent solvent similar to alcohol, but less efficient at pulling out some of the undesirable kavalactones in kava.
Since glycerine is a sugar-based molecule, these tinctures have a syrupy texture and sweet taste. This helps mask the taste of kava and makes the tincture more enjoyable to use.
The catch? Glycerine tinctures can’t be made as strong as other solvents types so you’ll need a larger dose to get the same level of benefit.
B) Carrier Oil
Oils are another common solvent for making tinctures. Just about anything that’s soluble in alcohol is also soluble in oils.
Consider CBD oils as an example — these tinctures are preferred to alcohol because they’re efficient at extracting the fat-soluble cannabinoid molecules, have much better taste to alcoholic tinctures, and can be used by anybody (even children or people who want to avoid alcohol).
Keep in mind that the kavalactones in kava are also fat-soluble and are easily extracted into a carrier oil like MCT oil, hemp seed oil, or olive oil.
C) Supercritical CO2 Extract
Supercritical CO2 extraction is a modern method of extraction. It’s considered the gold standard these days for most herbal extracts because of its efficiency and high level of safety (replaces other harmful solvents).
It works by cooling carbon dioxide gas until it’s a liquid, then reducing the pressure until it becomes a gas again. When these two conditions are met, CO2 enters a state referred to as supercritical. It’s both a liquid and agas at the same time.
Supercritical CO2 has the unique ability to act as a solvent. When it’s flushed over dried kava it removes the active ingredients the same way any other solvent would.
As soon as the pressure is released, CO2 instantly converts back to a gas and evaporates — leaving behind a rich, resinous kava extract. At this state we have a kava paste, which can be bottled up and used as is, or dissolved into any of the other bases mentioned above.
The best kava tinctures are extracted using supercritical CO2, then dissolved into a premium carrier oil at specific concentrations.
How to Calculate the Dose of Kava Tinctures
One of the benefits of using a tincture is that the dose is very easy to determine and repeat each and every time. This can be very difficult to do with powders — especially when you factor in the wide variability of potencies from one powder to the next.
Kava tinctures will usually list the serving size on the side of the bottle — either in drops, dropperfuls, or milliliters.
If you’re new to using kava tinctures, we recommend sticking with the recommended dosage on the side of the bottle.
If you want to take your kava dosing to the next level and go beyond the generic recommendations given by the manufacturer, keep reading.
Step 1: Calculate Your Ideal Starting Dosage
The best way to determine a ballpark for the optimal dose is according to your weight. The more you weigh, the more kava you’ll need to take.
The first step is to determine the dose of the active ingredients you should take (kavalactones) — from here you can determine the dose of any concentration of kava tincture.
In our kava dosage guide we break this down in much more detail, but here are the cliff notes:
|Bodyweight Range||Low Dose Kava||High Dose Kava|
|25 – 45 kg (60 – 100 lbs)||60 – 100 mg Kavalactones||130 – 215 mg Kavalactones|
|45 – 60 kg (100 – 140 lbs)||100 – 140 mg Kavalactones||215 – 250 mg Kavalactones|
|60 – 100 kg (140 – 200 lbs)||140 – 200 mg Kavalactones||250 – 300 mg Kavalactones|
* You should never exceed 300 mg of pure kavalactones for any reason.
Step 2: Determine the Potency of the Tincture in milligrams per milliliter
Next, you’ll need to determine the potency of the kava tincture you’re using in terms of the kavalactone content.
I’ve broken down the kavalactone content for each of the brands listed above, here they are once more:
|Product Name||Kavalactone Potency (mg/mL)||Buy Link|
|Root of Happiness Liquid Kava Extract||100 mg/mL||Check Price|
|Gaia Herbs Kava Tincture (Extra Strength)||75 mg/mL||Check Price|
|Kona Kava Farm — Kava Tincture||45 mg/mL||Check Price|
|Harmonic Arts Kava Tincture||15 mg/mL||Check Price|
You can also calculate the kavalactone content by running this calculation:[total kavalactones per bottle] ➗ [bottle size in mL] = [potency in mg/mL kavalactones]
Step 3: Calculate Your Specific Dose
Now that you know your target dose of kavalactones based on your weight and the concentration of the kava tincture you’re using — you just have to put them together to see how many milliliters of tincture you should take per serving.
