Kava is calming beverage that is created by processing the roots of the kava plant, typically by drying and grinding the kava into a powder. This powder is then soaked in water and made into a tea, which is drunk for a pleasant, relaxing, and calming effect.
But what dosage is the right amount for kava? Kava dosage is a somewhat complicated topic, given its effects and all of the different ways of consuming kava and measuring it. I’ll go into it in detail in this article.
I’ll also consider many of the other factors that contribute to the impacts and effects of kava.
- 1 Kava Dosage – Medicinal Recommendation
- 2 Translating Dosage into Preparation
- 3 Driving, Operating Machinery, and General Impairment on Kava
- 4 Conclusion – How Much Kava to Take
Kava Dosage – Medicinal Recommendation
The classic recommended dosage of kavalactones is no more than 250 mg per day. This is what a user would likely receive from two-three tablespoons of good medium-grind kava, prepared the traditional way. This is a reasonable target, and would likely result in a sensation not wholly unlike the consumption of a single Vicodin tablet.
That said, this is a pretty arbitrary number, and is not unlike the governmental suggestions that people drink no more than 1.375 units of alcohol per day. It’s a helpful guideline, but let’s face it, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
In the parts of the world where kava is most frequently consumed, many users drink several times the 250mg target per day.
Taking over the Recommended Kava Dosage
Kava is very much like alcohol in this respect, and the more you take, the more buzz you’ll get. While the recommended intake of alcohol is usually between 1-2 drinks per day, most all of us have had times when we’ve consumed, well, a bit more than that in a day. I certainly wouldn’t recommend doing that with alcohol every day, or even many days, but once and a while is obviously pleasant.
Like alcohol, it can be quite pleasant to consume more than the recommend kava dosage, and consume several servings, or shells, over the course of an evening. This may result in the consumption of 600-1000 mg of kavalactones, well over the recommended dosage. Not something you want to do regularly, but it can be quite fun from time to time.
Translating Dosage into Preparation
So we have a basic target medicinal dose, and a general sense of a heavily-recreational dose. What does that mean in terms of actually making a quantity of kava, or consuming that kava? Let’s look at a variety of kava consumption methods, and how that all shakes out.
Traditional Preparation Kava Dosage – 2 to 3 tablespoons of ground kava per dose
As I outlined in my article how to make kava, the traditional preparation generally involves using dried kava, mixed with water and kneeded, blended, or otherwise emulsified in order to suspend the active ingredient (the kavalactones) in the water. This can then be drunk, pleasant vibes will get rolling! The kava root powder can then be re-washed one or more times to extract more from the root.
For these circumstances, generally, you want to start with 2-3 tablespoons of dried kava which should be made into kava tea, and drank. After 20 min or so, you can make another batch with the same kava, or start on some fresh kava, if you want to further your buzz.
What is that in mg of Kavalactones?
The math is essentially the following:
- A serving of kava has approx two tablespoons of kava in it
- A serving of kava contains 7-12% kavalactones (active ingredient). This translates to 2.5 grams of kavalactones per serving on average.
- An extraction of kava pulls out about 5-10% of the kavalactones in the kava on average
This results in each serving, or shell, supplying roughly in the range of 175 mg or so of kavalactones.
If you were to take three tablespoons, you’d be at right about the 250 mg target mark. Many find that this quantity is just about right for relaxation and calm. To me, this would be the equivalent buzz to having 1.5 drinks of alcohol, or about 1 inhalation on a cannabis vape pen.
Micronized and Instant Kava
Micronized and Instant kava are different methods of preparing kava. Typically these powders have the fibers removed, and the powder ground so finely that they will essentially dissolve completely in water. If you’re going with instant, you can drink the whole thing, and you won’t have to worry about dermopathy, stomach discomfort, and any of the other issues that commonly occur when you consume the “makas” or kava fibers. Some with sensitive stomachs may get some discomfort with micronized kava, and may still want to strain it.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find the kavalactone percentages in micronized and instant kavas, but a typical serving is 2-4 teaspoons of micronized or instant kava, mixed into a beverage.
This quantity of micronized or instant kava should result in the consumption of somewhere around 200-250 mg of kavalactones.
Supplements and Tinctures – 250 mg of kavalactones
When it comes to supplements and tinctures, the best thing to do is to not use them. Most are made of low-quality kava, have adjuncts you don’t want to consume, and are just generally, well, junk.
I know, I get the attraction: the buzz of kava without the nasty taste, and the simplicity of popping a few pills vs. the laborious task of making traditional kava. In my opinion, it’s best to pick up an Aluball [Amazon link], which will greatly simplify the kava preparation, and go with that.
As I mention in my article on kava supplements and tablets, it’s generally best to stay away from supplements, tinctures, and tablets, and instead stick to good quality kava. If you really want to go down the tablet road, go for the kava stress relief candies [Amazon Link]. Each of these candies has about 50mg of kavalactones, and they are made by a fairly reputable company.
But these are really designed for a mild buzz and a bit of anxiety relief; they’re not designed for you to get krunk off of.
