Mouth tingling isn’t exactly the sensation you might desire when trying to relax, but kava is a potent anti-anxiety and stress relieving herb that can create such an experience. Found natively in regions of the Pacific rim islands, kava is popularly used as a social beverage for relaxing and an extract for preventing anxiety and improving sleep quality.

The evidence for this traditional herbal brew is quite strong. Studies suggest kava is quite reliable in treating anxiety [1], though this is usually tested with many weeks as opposed to months. Other factors, such as general wellbeing [2] and general cognitive abilities [3], are also enhanced. Preliminary evidence suggests kava is useful for fighting symptoms of depression [4] and improving sleep quality [5].

Traditionally, kava is consumed in a tea or homemade brew, but many of the benefits of kava come from using the extract alone.

Also Known As

Piper methysticum, Kava Pepper, Ava Pepper, Kava Kava, Intoxicating Pepper, Awa, rauschpfeffer, sakau, tonga, wurzelstock, yangona

Editors’ Thoughts on Kava

As I live in Austin, Texas I have had many opportunities to try kava from a local “kava bar”. I’m not entirely sure, but I imagine the brew that these bars make is more traditional or at least more potent than the kava tea my girlfriend buys.

Either way, the experience was pretty interesting and I could see the advantages regarding relaxation and calm. My mouth got quite numb and tingly from using kava, but it wasn’t disruptive or problematic in any way.

After drinking the kava (which doesn’t taste amazing), I felt a lot more relaxed and sedated. It wasn’t as intense as the first experience I had with lemon balm, but it is nonetheless very useful for this purpose.

My only complaint (though I didn’t experience it) is that kava can come with a few warnings regarding side effects and the interactions with other pharmaceutical drugs. If you’re taking a prescription, double check with your doctor before starting a long-term kava regimen.

Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor

History of Kava

As with many traditional plant medicines, kava comes from a plant and has been used for many centuries. It is also known as kava root or kava kava and is used by south Pacific islander communities in order to treat anxiety and other mental disorders [6].

The kava drink (as we know it today) originated near Fiji and has been found on mainland Australia. Given the social popularity of the drink, it is often referred to as Herbal Ecstasy and has properties akin to alcohol [7].

Benefits of Kava

Besides purely good feelings, there are many cognitive benefits of kava. For many nootropic compounds, the improved mental performance is attributed to reducing anxiety and stress. A meta-analysis (overview) of 11 different studies found that the root is significantly better at reducing anxiety than a placebo [8].

Another double-blind study with 61 participants found that kava could reduce anxiety over a 4 week period. That same study found kava sleep quality benefits as well [9]. Indeed, the kava benefits extend to improving sleep quality in even the hardest cases. Another sleep quality study showed this smart drug could help those suffering from anxiety-induced insomnia [10].

By improving sleep quality and particularly by reducing anxiety, cognitive performance is supported as well. In one situation, 20 subjects tested reaction time after taking the extract and found their performance had improved [11].

For the purely hedonistic crowd, kava has plenty to offer as well. Studies on subjective wellbeing (i.e: mood and happiness), suggest that this nootropic can be a great natural solution. One study measured “cheerfulness” [12], while another looked at over 100 patients suffering from anxiety to find profound changes in mood and happiness [13]. For some people, the kava root high or kava intoxication can be enjoyable. This usually occurs with higher doses and with lower body weight individuals, but is still possible for many first time drinkers [14].

How Does Kava Work?

Like many herbal remedies, the plant itself isn’t as important or special as a particular component. In this case, kava is full of a psychoactive compound called kavalactones, which inform reactions in the brain. Usually, the extract has 30% of this psychoactive ingredient.

According to some recommendations, it is best to take an extract called WS1490, but there are plenty of kava tea or brewing products that you can purchase to get a more traditional experience.

Side Effects of Kava

As mentioned previously, there are a few side effects of kava to keep in mind. Some of them are harmless and more common while others do less harm and are rare. Many people who drink the tea find that their mouth becomes numb over time. This is often due to their body weight and is not considered a negative or scary side effect.

One of the more major side effects of kava is related to liver processing of the psychoactive ingredients. Some reports of liver induced toxicity have caused governments in the EU, UK and Canada to put restrictions on the substance. However, this seems to be rare and not caused specifically by the drug, but rather a mix of contributing factors [15].

Nonetheless, if you are struggling with a liver condition of some sort or you consume alcohol frequently, it might be best to avoid kava or speak to a doctor about the interactions with other medications.

Kava Dosage

The kava dosage will depend on a few factors namely your goals, the extract or consumption method you use, and your experience level.

Assuming you have 30% kavalactones (standard) then you can take a dosage of 400 mg once or twice per day. The popular kava extract, WS1490, should be dosed with 300 mg within 3 doses of 100 mg each.

For people that are using kava for sleep, it is useful to take a larger dose before going to bed. Even though there are recommendations to break up your doses, taking it all at once before going to sleep can prove more effective.

How and Where to Buy Kava

Kava supplements are relatively easy to come by given their popularity and natural origins. While places like the United Kingdom, European Union, and Canada have regulated the substance due to liver toxicity issues, it is a relatively safe compound that is available across the United States.

Local health food shops and even grocery stores will have kava for sale, but you may appreciate going online to ensure you get the extracts and quality you desire. There are several vendors where you can buy kava online, but it is imperative that you find a reputable dealer that uses the root in their products.

At Nootropedia, we recommend buying a soothing kava tea before going directly to the extract. Given the relaxing experience of hot tea in general, this can add to the ambiance for a fraction of the cost. If the effects are strong and fruitful, then you can look in depth at kava extract for sale.

Selected Community Experiences

Kava is my go-to for job interviews. I take a large dose just before I head out. My head is clear and my thoughts are lucid, but my demeanor is relaxed and calm. I'm friendly with no defensiveness. It's a truly amazing supplement for such situations. I got two job offers on Kava. It just made me feel so cool and confident… the real me that shines through when all fear disappears. Ridiculously effective stuff.” [16] – turdrail

I made some before a night out and it completely eliminated any anxiety I was feeling and I was able to let go and just be myself around a group of people I had never met before. I'm not really that anxious of a person, but when I'm around new people I find it hard to relax and be the funny/outgoing person I usually am when I'm around my friends, but Kava made socializing extremely easy.” [17] – GreasyNegus

References (Click to Expand)
  1. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19430766
  2. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15181652
  3. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15181652
  4. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19430766
  5. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14706720
  6. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1453702
  7. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7745421
  8. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12535473
  9. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14706720
  10. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11536390
  11. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15181652
  12. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15181652
  13. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9065962
  14. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12589393
  15. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12834011
  16. //www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/27yk9w/kava_kava/
  17. //www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/2syh9t/kava_kava_is_awesome/
Other Scientific Resources (Click to Expand)
  1. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19090505
  2. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12807341
  3. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12590005
  4. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11514117
  5. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16011454
  6. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1453702
  7. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3374423
  8. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7745421
  9. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16051732
  10. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17252331
  11. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17059882
  12. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9829291
  13. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21506562
  14. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13679089
  15. //toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/79/1/106.abstract
  16. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12845414
  17. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3244102
  18. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15181652
  19. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2777959
  20. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15181652
  21. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2777959
  22. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/760318
  23. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15729622
  24. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12113957
  25. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1332016
  26. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7701051
  27. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11518062
  28. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11458444
  29. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1396990
  30. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11807960
  31. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8515824
  32. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10186945


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