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Fresh Kava Root

Fresh Kava RootConsumers today are fortunate to have access to a wide range of convenient kava products, such as drink mixes, root powders, readymade tinctures and even kava pills. Why, then, are we posting an article encouraging you to try out fresh kava root? Though it may be an old-fashioned and labor-intensive way to enjoy kava, using fresh kava root has advantages that make the extra effort worthwhile. By buying the fresh root, you’re more likely to get a potent kava product that may also be tastier than the dried product. It’s much harder to tell if a dried kava root or root powder has been harvested recently; it could be several weeks old when you receive it, which is going to have a negative effect on the product’s potency. With fresh kava root, you’ll know it was harvested from the living plant only a short while ago, resulting in incomparable potency and an experience closer to what people enjoy in the South Pacific.

Buying kava root fresh also renders benefits to small kava farmers: suppliers of fresh kava root usually contract directly with farmers, so you won’t have to worry about most of your money going to middlemen rather than the kava growers themselves. Many kava-farming operations are small family-owned businesses that have been around for generations. Small farms are also the best to buy from if you’re looking for a single kava strain with specific effects: kava powders and drink mixes might use more than one strain of the root; this isn’t always best if you want to use kava for a very specific effect, like treating insomnia or relieving anxiety, as different kava strains tend to have different effects. By buying fresh kava root, you’ll ensure you’re getting a single strain.

Kava taken in any form acts as an anxiolytic and tranquilizer, social lubricant, and euphoric herb. At low doses, kava promotes sociability, eases shyness and may stimulate interesting conversation; greater amounts of kava brew can lead to sedation, introspection, and eventual deep sleep, sometimes accompanied by beautiful dreams. Because of kava’s tranquilizing effects, many people use it to treat anxiety at low doses and insomnia at slightly higher doses. Again, the advantage of working with fresh kava root is that it will likely be of higher potency, and thus have more reliable and pronounced effects, than dried material that is older and has had time to decrease in potency.

Fresh Kava Root

Don’t let this happen to you! Fresh kava root can offer relief for chronic insomnia.

No matter what form of kava you work with, one easy way to determine if you’ve got a potent batch is to see if the brew causes the membranes of your tongue and mouth to become slightly numb: numbing of the mucus membranes is considered a classic sign of the high presence of kavalactones, which may be activated by coming into contact with saliva when you consume kava. Note that this won’t occur with kava capsules because the plant material doesn’t come into contact with the inside of your mouth.

Finally, fresh kava root may just taste better than the dried variety! The younger lateral root of the kava plant is known for its sweet taste compared to the plant’s older taproot. This difference in taste is probably due to a variable concentration of kavalactones in the lateral versus vertical kava root. Furthermore, when kava root is dried it may subtly change the chemical constituents in the finished product, resulting in a sharper, bitterer taste than root that is brewed when fresh. Slowly sun drying the younger lateral root is another way to create a sweeter finished product. Also, some strains of kava, such as Tongan kava and Hawaiian Mahakea kava, are sweeter than others; by buying fresh kava root direct from farms, you can try out single strains and discover which you prefer in terms of both taste and effects.

We’ve included a sample preparation method you can use to whip up a fresh kava root brew to try for yourself: first of all, you’ll want to use fresh, not frozen kava root pulp; about 300 grams of root pulp equal a gallon of prepared kava brew, so measure your proportions of water to root pulp accordingly.

Put your fresh pulp into a nylon or muslin strainer bag, and place the bundle in a large bowl— this will be your kava serving bowl, so make sure it’s big enough to hold the full volume of brew you want to make. Pour your measured amount of cold water over the strainer bag and into the bowl without letting any root material escape. As you squeeze the fresh kava root inside its strainer bag, note that the water in the surrounding bowl should get cloudy: this is a sign you are extracting kavalactones into the brew. There are traditionally approved ways to squeeze kava root in this extraction process: remember that you’re not just making a chemical extraction, but also releasing the spirit or essence of the kava into the brew. Some respectful methods of extraction include braiding the bag into a helix from the top down, mashing and massaging it between your hands, and at the end, doubling the bag over itself to get out those last drops of kava juice.

