Consumers 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.
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!