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What is a Kava Drink?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 17, 2024
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A beverage that has been derived from the kava plant is called a kava drink. Traditionally, kava drinks are concocted from the root of the kava plant, though large manufacturers of the drinks use both the stems and leaves of the plant in addition to the root. Consuming a drink made from any part of the kava plant acts as a sedative, which is why this type of drink is used as a relaxant.

Throughout the Pacific Ocean islands, kava drinks are prepared by steeping plant roots in hot water. The tea that results from this preparation is highly potent, and those who consume this tea usually eat a large meal following consumption in order to combat the effects of the kava plant. Kava root can also be pounded into a powder, and then mixed into cold water in order to form a beverage called Grogg.

Modern manufacturers also pound the root of the kava plant into a fine powder before allowing this powder to dry. Once the powder has thoroughly dried, it is then exported to countries all around the world. Consumers who purchase ground kava powder can create a kava drink by adding the powder to water, and allowing the mixture to sit for thirty minutes.

A kava drink that has been pre-packaged includes additional ingredients. Typically, lecithin, an animal- or vegetable-derived fatty material, is added to the drink, and coconut milk or soy milk may also be added. Some manufacturers also add sugar, cocoa, and lemongrass to kava drinks. The relaxing effects of a pure kava drink can last up to two hours, and most people feel these effects within twenty minutes of consuming it.

Even though some cultures have been consuming pure kava beverages for centuries, the drink is somewhat controversial. Various medical experts believe that consuming kava can lead to liver damage and kidney damage. As such, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and France have all made the sale of kava, in any form, illegal. While the plant is not illegal in the United States or Canada, Canada has issued a stop-sale of kava, which makes it impossible for vendors to sell the plant, and the Food and Drug Administration in the United States has issued a report detailing the possible side effects of the plant. Prior to purchasing kava of any kind, it is wise to find out whether or not it is illegal in your country.

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Discussion Comments
By Feryll — On Nov 13, 2014

@Laotionne - In my opinion, the best natural remedy for anxiety is exercise. My girlfriend would disagree and say that meditation is better. Anyway, what I wanted to say is that with any natural or man-made product, there are going to be some side effects.

One of the possible side effects of me playing basketball and running up and down the court is that I could over exert myself and have a heart attack or some other type of attack. There are no guarantees that the activities and foods we think are healthy aren't going to hurt us in some way.

You have to weigh the positives and the negatives; and also consider the likelihood of the negative side effects occurring. Before you dismiss a kava herbal tea drink you should figure out what are the actual chances of this leading to liver damage. I bet the chances are small, especially when you consume kava drinks in moderation.

By Laotionne — On Nov 13, 2014

I have heard some good comments about the benefits of kava for anxiety, too. According to what I have read, people have been using the plant for a long time to help them relax, but I have also read that people who have used the plant for long periods have in some cases developed liver damage that might be related to the kava.

While I do want to learn how to make a kava drink, I want to have a better idea of the side effects before I get in the habit of buying and drinking kava regularly.

By Sporkasia — On Nov 12, 2014

I have heard good things about the kava root and the drinks made from this part of the plant. However, I would be a bit concerned about going to the store to buy kava that has been highly processed. I think all of the extra additives mentioned in this article are going to take away some of the benefits of the natural kava, and add some negative side effects on top of that.

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