After your brew is a nice opaque brown or tan, take a smaller bowl (this will be your serving bowl) and stir the brew around. Scoop out a bowlful of liquid and pour it back a few times. This will ensure that the brew stays fresh tasting and will prevent root sediment from settling to the bottom.

There you have it: with a little bit of time and hands-on preparation, you can make a brew at home using fresh kava root that’s every bit as potent and tasty as the brews enjoyed in the South Pacific!

Kona Kava

Kona Kava Like the famous Hawaiian-grown Kona coffee, Kona kava is also becoming popular both in its home state and worldwide due to its smooth taste and reliable, surprisingly potent effects. Small family-owned kava farms such as the eponymous Kona Kava Farm, one of our personal favorite vendors, grow and ship kava from Kona and the surrounding area to meet demand on the Big Island, the United States and worldwide. Today, Kona kava vendors have built up a healthy reputation for having some of the most effective and palatable kava around.

Kona Kava Farm is located on the verdant slopes of the Hualalai Mountains just outside Kona, a fertile region that offers primo volcanic soil and a warm, moist microclimate conducive for growing kava. This prosperous area also has long supported growers of coffee and macadamia nuts, two other valuable Hawaiian crops. Some of the oldest family farms have a history of ownership going back generations; in some cases before the Hawaiian Islands became a United States territory. The micronutrient-rich soil of the Hualalai range is so nutritious that it eliminates the need for fertilizers and pesticides, allowing Kona kava farmers to turn out an organic product at lower cost than in other kava-growing regions.

Kona kava farmers have been providing the world with lovingly grown organic kava for years, often from plants that are decades old, which if you know your kava makes for quite a high concentration of potent kavalactones in their roots! By carefully sun-drying the lateral roots (known to be the best-tasting and most potent part of the plant), small-batch Kona kava farms have also managed to create an unexpectedly palatable version of kava: root extracts and powders from kava plants grown on Kona farmland often taste earthy and slightly sweet in our experience, with no bitterness at all. We like it fine just mixed into a little water, or milk if you prefer a richer flavor.

So, how does the kava Kona farmland turns out differ from kava grown elsewhere? Kava is thought to have originated somewhere in the Pacific Islands— possibly Vanuatu, which is often cited as the island that has the greatest diversity of kava, and also produces some of the most potent kava available. However, Hawaiian strains such as Kona kava tend to be sweeter due to the unique ratio of kavalactones found in Hawaiian varieties. Furthermore, many kavasseurs we’ve spoken to attest they find Kona kava just as potent as Vanuatu kava, as well as being a lot more palatable.

If you’ve ever been to a kava bar in the United States, or ordered from a U.S.-based vendor, chances are you’ve already had some experience with the kava kava Hawaii grows— and for some users, there’s no need to try kava from any father afield! Users often decide they prefer Hawaiian “awa” to other strains of kava because it combines a milder flavor with stronger effects than some South Pacific kava strains. While potent, Vanuatu kava can often be strongly bitter, definitely not an easy brew to swallow for a kava first-timer. Furthermore, some strains of kava may taste milder but have diminished effects: for instance, studies on Fijian kava suggest that this strain produces roots with a lower concentration of kavain and dihydrokavain, two kavalactones that play a central role in generating kava’s powerful anxiolytic action.

In contrast, with organic Kona kava, you’ll get the best of both worlds: a high-potency and palatable (even tasty!) strain of kava shipped right to you from the lush mountains of the 50th state! Whether you prefer the whole dried root, a convenient drink mix or tincture form, or even if you want to try out the ultra-potent luxury grade “waka” kava, Kona kava vendors can provide!

Where to Buy Kava Tea

Where to Buy Kava TeaAs kava has become a commodity on the global market, a proliferation of stores both online and physical have popped up offering kava in forms ranging from the whole root to kava paste to readymade packets of kava tea. However, just like with any kava product, figuring out where to buy kava tea to get the most bang for your buck isn’t always a clear cut exercise. We decided to examine some of the basics of purchasing and preparing kava tea, to give anyone who’s interesting in finding where to buy kava tea the tools to find a high quality, enjoyable, and potent product.

