If you’re new to kava but want to try it out for its pleasant calming and anxiolytic effects, you may be wondering if there is a recommended kavalactones dosage you should start with. The truth is that kavalactones can act on the body in different ways at different doses, which is part of what makes kava such a versatile calming herb: one suitable both for evening recreation, a daytime anxiety aid, and a nighttime sleep aid. In this article I’ve outlined a basic kavalactones dosage range, as well as the effects you can expect to generate at different doses of kavalactones, to help you make an informed decision about your kava consumption.
It may help to acknowledge that we’re talking about a whole class of psychoactive compounds, the kavalactones. There are about 18 distinct types of kavalactone in a typical bowl or tincture of kava, including different kawains and flavokawains. Kavalactones are responsible for kava root’s calming, anxiolytic, and in some cases euphoric effects. A full spectrum extract or tincture of kava will also include secondary compounds found in the roots such as the anti-oxidant glutathione, which researchers have suggested may have a protective effect on the liver when it is consumed in a traditional kava brew. If you want the convenience of taking a pill or tincture but with all the authentic effects of a traditional kava brew, we recommend you invest in a full-spectrum kava extract that preserves the full chemical profile of the root.
The kavalactones dosage in a traditionally prepared cold infusion of kava root can vary drastically, from 150 mg in a four-ounce serving to as much as 500 mg. Furthermore, indigenous peoples in the South Pacific Islands and Hawaii are accustomed to drinking multiple bowls of kava per day; it’s not uncommon for people to consume a kavalactones dosage of up to 2500 mg daily for years at a time. Although there have been no recorded ill effects in indigenous groups that frequently consume these high amounts of kava, the Kava Committee’s recommended kavalactones dosage stands at a maximum of 300 mg per day. The Committee has also recommended that people limit habitual non-medically supervised usage of kava to three months.
Though we believe the historical evidence of kava’s safe use makes these recommended limits somewhat arbitrary, it is important to note that kava may interact harmfully if combined with alcohol and certain prescription drugs that affect the central nervous system, such as anti-depressants and sleep medications. You should always consult a physician before using kava, either medicinally or recreationally, if you take these or similar CNS medications.
A moderate kava dosage can have notable effects in alleviating generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and insomnia. Commercial kava extracts and pills sold for these purposes usually contain a standardized dosage of kavalactones. Generally speaking, a dosage of between 70-210 mg of kavalactone has been proven clinically effective in treating anxiety. Because the kavalactones dosage is moderate, it can reduce anxiety while leaving you alert and lucid, making it suitable for daytime use. Similar doses of between 150 and 200 mg of kavalactones, taken 30 minutes to an hour before bed, can help encourage quicker sleep onset and better quality of sleep for people suffering from insomnia.
There are also a number of ways to sample kava’s more potent recreational effects. One of our favorite delivery methods has to be the concentrated kavalactone paste offered by some vendors, with a verified kavalactone content of anywhere from 30-84% kavalactone by weight. You can eat a dollop of straight kavalactone paste, mix it into milk or juice, or add it to another kava preparation to heighten the brew’s effects. And because kavalactone paste is so concentrated, you only need to consume a pea-sized amount to feel notable relaxation, enhanced sociability, euphoria and more of kava’s satisfying effects.
As discussed, the method of preparation has a real effect on the dosage of kavalactones in your average serving. If you’re preparing kava for yourself at home, some things to keep in mind are temperature, emulsion ingredients, and of course your own personal tolerance to kavalactones, which varies by individual. It’s important to use only the root in your kava preparations, which is liver-safe and the only part of the plant used in indigenous preparations. Kava root also contains the highest concentrations of kavalactones, especially in the small lateral roots which grow along the surface of the soil. When making a kava brew or tea, it’s important not to heat your water beyond 140 degrees Fahrenheit because the root’s active kavalactones have been shown to break down at temperatures higher than this. Finally, while the traditional kava brew is typically a suspension of root matter in cold water, if you’re working with a pure kavalactone extract or full-spectrum paste, you may want to mix it with a fatty liquid such as milk or coconut milk as some of kava’s active ingredients are only fat-soluble rather than water-soluble.
Beyond these guidelines, your own personal tolerance and body chemistry will affect the kava dosage you need to take for a pleasurable effect, just as different people have differing tolerances for alcohol. The best way to find your ideal kavalactones dosage is to start with a small amount and increase the dosage over time as you become familiar with the effects it generates for you. People who are naïve to kavalactones may not feel anything their first few times (a phenomenon called reverse tolerance), but for those who have patience in working with this plant, kava can be a marvelously gentle herb to relax with at the end of the day or turn to whenever you need a dose of calm.