What is Kava?

What is Kava?

Kava is a herbal beverage made from mixing water with the ground roots of the Piper methysticum plant, which is part of the pepper family. 

Figure: Kava plant

Australian Aid (2013) Kava quality manual, For the export of kava from Vanuatu. Available at https://phamaplus.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/KAVAMAN-WEB-A4-ENGLISH-01-27May13-1.pdf


The kava plant consist of 5 main components:

1. Lateral Roots (containing the highest kavalactone content)

2. Rhizomes/basal chips (these are peel and sold as basal chips)

3. Skin from the rhizomes (also known as peelings)

4. Basal stem (below the first node)

5. Makas (the residue after preparing traditional kava, can be saved for a second brew)


What are the effects of Kava on the body?

Kava contains natural active ingredients called kavalactones which acts as a central nervous system depressant. There are 6 main kavalactones: methysticin, dihydromethysticin, kavain, dihydrokavain, yangonin, and desmethoxyyangonin.


What are the health benefits of Kava?

Kava has been extensively studied and used for medicinal and therapeutic purposes for the relief of stress, anxiety, and insomnia.

The health benefits* of drinking kava range from:

- natural insomnia treatment

- a natural anxiolytic alternative to commonly prescribed benzodiazepines like Valium

(diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam)

- healthy alternative to alcohol (while receiving similar relaxing effects)

- muscle relaxant

- reduce stress and elevate mood

- anti-inflammatory agent

*according to scientific studies 

 Disclaimer: Solomon Kava aims to highlight key findings to consumers regarding the cultural history, plant origins, anatomy and health benefits of kava found in publicly available scientific studies and resources.

What are kavalactones?

It is believed that kavalactones, the main constituents of kava are responsiblee for the relaxation properties and other health benefits. The 6 main kavalactones include: Kavain, Methysticin, Yangonin, Dihydrokavain, Dihydromethysticin and Desmethoxyyangonin.


What are flavokawains?

Flavokawain A, B and C are naturally occurring chalcones found in the kava plant.  that have been isolated from several medicinal plants; namely the piper methysticum or commercially known as the kava-kava. These three flavokawains have been long believed to exhibit anti-cancerous properties.

Abu, N., Ho, W.Y., Yeap, S.K. et al. The flavokawains: uprising medicinal chalcones. Cancer Cell Int 13, 102 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2867-13-102


Figure: Chemical structures of the main kavalactones (A) and flavokavains (B).


Soares RB, Dinis-Oliveira RJ, Oliveira NG. An Updated Review on the Psychoactive, Toxic and Anticancer Properties of Kava. J Clin Med. 2022 Jul 12;11(14):4039. doi: 10.3390/jcm11144039. PMID: 35887801; PMCID: PMC9315573.