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What is Kava?
A member of the pepper family (Piperacea), Kava (Piper methysticum), or kava-kava, is the root of a plant that grows in the wild and in plantations on islands in the western Pacific. It has a strong tradition for hundreds of years in Polynesian culture, having been used for ethnic rituals and in daily life. The root is harvested, dried, and pounded into a powder or paste which is then blended with water. The resulting drink has been honored in Polynesian culture and in modern times, abroad, for its relaxing, mood lifting, and entheogenic properties.
Things to Look for in a Good Kava Supplement
Since kava has become so popular abroad, there are many choices out there of brands and kava-based products to try. It can be confusing to navigate the marketplace when the choices are overwhelming to a point of paralysis. Good kava should originate from its native lands, where soil and climate conditions produce the right kavalactones in the root. In addition, it should be from so-called “noble” cultivars which were selected for the maximum benefits and minimal negative side effects which can afflict consumers of so-called lesser “tudei” cultivars. Users of kava in the South Pacific indeed only consume noble varieties and rarely, if ever, experience side effects. Cheaper and easier to grow and harvest, non-noble varieties are none-the-less flooding the market as many farmers look to cash in on kava’s rise in popularity.
How to Take Kava
Kava can be consumed in many ways – as dried and shredded root fibers, as finely ground powder, or as an extract. Traditionally, kava is consumed in the form of a tea as a ceremonial medicine for a variety of illnesses and problems. Modern medicine especially supports kava in its anxiolytic properties. It can also be taken recreationally, as many people do to relax after a long day at work.
Caution: US FDA advises that a potential risk of rare, but severe, liver injury may be associated with kava-containing dietary supplements – source
Note: We recommend speaking to a doctor before taking any supplements.
Top 10 Kava Products
1. NOW Foods Kava Kava Extract
NOW Foods is one of the largest suppliers of supplements and minerals in the marketplace today. They have perfected the process of origination, supply, and extraction for many different materials and compounds. Their quality is legendary, and their prices are reasonable.
- The extract contains 250 mg of kavalactones (30% kavalactones) per capsule, in a proprietary blend with another calming herb called Eleuthero, also known as Siberian ginseng.
- This is what makes them one highly successful company. Their kava products are no different. NOW Food uses only organic kava and eleuthero root in this blend.
2. Gaia Herbs Kava Kava Root
This supplement comes in the form of capsules filled with a liquid combining kava with kava root extract. The capsules are average-sized, not too large for most people to take.
- Each capsule contains 442 mg (75mg of active kavalactones), coming to 17% kavalactones, which is a respectable amount.
- The kava is ecologically harvested from the island of Vanuatu, and Gaia Herbs uses only the lateral roots in their formulation.
- Gaia also imports their roots whole in order to better control for quality, and grind the roots into a fine powder and produce the extract themselves.
3. Natrol Kava Kava
Natrol’s product is offered to soothe body and mind, through kavas unique and beneficial properties. Natrol Kava Kava is one of the more affordable products on this list, and often can be found on sale, in stores as well as online.
- With 200 mg of kava root powder, with 60 mg of pure kavalactones (30% kavalactones) per capsule.
4. Nature’s Answer Kava-6
Kava-6 provides the results of HPLC product testing, which reveal the constituents of the product. With Nature’s Answer Kava-6, the products are nothing more and nothing less than the six critical kavalactones found in the natural root: methysticin, dihydromethysticin, kavain, dihydrokavain, yangonin, and demethoxyyangonin.
- Capsules contain 333 mg of kava root extract, standardized to 30% kavalactones
- With 50 mg of kavalactones per serving, this alcohol-free extract is nature’s perfect answer as a Kava product.
- Kava extract is another, more modern option for consuming kava. It is made through concentrating the kavalactones from the lateral roots.
- This product is alcohol-free – the extract is suspended in glycerin, which makes it thicker in consistency but not as harsh in taste.
5. Oregon’s Wild Harvest Kava Root
Blending whole kava root and rhizome, Oregon’s Wild uses superior quality kava cultivated for the highest levels of kavain, the most active ingredient in kava.
- Each vegetarian non-GMO capsule contains 400 mg of grinded kava powder from root and rhizome – and nothing else.
- This product does not contain any other excipients, binders, or fillers, and has not been tested on animals.
6. Eclectic Institute Kava Kava
For those who are seeking the full spectrum of kava benefits, whole ground lateral root is great because it includes minor kavalactones, flavokavins, and alkaloids. Daily serving size of one to four capsules.
- Each vegetarian capsule contains 460 mg of freeze-dried powder with an average assay of 59.8 kavalactones (13%).
- Combining only freeze-dried lateral root powder, which contains the greatest amount of kavalactones in the root, this product offers only the best parts of the kava-kava root.
- Freeze drying ensures that the root retains the maximal amount of kavalactone profile, and remains as close to fresh as you can get.
7. Source Naturals Kava
With some of the highest rated reviews online, Source Naturals Kava include calcium in capsule form. Suggested for occasional use.
- Source Naturals Kava contain capsules with 500 mg of standardized kava with 30% kavalactones (150 mg kavalactones).
- Liquid form is also available, with 1 ml of kava root extract (in alcohol) per serving. Source Naturals sources their own raw ingredients, and then does their own processing and manufacturing in-house. This guarantees transparency of ingredients, and that the kava is of the highest quality.
- With an in-house laboratory, they are able to standardize their products and check them on a regular basis for quality control and safety.
8. Maui Medicinal Herbs Hawaiian Kava
Maui Medicinal is a company based in Hawaii that does their best to support local agriculture, sustainable harvesting, and healthy living. Maui Medicinal Herbs Hawaiian Kava is from kava harvested on the island of Maui.
- Capsules contain 450 mg dried kava root each.
- Offering capsules containing 450 mg or 520 mg of kava root powder, as well as straight powder, extract, coconut flavored extract, and spray, Maui Medicinals is surely the place to turn for a variety of ways to get your dose of kavalactones.
- For over 18 years, Maui Medicinals has been formulating safe and effective ways to include natural herbs in the diet, supporting farmers in Hawaii, Oregon, and Rhode Island. Kava products were some of their first items and therefore you can be assured that they have perfected the art of kava.
9. Pure Mountain Botanicals Kava
Each capsule contains 400 mg of wild harvested kava, in a gluten-free, vegetarian vegetable glycerin capsule. This product provides easy-to-swallow capsules for those who might find the taste of kava difficult to enjoy.
- Using the best wild harvested noble kava, which is then dried and ground into a fine powder and packed into capsules, avoiding mysterious fillers and constituents to deliver consumers high quality and effectiveness.
10. Mediherb Kava Forte
Mediherb Kava Forte tablets are different in that the kavalactones are extracted using water – which is considered to be the safest and purest way to make extractions. Using water also ensures the full spectrum of kavalactones are present in the tablets. Also, only noble cultivars are used.
- Each tablet is standardized to contain 50 mg of kavalactones, which enables consumers to be in control of precisely how much kavalactones they are taking, and to know their precise effective dose.
- Mediherb may be the only company that has invested in the research and preparation of water extracted kava.