Which kava supplement is best?

Kava kava, or piper methysticum, has been used in Pacific Island culture for thousands of years. Researchers have studied the active chemicals in its roots, called kavalactones, known to have some reliable benefits. Kava tea and kava supplements are proven to aid in sleeping, help with pain management and just generally make you feel good.

The best, most consistent kava supplement is NOW Supplements Kava Kava Extract, which contains a healthy yet safe dose of extracted kavalactones in addition to eleuthero root, a similar sedative plant that’s a bit easier on the liver.

What to know before you buy a kava supplement

Kava is a powerful sedative

In Hawaii, kava tea is immensely popular (especially among native islanders). In fact, there are even bars across the island chain that are dedicated to serving kava. Unlike a traditional bar that serves alcoholic drinks, it’s said that “there’s never a bar fight at a kava bar,” because the effects of the traditionally brewed tea are far more likely to relax the drinker than get them riled up. 

Still, you should be extremely careful if you intend to use heavy machinery after consuming a significant dosage of kava. Similarly, be very careful using kava during the day, as it can lead to unintended sleepiness, especially if you aren’t highly familiar with its effects. This risk can be reduced if you go with a moderate dosage from a reputable manufacturer, but the risk is still not zero.

It can interact with some medications

If you take any prescription medications or have any underlying health conditions, it’s extremely important to talk to your doctor before using any supplement, including kava. Kava is known to interfere with some prescription medications that treat serious illnesses like Parkinson’s, depression and more.

Additionally, just because supplements are so readily available doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re safe. In fact, many highly popular over-the-counter dietary supplements have significant effects on the body or mind. Make sure to research each supplement thoroughly before taking it, and if you experience any unpleasant side effects, discontinue use immediately.

Do not mix kava with alcohol or acetaminophen

The biggest risk associated with kava appears to be liver damage, but it’s not entirely clear just how big of a risk that is. Most likely, if you use only a moderate amount and don’t mix it with other substances, there shouldn’t be any negative effect. In this case, “other substances” means anything that puts above-average stress on your liver. Tylenol and alcohol are the two best examples of things you should never mix with kava, and be sure to consult your doctor to make sure it’s okay to use kava if you’re taking any prescribed or even over-the-counter medications or other supplements.

Don’t take too much

Kava, and the chemicals that make it up, aren’t dangerous for most people when used in small amounts, but that doesn’t mean that kava is a completely benign substance. If you opt for a kava extract supplement, make sure to closely follow the instructions on the package. Some kava supplements also contain small amounts of other relaxing or anxiety-reducing ingredients that are even safer than kava, which can increase the supplement’s effectiveness while reducing risk of taking too much.

Similarly, long-term heavy kava kava use can contribute to chronic fatigue, apathy or unintended weight loss. Sticking to the directions on a kava supplement’s package should keep you entirely out of harm’s way.

What to look for in a quality kava supplement

Is it a pill, a powder or a tea?

If you’re looking for a consistent, repeatable effect that’s subtle enough for you to go about your day regularly, look for a supplement that uses kava extract instead of one made with raw kava kava root. The most popular type you’ll find is a simple capsule with powder inside. As long as you stick with a reliable supplement manufacturer, capsules should do the trick for most people.

There are some other supplement types worth mentioning, too. A couple of the most respected supplement manufacturers in the U.S. offer kava extract in liquid suspension, usually in grain alcohol. These liquids absorb into the body slightly faster than powdered extracts, and they’re especially easy to mix with a smoothie. Not that while using alcohol with kava can be dangerous, the amount of ethanol in liquid kava supplements isn’t enough to cause harm.

Extract strength

This is actually a tricky one to get right, as there’s very little oversight of dietary supplements in the U.S. The reality is that it’s incredibly difficult to nail down just how much of the active ingredient is in various brands’ kava supplements. So, looking for the most reputable manufacturer is the best way to find a supplement that’s the right strength. No matter what strength you opt for, discontinue use immediately if you get dizzy, lightheaded or experience other noticeable side effects like dehydration or headaches, and talk to your doctor.

Additional supplement ingredients

Kava is a reasonably powerful psychoactive substance, but in small quantities it can actually be quite subtle. To increase its effectiveness without the risk of overdoing your kava intake, some brands offer sleep aids that combine kava with other sedative supplements like passionflower and valerian root, such as Crystal Star Night Caps.

Crystal Star Night Caps

Alternatively, if you want to get to sleep easier without relying on a single medication, consider taking a night off from using kava occasionally and instead supplementing with a different sleep aid such as pure valerian root capsules.

valerian root capsules

How much you can expect to spend on a quality kava supplement

You can get a month’s supply of kava supplement capsules for about $20. Liquid kava supplements tend to be more expensive per dose, while powdered kava supplements or crushed kava kava root are usually less expensive.

Kava supplement FAQ

How do I make kava tea?

A. Pacific Islanders traditionally brew kava tea very simply, using crushed kava kava root, a large pot of lukewarm water and a natural mesh strainer bag.

natural mesh strainer bag

If you want to enjoy the recreational benefits of kava tea with some friends, this is undoubtedly the best way. If you’re looking for a more efficient process than just kneading a cloth bag with your hands, there are a few other methods for preparing the tea that involve kava powder and a blender. You will end up straining the leftover particulate either way, and there will still be some left in the final product, but the traditional methods are the best ways to get the most out of the raw root.

Is kava safe for kids?

A. Health care professionals recommend against giving children mind-altering substances without a specific diagnosis and prescription, and this applies to kava tea and kava supplements. To be clear, parents have given children and adolescents kava in some parts of the world for many years. Adding to that, little research has been done on the effects of kava on children. Given the prevalence of warnings about liver damage in adults, though, it’s safe to say that you should avoid giving kava to children without discussing it with your doctor first.

What’s the best kava supplement to buy?

Top kava supplement

NOW Supplements Kava Kava Extract

NOW Supplements Kava Kava Extract

What you need to know: This one comes from arguably the most reliable supplement manufacturer in the country.

What you’ll love: The addition of eleuthero root (which is less toxic than kava and has a similar effect) makes NOW brand kava a safer choice for long-term use without sacrificing effectiveness. It’s completely free from allergens and animal products, and the company employs comprehensive third-party testing facilities to ensure every part of its product and production line is consistent and dependable.

What you should consider: Adding a plant extract to the mix can make it just a bit more complicated to make sure it’s safe, in the event you’re already taking any prescription medicines.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and iHerb

Top kava supplement for the money

FijiKava Instant Extract Powder

FijiKava Instant Extract Powder

What you need to know: It’s very similar to pure powdered kava kava root, but processed for easy mixing.

What you’ll love: FijiKava takes high-strength kava kava root and breaks it down into a fine powder that, unlike normal powdered kava, does not require straining after mixing. Because you set your own dose each time you prepare it, you can get as much or as little of the sedative and euphoric effects as your life demands.

What you should consider: On the flip side, it’s easy to take too much using this one if you’re not careful, so always exercise caution and attention to detail to make sure you avoid any negative side effects. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Herb Farm Kava Root Liquid Extract

Herb Farm Kava Root Liquid Extract

What you need to know: This liquid extract comes from one of the most highly regarded supplement suppliers around.

What you’ll love: Professional pharmacists rate Herb Farm’s supplements as some of the most consistent and reliable on the market, and their kava tincture is no exception. Since it’s liquid, it absorbs into the body faster than other forms, and it’s especially easy to measure out the exact dose you need.

What you should consider: The only real drawback to the Herb Farm tincture is that it’s considerably more expensive per dose than most other kava supplement forms.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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