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What is Kava?

Kava is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and the body. Kava is made from the root or stump of the kava (Piper methysticum) shrub.1

Kava comes in different forms including:

brownish-coloured drink

brown powder




Other names

Kava kava, kawa, waka, lewena, yaqona, grog (Fiji), sakau (Pohnpei), ‘awa (Hawaii), ‘ava (Samoa) and wati (New Guinea).2


When brewing kava or making a kava drink, you should use cold or lukewarm liquid – never use hot liquid because the high temperature destroys kava’s main active ingredients known as kavalactones; the psychoactive components of kava that provide the drink with its relaxing properties.

Extraction of these psychoactive compounds from the kava root is performed by leaching the root into liquid such as water or milk. Both work well for kava extractions, since the kavalactones leach into either fluid. However, the best liquid to draw out the active constituents of kava contain a healthy amount of fat – generally milk such as cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soy milk or coconut milk. Simply put, using a fluid containing fat is the best way to prepare kava extractions, in addition to making a delicious kava drink. It is highly suggested that you use organic milk of whatever type you prefer when possible.

The most simple Kava extraction is done with a water and to this you can add some fat to help out. The fat can come from adding one-third milk to the water, (whole, soy or coconut). Keep in mind that you can also use juice with a little fat added as your extraction liquid, such as pineapple or papaya or whatever juice you like the best.

Here’s how to make kava drink: take the kava – powdered, pressed, ground or shredded – put it in a strainer and place that in your beverage of choice and allow it to steep for several minutes minimum… the longer you let it brew, the better it will be. However, be careful not to use traditional tea strainers if you are using a powder; the wire mesh is not fine enough to hold in kava powder and it is very possible some will escape into your drink. Instead, use fine muslin bags which are reusable and better to strain the kava.

Once you let your kava preparation brew, you can squeeze all the liquid out of the semi-solidified material in your strainer and throw the mass away or put it in your compost.


In relation to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), kava has been shown to increase GABA levels in the brain. This helps to reduce anxiety by promoting relaxation and reducing nervous tension. This mechanism occurs via the interaction of kavalactones with GABA-A receptors in the brain. This effect directly leads to an increase in GABA-mediated inhibition of neuronal activity.

Kava has also been shown to affect the levels of other neurotransmitters in the brain. This includes the production of serotonin and dopamine. Some studies suggest that kava may increase the levels of serotonin. Serotonin is involved in regulating mood and anxiety. Dopamine may also be released into the system as well. Dopamine has a powerful and direct effect on regulating mood, motivation, and reward. This may contribute to the anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects of kava.

Kava Kava "Awa" 1oz

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