Of course, the obvious first step in ascertaining where to buy kava tea is finding a vendor that carries it. Due to kava’s growing popularity as a relaxing and socially stimulating beverage, many different health food companies and stores are beginning to sell kava tea as part of their lineup of herbal teas. Unfortunately, as with any market with multiple suppliers, not all kava tea brands are created equal. When you’re looking for where to get kava tea, it’s better to avoid the herbal sections of big box stores and health food stores: the quality of their kava will likely not be as high quality as a product purchased from a vendor who specializes in kava. To make the best kava tea, you’ll want to obtain kava root that is fresh and harvested from the lateral roots of plants that are least four years old, as older plants produce a higher amount of kavalactones. In general, vendors who specialize in kava will provide you with a better quality product that meets the standards above; they have to, because their business depends on selling customers kava that is potent and satisfying.

A quality source is essential when you’re looking for a good place to buy kava tea, not just to ensure yourself a satisfying experience but also for safety reasons. In the past, unscrupulous vendors looking to cash in on the kava craze sold a few people kava that contained stems, leaves and bark peelings— parts of the plant containing toxic alkaloids that landed several people in the hospital with liver damage. You definitely don’t want to be buying tea bags that contain stems or leaves! Whether you purchase kava tea in a bag or buy the ground root in bulk, you should always make sure to buy only from vendors who specifically state that they use only the kava plant’s lateral roots in their preparations. If you’re not sure about a vendor, you can also consult an independent review website to see what other customers have said about their products.

The second half of enjoying really good kava tea lies in how you prepare it. Properly prepared, kava tea can deliver all the same benefits as a cold kava infusion, including improved mood, reduced anxiety and stress, calming effects, and restful sleep. Plus you get the added comfort of relaxing with a warm beverage which you can easily flavor with honey, cinnamon, and other warming ingredients if you so desire. When it comes to making a potent and delicious tea, many people also prefer the ground root to a prepared tea bag because it’s easier to determine the freshness of the root before steeping. Furthermore, you may get better results by making a tea from the ground root because the loose material can move more freely in water, allowing for the maximum leaching of active kavalactones.

Any kava tea of good quality should have the same soothing properties as a regular cold kava infusion, and should be treated with the same respect for its potency. Make sure not to drive or do anything requiring reflexes after drinking kava tea, especially when you’re trying it for the first time. Both the cold brew and the hot tea will generally contain a similar percentage of kavalactones and should be similarly potent; in fact, the traditional cold kava infusion could even be considered a type of kava ice tea! The main advantage of hot kava tea over a cold brew is its convenience: the hot tea takes maybe a half hour to 45 minutes to steep, compared to several hours for a cold extraction.

For the curious, here’s a sample kava kava tea recipe you can use to make kava tea from scratch ingredients: using a ratio of 1 teaspoon ground kava root to 1 cup milk or water, heat the liquid until it’s hot but not boiling. (To preserve the root’s active compounds, most recipes recommend you not heat it above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, with 120 degrees considered an ideal temperature.) Pour the hot liquid over the loose ground kava root and steep the mixture for about 45 minutes, then strain the liquid into a different mug, using a coffee filter to catch the kava dregs. Drink up and enjoy the kava tea’s relaxing, anxiolytic and sleep-promoting properties. Perhaps you and some friends could get together for a kava tea party of an evening!

Tension Relief

Tension ReliefThe demands of our Western productivity-driven culture tend to generate a lamentably high level of tension in many people due to stressors such as financial obligations, inadequate sleep, hectic schedules, and unfulfilling work. Challenges such as health problems, family or marital issues, and difficult life transitions can pile on top of those everyday stressors, making the need for a safe and effective method of tension relief absolutely essential. Along with regular exercise and a diet that emphasizes a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals, kava kava and other herbal remedies can be highly efficacious for tension relief without heavily sedating you or interfering with your alertness the next day.