Here’s the formula:
Let’s do a simple example so you can see how this works.
If your ideal dose is around 200 mg of pure kavalactones, and the tincture you’re using provides 100 mg kavalactones per mL of liquid. The formula would look like this:[200 mg dose] ➗[100 mg/mL] = [2 mL of tincture per serving]
If you were using a weaker tincture the dose would be higher. Let’s say you’re using the Kona Kava Farm Tincture instead (50 mg/mL). The formula would instead look like this:[200 mg dose] ➗[50 mg/mL] = [4 mL of tincture per serving]
Why We Calculate the Dose in Milliliters
We calculate milliliters because the standard dropper bottle contains exactly 1 mL of liquid in one full dropper. So if your dose is 1 mL, use one full dropper. If it’s 1.5 mL, use one and a half droppers.
You can also determine the dose in drops if you’d prefer by simply dividing the dose (in mL) by 30. This is because there are roughly 30 drops in a mL.
Step 4: Tweak the Dose Based on How You Feel
The process above will help you determine the ballpark dose when using tinctures of different strengths based on your individual body weight. I recommend you do this method the first time you order a new kava tincture that you’ve never tried before just so you can get an accurate baseline.
However, you should tweak the dose as you use it based on how you feel.
Some people are more sensitive to kava, others less sensitive. So after taking the first dose, you should determine if you need something a little stronger the next time or a little weaker.
When dialing in the dose of kava tinctures, try not to make large changes at a time. If you feel you need an increase, add just 5-10 drops more per serving until you get the effects you’re looking for.
What do Kava Tinctures Feel Like?
Kava tinctures feel a lot different from kava tea. They tend to be more mellow, and don’t offer nearly the same level of euphoric effects. They do tend to provide stronger sedative benefits, however.
The first thing you’ll notice when using kava tinctures is the taste. If the formula uses alcohol as a base, it’s not going to taste pleasant at all. Kava is highly bitter, and when combined with the harshness of alcohol it can be a pretty unpleasant experience. This is why I prefer using alcohol-free tinctures, or tinctures that combine some alcohol with the smoother base — vegetable glycerine. See Root of Happiness and Kona Kava Farms tinctures for this.
It helps to mix alcohol-based kava tinctures in some warm water or juice to mask the flavor and dilute the alcohol. Non-alcohol-based versions can be taken directly in the mouth.
You will also notice the characteristic tingly sensation when using any high-grade kava tincture. This is the same you can expect to feel from kava tea as well.
You should start to feel the effects of the tincture after 15–30 minutes. It usually starts with a mild euphoria, which fades to a state of calm and tranquility. Depending on the dose, these effects may transition to become more sedative in nature, and you may even dose off a little bit.
Lower doses don’t tend to be directly sedative but can promote a feeling of inner calmness. This can be helpful for work or creative processes and is useful for reducing feelings of anxiety.
The whole experience should last roughly 4–5 hours before you’ll need to take another dose of tincture.
Final Thoughts: Where to Buy the Best Kava Tinctures
Kava tinctures are an excellent way of using kava. They’re quick, convenient, and offer a reliable and repeatable dose of kava every time you use it.
There are lots of different tinctures available, each with their own base formula, solvent type, and potency.
The best kava tinctures are made using supercritical CO2, which is then mixed with vegetable glycerine or oil base. They have the best taste without sacrificing the potency of the tincture.
Cheaper tinctures will use alcohol as a base instead — which works just as well but can be very difficult to palate.
My favorite go-to kava tincture, by far, is Root of Happiness Liquid Kava Extract. It’s completely alcohol-free and delivers an incredibly potent dose of Polynesian kava per mL. I always keep a bottle of this stuff nearby.