While it might be new to you, Pacific Islanders have been drinking kava tea for thousands of years. This ancient beverage, derived from the roots of the Piper methysticum plant, is typically consumed to produce sedative and euphoric effects that might increase sociability and reduce anxiety.
You can find high-quality kava root in the form of a ground powder, liquid extract or a box of teabags. Wakacon Kava Fijian Waka Noble Powder is the top pick because it’s traditional, natural and easy to prepare.
Like other herbal stress support supplements, kava has grown in popularity over the last few years because it is a natural way to relieve stress and encourage sleep without medication. Several studies have shown that drinking kava is an effective treatment for anxiety in adults, and others have indicated that it may be a useful supplement for treating insomnia. Ingesting kavalactones, the active ingredient in kava tea, has even shown promise as a potential cancer prevention method.
Despite its established usefulness as a sedative and relaxant, there are some negative side effects associated with drinking kava. The United States Food and Drug Administration has noted a link between kava consumption and rare instances of liver damage, so moderation is recommended. Heavy, long-term consumption of kava has also been linked to a temporary skin condition that causes dry, scaly skin on certain body parts. If you take prescription medication, talk with your doctor before drinking kava tea, especially if you’ve had liver issues.
Preparing a simple cup of ground kava root is not that different than brewing traditional tea leaves. First, add the recommended serving of powder to a fine strainer bag and pour in hot water. Let the infusion brew for about ten minutes, then squeeze and knead the bag so that all of the water ends up in your container. Once the resulting liquid looks opaque and light brown, your kava will be ready to drink.
While traditional kava is sold as a powder, you can also find the root in small extract bottles, tea bags and capsules. These alternative forms can be helpful if you don’t enjoy the earthy taste.
If you decide to buy kava tea in powder form, you’re going to need some kind of fine muslin or cheesecloth bag in which to brew it. There are specialized straining bags for this exact purpose and other accessories like kava drinking bowls to make your experience more authentic.
The vast majority of kava tea sold is known as noble kava. This type of tea has more kavalactones than other varieties and is grown slowly, resulting in a high-quality beverage that provides all desired health benefits. The other variety of kava, known as tudei, is cheaper and more potent but may contain compounds that may produce negative side effects. Look for kava tea that’s advertised as completely noble.
Due to the unpleasant taste of kava, many companies will blend their kava tea with other ingredients to add flavor and additional relaxing effects. Chamomile, lavender and valerian root are other common ingredients that you can mix into your kava tea blend.
In powder form, kava tea is typically sold by weight. Most ground kava is about $2-$6 per ounce, while a box of tea bags is usually $5-$10.
A. Pure ground kava root has a strong, earthy and bitter flavor that many people liken to the taste of dirt. Because of this unpleasant flavor, many users choose to mix their tea with drinks like chocolate milk or combine it with a chaser.
A. No. Despite the name, kava tea contains no actual tea leaves and doesn’t have the stimulating effect of caffeine. On the contrary, drinking kava makes the user feel relaxed and even sleepy.
What you need to know: This popular kava tea is sold in powder form and is all-natural and gluten-free.
What you’ll love: This ground kava root is completely noble and only uses the lateral root, which is said to be more potent than other parts. The company also emphasizes a commitment to sustainability by planting five new kava plants for every harvested plant.
What you should consider: Some users reported that their ground kava was too chunky.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you need to know: These kava tea bags are affordable and perfect for the curious beginner who just wants to try the beverage.
What you’ll love: Compared with other kava teas, these tea bags produce a beverage that is light and pleasant-tasting, with additional ingredients like cinnamon and carob to add flavor. The teabags are also compostable.
What you should consider: This soothing kava tea isn’t as potent as other products.
Where to buy: Sold by iHerb
What you need to know: This relaxing tea contains kava and a blend of organic botanicals.
What you’ll love: The organic tea blend contains natural relaxants like chamomile, lavender and passionflower, in addition to generous amounts of kava. Many users have reported that it helps them sleep better and longer.
What you should consider: It’s a bit more expensive than other blends, and it isn’t the most traditional choice if you want the authentic kava experience.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Patrick Farmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.