Regrettably often in the Western world, people looking to relieve tension and stress in their everyday lives turn to commercially available yet powerful drugs that come with a long list of side effects and the potential to become addictive over time. The most common drug people turn to for tension relief is alcohol: in the short term, alcohol is a reliable sedative with some evidence now emerging that it temporarily reduces anxiety by altering brain chemistry. The considerable downside to using alcohol to relieve tension and anxiety is that regular doses of alcohol cause the body to build up a resistance to its effects, requiring a person to drink more to feel the same sense of relief. This is a dangerously habit-forming proposition. Besides being potentially addictive, overuse of alcohol carries with it a high risk of causing liver, organ and nerve damage.

Prescription drugs for insomnia and tension relief aren’t much better. Despite many people’s perception of their relative safety, prescription sleep and anxiety drugs often come with surprisingly harsh side effects and medical risks. According to their own promotional literature, many prescription sleep aids can potentially cause side effects including headache, blurred vision, and next day drowsiness, and carry a risk of becoming habit-forming. Additionally, some prescription tension aids put their users at risk of seizure, neuromuscular disorders, and even psychosis! Given this laundry list of things that can go wrong when you take a prescription drug for tension relief, what are people who want to lighten the burden of stress in their lives supposed to do?

One answer can be found in the humble roots of the kava plant, a member of the pepper family that has proven itself a safe and effective natural route to tension relief. Since its emergence into the global herbal market in modern times, kava has been gaining a reputation as one of the safest and most effective plants to treat tension and stress relief and promote restful sleep. Kava seems to be active along a pathway in the brain’s amygdala, the region responsible for regulating feelings of stress, anxiety and fear; in fact, studies of kava suggest that the plant’s active constituents work in much the same way as the prescription anti-depressant Prozac! An important difference is that kava won’t dull your natural emotional range and seems to have little to no potential to be habit-forming.

The traditional way to take kava is to make a cold infusion of the root in water or a fatty liquid like coconut milk. However, these days you can also buy powdered kava root from health food stores, either in tea bags— sometimes additionally flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, or other tasty and warming ingredients— or in capsules that contain a standardized percentage of kavalactones. Whatever the method of ingestion, most people will start to feel kava’s effects within a half hour to an hour: most common is a feeling of mellowness and tranquility that pervades the body and mind, leading to a deep and restful sleep after a person goes to bed. Kava also has beneficial effects on emotions: it can uplift mood and greatly reduce any anxiety or worries you might have while leaving your mind and senses relatively clear and alert. One of the things many users like best about kava is that you can really feel it working: when good kava starts to come on, it won’t leave you wondering if what you’re experiencing is just a placebo! However, despite its potency, kava properly prepared from only lateral roots has been clinically shown to be gentle on the liver. Furthermore, kava drinkers don’t seem to build up a resistance to kava over time, which minimizes its potential for addiction.

Tension can be an outward manifestation of the way your body responds to external stimuli, especially stressful and challenging situations; many times, people who carry a high tension load have not been taught how to cope with life’s challenges in a healthy way. Trying out kava for natural tension relief is one of several things ordinary people can do to change the equation of how they respond to stress. Some other healthy ways of coping include regular meditation, physical exercise (especially practices that emphasize mindfulness such as yoga), and maintaining a healthy diet. Reducing consumption of alcohol, refined sugar and caffeine can be one simple way to ensure better sleep at night, while getting enough of vitamins B and C, and minerals like calcium, can ensure healthier brain function especially in times of stress. Although a certain amount of tension and stress is an unavoidable part of life, natural routes to tension relief like kava can help you overcome whatever life throws at you in a safe and effective manner.

Kava Plant for Sale

At some point or other, horticulturalist kavasseurs will often start looking for a kava plant for sale that they can raise on their own. Though a lot of people may not realize it, in addition to prepared kava products and dried roots, many kava vendors offer live kava plants for sale to customers. Interested gardeners can also buy root cuttings from a mature plant which they can use to grow their own kava seedling. Humans have grown and propagated kava for centuries using mostly the root stock; the flowering parts of the plant produce no kava seeds and are considered sterile. Although it takes root-grown kava about three to five years to mature enough so its roots can be harvested, many kavasseurs feel the end product is worth the trouble of growing and harvesting kava yourself. After all, kava root is never fresher than when it’s just been harvested from a living plant.

