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Kava Dosage Guide: How Much to Take

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Kava is a relaxing, calming beverage that is created by processing the roots of the kava plant. Typically this is done by drying and grinding kava root into a powder. This powder is then soaked in water and made into a tea, which is drunk for a pleasant, chill, calming effect. Kava is in some ways similar to Xanax, and some compare it to Kratom.

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.

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 or three tablespoons of good medium-grind kava, prepared the traditional way.

This is a reasonable target, and would likely result in a sensation similar in grade to a single Vicodin tablet.

That said, this is a pretty arbitrary number. It is somewhat similar to those government 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 regularly consumed, many users drink several times the 250mg target in a session.

Taking over the Recommended Kava Dosage

Kava is very much like alcohol in one respect: and the more you drink, 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 feel really good to consume more than the recommend kava dosage, to 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 those kava dosage levels can be quite fun from time to time.


Translating Dosage into Preparation

Plant Photo

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 drinking dried kava, mixed with water and kneeded, blended, or otherwise emulsified in order to suspend the active ingredient (the kavalactones) in the water.

You drink this concoction, and pleasant vibes will get rolling! The kava root powder can then be re-washed 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.

3 Tablespoons of Dua Na Bilo Kava and Water
Kava Dosage

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 drinking 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 Dosage

A serving of micronized or instant kava is usually 2-4 teaspoons of kava mixed into a cup of water.

Micronized and Instant Kavas are kavas that have been ground so finely that they will completely, or almost completely, dissolve in water. Some vendors use the terms “micronized” and “instant” to mean the same thing, but others see a distinction. This creates confusion!

Instant kava should dissolve completely, while micronized may have some minor bits of sediment that most people will ignore, but some will filter out.

If you’re going with either micronized or instant, you can drink the whole thing. You usually don’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.

That said, some with sensitive stomachs may get some discomfort with some micronized kava, and may still want to strain it.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find the kavalactone percentages in micronized and instant kavas, but regardless, a typical serving is 2-4 teaspoons of micronized or instant kava, mixed into about a cup of water. This quantity may vary depending on the kava you choose, though.

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.

Kava Chemotype

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.

Empty Stomach

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 to get there.

Some find that they have some stomach upset when consuming kava on an empty stomach, and if you run into 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!

Reverse Tolerance

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.

Dua Na Bilo [Amazon Link] is a nice step up and is one of my favorite kavas. I reviewed it here.

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 strain on the liver, it’s best to not consume alcohol within a 24 hour period of consuming kava. Kava and Alcohol don’t mix!

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 go deep, you’ll likely need a few more than that!

Unlike alcohol, with most types of kava, you shouldn’t have a kava hangover!

floating lotus

Low-Anxiety Target (Anxiolytic)

If you’re dosing 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 tablet.

See this article on Kava and Anxiety for more information.

How Much Kava To Get Krunk?

How much kava do you need to take to get krunk or kava-drunk? If you drink a large amount of kava, you’ll reach a delirious state that is very pleasant, though more level-headed than an alcohol-drunk sensation.

You’re krunk!

Getting “krunk” may cause wooziness, drowsiness, and strange feelings when moving.

You get a pretty intense body buzz at this level, and while you’ll keep a relatively clear head, you’ll certainly feel a potent sense of relaxation.

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 of root powder.

You may also getsome stomach upset, as you’ve likely had a lot of kava and a lot of water.

Overdose

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 kava dosage from 250mg on up, you should be quite cautious about operating heavy equipment, driving, orthopedic surgery, free-climbing, wing-suiting, fighter-piloting, etc.

Basically, be careful if you have to perform 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.

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