Kava is a complex ingredient that can be difficult to understand. There is a lot of nuance to this remarkable plant.
Long ago people discovered that consuming a drink made from the root of the kava plant made them feel good. After hundreds of years of selective cultivation they chose and planted the varieties that produced the most enjoyable effect. These cultivars became known as noble kava. Different plants can provide noticeably different experiences.
Unlike Alcohol, which is a single chemical compound, Kava has a variety of active compounds. The active compounds in Kava are a class of lactones called kavalactones, of which there are at least 18 varieties, and of those, there are 6 that are significant in producing a psychoactive effect.
The relative concentrations of these kavalactones produce different experiences. Kavain and yangonin are associated with mood-boosting effects, while dihydrokavain and dihydromethysticin are associated with deeper relaxation.
There are several approaches to getting the kavalactones out of the root of the plant and into a form for consumption:
Traditional Kava is picked and dried in the sun over several days, and it is then ground into a powder. To make a drink, put this grind into a strainer bag, in warm water, and knead it for about 10 minutes. A laborious process. The resultant drink looks muddy and tastes earthy but can be a strong and authentic experience.
Micronised kava is another form of kava that you can purchase, it takes the traditional grind but continues grinding into a fine powder that can be mixed in water and drank. While more convenient than a traditional grind preparation, it actually contains more of the root fibres and this does result in higher occurrences of an upset stomach.
Kava Extracts use several potential processes to isolate the kavalactones from the root material. This approach tends to remove some of the less desirable flavors, and produces a powder or tincture that can be easily mixed. There are different approaches for extractions that have different levels of efficiency at recovering the kavalactones. Water-based extraction uses water much like the traditional preparation of kava and then evaporates the water out to concentrate the result. Alternatively, using Ethanol or Carbon Dioxide, Acetone, Methanol or other mediums to dissolve the kavalactones can have other benefits such as being able to eliminate any microbial bacteria or molds from making it into the extract.
Ready to Drink kava like Psychedelic Water is the most convenient way to enjoy kava. The convenience and taste are greatly improved by carefully blending the kava with other flavors.
Having tried many different sources and preparations of kava it’s remarkable how different they are in taste and effectiveness. If it’s something you are curious about trying, consider having several different kinds to compare. Kava is a complicated ingredient and the experiences can range from unnoticeable disappointment to utter amazement.