Let’s say you’ve found a kava plant for sale and had it shipped to your home. Now what? Like many tropical plants, kava grows best when it gets lots of sun, lots of water, and a decent amount of humidity. An ideal temperature range for kava is between 68 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit: if you live in a subtropical region or state, such as Florida, South Texas or Hawaii, you can grow kava outside virtually year-round. You can also grow kava outside in more northern climes, but only during the summer; as a rough guide, take your kava plant inside or move it to a greenhouse when the temperature drops to 55 degrees Fahrenheit or below for three consecutive nights.

To simulate the moist conditions of its native tropical habitat, you should water your kava plant regularly. Kava growers recommend you pot your plant in loose soil—a ratio of about 50% soil and 50% perlite is best— to facilitate water drainage and prevent root rot from over-watering (or from heavy rain if you’ve planted it outside). Since kava plants like moderate humidity, be sure to mist your kava’s leaves with a spray bottle if you’re keeping the plant in a non-humid environment such as indoors. Be sure not to leave your kava plant near an air-conditioning vent, as the circulating air will dry out the plant and make it harder for it to thrive and grow. Finally, although kava plants like sun, they grow best in partial shade: keeping your plant near a window indoors may provide the best light conditions for its optimal growth.

Kava also rapidly depletes nutrients in its soil and thus requires a rich fertilizer. Luckily, beyond that kava isn’t too picky about its fertilizers: although you can use a natural humus or animal fertilizer for the all-natural route, kava plants will grow equally well when fed with a commercial NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) fertilizer such as Miracle Gro, ideally with an elements ratio of 14-14-14. Just be sure to go with the manufacturer’s lowest recommended dose when your plant is young, to avoid burning its roots; as the kava plant matures, you can increase its dose of fertilizer. Finally, don’t forget to take acidity into account: kava plants thrive in slightly acidic soil with a pH of between 5.5 to 6.5, which mimics conditions present in jungle soil. Most commercial fertilizers tend to work well both for creating this level of acidity and keeping your kava plant well-nourished. Replenish your plant’s fertilizer about once a month.

Though kava kava makes a nice ornamental plant due to its lush growth and heart-shaped leaves, you probably want to buy kava plant cuttings or rootstock mainly to harvest the roots to make a brew. So how do you know when your kava plant is mature enough to be used? Most guidelines for kava maturity recommend waiting at least three years for your kava plant to mature before harvesting its roots, to avoid killing the plant. Also, as kava plants age the percentage of active kavalactones in their roots increases, so you may want to wait even longer than the minimum to increase the potency of your harvest. The best commercial operations wait until their kava plants are four to five years old before harvesting the kava for sale. As your kava plant matures, it will also get big, which is why you’ll want to repot it several times to give it room to grow and allow its rootstock to expand. Remember, the more roots your kava plant puts out, the more you’ll be able to harvest and brew from it. Kava plants can also grow very tall (up to 15 feet) in the jungle. Unless you want it to take over your living room or greenhouse, we recommend you prune your kava plant periodically to keep it at a manageable size. Pruning won’t affect your plant’s root growth; just make sure to leave your plant with plenty of foliage for photosynthesis.

All right, so you’ve faithfully watered, fertilized, repotted and pruned your kava plant to a healthy maturity. How do you go about harvesting the fruits —or rather roots— of your labors? The good news is that harvesting kava root may be the easiest part of the entire process. Gently pull the mature plant from the soil and wash the dirt off the lower part of the root stock. You can cut off the lateral roots (roots that run along the soil’s surface) and some of the rhizome (underground part of the root) as well, as long as you some root left so your plant can continue to grow. The lateral roots are the most potent part of the kava plant, and they take about three years to regrow. Once you’ve replanted your kava, cut the harvested roots into small pieces and dry or freeze them unless you plan to use them immediately. The result will be an inordinately fresh supply of kava root that you can make into a delectable brew or tea whenever you wish.