What Goes into Kava Dosage Calculations
Kava Brand and Origin
The type of kava you use (the brand, origin location, quality, etc.). Obviously, the better the kava, the less you need to get a buzz. Many kava suppliers give the kavalactone percentages on their bags, so you can somewhat get a sense of the potency from those numbers.
The chemotype, or the strain of kava, can impact the potency of the beverage. Kava Chemotypes can be somewhat complicated, but basically, they are a way of identifying the type and origin of a kava, and also whether or not the kava is a “noble” kava or an inferior “Tudei” variety. These can also tell if a kava will provide more of a body-heavy buzz, or a heady, anxiety-reducing buzz.
This is a surprisingly big factor when it comes to kava experiences and one that many ignore. It is best to fast for about 5 hours prior to consuming kava. You’ll have a more intense experience, and you’ll be able to use less kava.
Some find that they have some stomach upset when consuming kava on an empty stomach, and if you run itno that, try taking a bit of coconut water or a piece of fruit with the kava.
And I definitely recommend chasing it with sparkling water!
Many users find that the first time they consume kava, they feel… nothing. Or very close to nothing. And they had to drink something that doesn’t taste very good for the reward of… nothing!
This is because of reverse tolerance. Most find that after they have consumed kava a few times, their body gets used to the presence of kava in the system, and they begin to feel the effects of the beverage. As they continue to use it more and more frequently, they become tuned into the kava, and it actually requires less kava to get the same effects as it used to.
Breaking Through Reverse Tolerance
If you’re trying to break through reverse tolerance, it may be a good idea to pick up a relatively-mild kava like Wakakon Lawena Kava [Amazon Link] (I reviewed this Lawena Kava here). It is not particularly strong, but the taste is among the least-offputting of any kava I’ve tried. It’s a great introduction to the beverage, and once you’ve busted through your reverse tolerance, you can move onto some more potent kavas that might be a bit more… intense… tasting.
Kava and Medications
If you are on certain medications, the quantity of kava you need to consume to get a buzz may change. You may want to inquire with your doctor as to whether your medication has any interactions with kava, and act accordingly.
As kava puts a not-insignificant strain on the liver, it’s best to not consume alcohol within a 24 hour period of consuming kava, and additionally, it’s wise to not take kava when you’ve taken aspirin, Tylenol, or a similar anti-inflammatory. These drugs have an impact on the liver, and it’s a good idea to avoid kava if you’re taking them.
Target Buzz Level
Of course, the more kava you drink, especially once you’re through the reverse tolerance, the more buzzed you’ll get. Similar to alcohol, if you’re looking for a slight buzz for social comfort, or to relax after work, one or two drinks will likely get you there. But if you really want to party, you’ll likely need a few more than that!
Unlike alcohol, with most types of kava, you shouldn’t have a kava hangover!
Low-Anxiety Target (Anxiolytic)
If you take 2 tablespoons of kava root powder from decent kava and do a couple of washes, you’ll get a pleasant, mild buzz that will probably make you relaxed, and ready to get to bed. You’ll not likely get loopy or anything, and many would compare the buzz to that of having taken a Vicodin.
See this article on Kava and Anxiety for more information.
Let’s Get Krunk
But if you continue to drink more and more, you can get “krunk”, or kava-drunk, and you’ll reach a more delirious state that is still quite pleasant and certainly more level-headed than an alcohol-drunk sensation. This level may cause drowsiness, wooziness, and strange sensations when moving.
Often you get a pretty intense body buzz at this level, and while you’ll keep a relatively clear head, you’ll certainly feel a more potent sensation.
To reach a krunk level, you’ll probably want to consume between 600mg and 1,000 mg of kavalactones — so say 3-4 shells of kava, or 6-10 tablespoons.
Is it possible to overdose on kava? There’s no known level of kava that can produce an overdose, and most likely you’d get sick and throw up all your water before you reach that point. However, spend any time searching for information on kava, and you’ll find reports of deaths from kava, liver failure, hepatoxicity, and the like.
This is not due to dosage, but rather apparently from bad kava, inappropriately produced and processed. See my article on kava and liver damage for more information.
There’s no risk of blackouts, you won’t be dancing naked on the pool table and not remember it, or any of those sorts of things. Generally if you take too much kava, you’ll perhaps get woozy, want to go to sleep, and have some stomach upset.
Assuming your kava is noble, you shouldn’t wake up with a massive headache the next morning. You may feel a bit blase, but it’s nothing like a raging alcohol hangover.
Driving, Operating Machinery, and General Impairment on Kava
When consuming any significant quantity of kava, from 250mg on up, you should be quite cautious about operating heavy equipment, driving, surgery, free-climbing, or any task that requires a clear head, and where there is risk to yourself and to others. Again, treat kava somewhat similar to the way you would treat alcohol, and wait until the buzz has dissipated before you drive.
Be smart, and be safe!
Conclusion – How Much Kava to Take
For most kava users in most situations, you’ll likely want to stick to less than 250 mg of kavalactones per day. This translates to 2-3 tablespoons of medium grind, traditional kava, and will result in a relaxing, mild buzz.
If you want to go a bit off the deep end and hit the “krunk” level, you’ll probably want to consume 3-4 times that quantity of kava in a session.