How Do I Use Whole Kava Root and Kava Root Chips?

Posted by on Aug 7, 2012 in Ask Makaira | 8 comments

How Do I Use Whole Kava Root and Kava Root Chips?Aloha everyone!

We’ve been getting a lot of questions from our customers recently concerning some of our more unusual products – our whole kava root and kava root chips. These products aren’t as popular as our ground Mahakea kava root, and for good reason – they are a great deal more difficult to work with and require quite a lot of effort to prepare. However, they do bring significant benefits along with all that extra work.

As I’m sure most of you know, here in Hawaii and in other parts of the Pacific, it is traditional to drink ‘awa that is prepared with the whole, fresh root. This produces the freshest and strongest possible beverage. However, for those of you who do not live on a Pacific island, it is almost impossible to obtain fresh kava root – the plant needs a tropical environment to thrive, and it is almost impossible to ship fresh. This is quite unfortunate, as the experience of drinking ‘awa prepared from fresh root is truly unlike any other.

This is where our whole kava root and kava root chips come into the picture. You see, the smaller something is broken down, the more quickly it loses effectiveness over time. Think of parmesan cheese, for example. If you buy a big block of it at the store, it will stay fresh for quite some time in the refrigerator, and the flavor will still be fresh and lively when you grate it over your dinner a month or so after purchase. However, if you select already-grated parmesan cheese, you will find that the flavor rapidly degrades, leaving you with a much less tasty experience after a short time. Sure, pre-grated cheese is easier to use, but you lose quite a bit of flavor in the process.

Kava is the same way. When the root is left whole or processed into large pieces, there is significantly less surface area from which alkaloids and other beneficial components can be degraded, and much of this surface area is protected by the outer bark of the root. On the other hand, when the root is ground up, each tiny particle has significantly more surface area from which to lose effectiveness, and this surface area is no longer protected by the bark. Thus, you end up with a product that is much more convenient but that also loses its strength more rapidly.

Now, we ensure our Mahakea Kava root powder is always as fresh as possible, and are sure not to store it for any excessive period of time, so you will still find that the kava prepared with our root powder is quite effective. However, if you are looking for ‘awa that is more akin to the traditional experience, and you are willing to do a bit more work, we highly suggest trying out our whole dried root or our kava root chips.

The first thing to keep in mind is that whole dried kava is very tough. Please do not try to grind it in a coffee grinder, food processor, or blender –  you may destroy your appliance! Rather than trying to grind the root, you want to break the root down by pounding or pulverizing the quantity you wish to prepare. You only need to pound the root enough to break the fibers so that you can squeeze and strain the mixture in water in the traditional fashion.

First, soak the dried root in lukewarm water for at least a few hours (overnight is best). Next, you will pound the kava. In Hawaii, we use large wooden or stone mortars and pestles for this job much of the time. If you do not have access to anything like this, you may try putting the kava on a heavy wooden cutting board and pounding it with a heavy rolling pin, meat tenderizer, or even a small sledge hammer. You may want to add more water as you pound the root to assist in the process of breaking down the fibers. If you are still having trouble, freeze the root after soaking it overnight – ice crystals will form between the fibers, breaking down the root further – then thaw and pulverize.

Once the root has broken down and become soft, simply place in a bowl of cold water and squeeze and knead the root fibers for five to ten minutes until the water becomes cloudy and opaque. If you were able to pulverize the root for long enough, you will end up with a delicious, extra strong and very fresh kava beverage that will bring you as close to the fresh kava root experience as possible!

If you have any questions about using whole dried kava root or kava chips, or if you have any tips or recipes for using these unusual products, please leave a comment and let us know!

Aloha no,

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  1. Aloha Eric,

    I would not have fruit juice right before bed – it has a lot of sugars, which may account for your racing mind. I would recommend a little less Valerian next time (maybe 1/2 tsp), and steep in warm milk/almond milk/etc. rather than fruit juice. This always works well for me! Everyone reacts differently to different plants, though.

    Best of luck!

  2. Aloha Derrick!

    From what I understand, kava is banned in South Africa. However, this may have changed. The Department of Agriculture should be able to let you know – please contact them before ordering anything. I hope you are able to experience the benefits of kava! 🙂

    Aloha no,

  3. Hi Makaira

    I live in South Africa. I have been reading lots of the articles you post, and I ‘ve also read up about the Kava plant. What I would like to know, is if there is any possible way to get your product to me here in S Africa. I am not a fan of Modern medicine and would love to be able to try the Kava root, or any product that resembles your traditional way of consuming it.

    Hope to hear from you.

    Keep well

  4. I’ve also combined 1 teaspoon of loose Valerian root tea steeped for 20 minutes with 3 tablespoons of powder Kava Kava root mixed with 1 cup of fruit juice and blended for 5 minutes. This relaxed my body, but my mind was racing and I had a very sleepless night. For whatever reason, Kava and Valerian did not mix well with me. I probably prepared it wrong and ingested too much liquid before bed. In your opinion, what is the best way to mix Kava and Valerian?

  5. Aloha San,

    I’m so sorry to hear that you have been experiencing so much difficulty sleeping. Many people do find kava to be very helpful in dealing with insomnia. Since you seem to be having such a difficult time, I would recommend that you try out our Full Spectrum Kava paste – simply dissolve a pea-sized amount into warm almond milk or any other soothing beverage before bed. Many people report that this helps them in going right to sleep. I have also heard that combining kava with valerian root tea is a very effective sleep aid.

    All the best! Come back and let me know if the kava works for you!

  6. I have really severe anxiety, which results in chronic insomnia. I have been completely Rx free since November 2005 because the pharmaceuticals caused many adverse reactions and bad side effects, and provided little if any relief. I’ve been using Phenibut, which worked okay in the beginning, but not so good anymore. And have tried many herbal remedies. I have to find something to help me before I jump out of my skin. I’m on Social Security Disability for my Anxiety/Depression/PTSD and on foodstamps. I can’t afford much as far as dollars go, but I’m at my wits end. I don’t care how it tastes, I’ll take/eat/drink pretty much anything at this point. I’m on a very low carb diet, absolutely sugar free, and trying to be grain-free as well. And I get more exercise than anybody I know, no car just my bicycle, or I use public transportation and walk. So please advise me which of your products would be most beneficial in my situation.

  7. Aloha Gan!

    I’m very happy to hear that you are enjoying our kava, and that it is assisting you on your spiritual path! I also feel a strong connection with the divine when I work with our kava – we raise our plants with a great deal of love, care, and respect, and dry the roots in the light of the sun, which I believe gives our kava its sweet taste and peaceful, spiritually connective efficacy. 🙂

    You can store powdered kava indefinitely, but you may begin to notice a lack of effects after a year or so. If you’ve been storing it in a cool, dark place, it will lose strength less quickly. If you’re still feeling effects from your root powder, there’s no need to throw it out, but working with the whole roots and chips will certainly have a stronger effect!

    I would recommend our kava pastes over the capsules, especially for anxiety relief. The pastes are wonderful, because you can hold a pea sized amount in the mouth and let it dissolve, and the active components will pass through the thin skin inside the mouth and give you very rapid relaxing effects. As for full spectrum vs. kavalactone, this is mostly a matter of taste. The full spectrum paste contains a number of active components and gives an effect that is more similar to a traditional kava experience. The kavalactone paste generally has slightly stronger relaxing and cheering effects, as it is composed entirely of kavalactones, but the experience is slightly less ’rounded’. I’d recommend trying both and seeing what you enjoy best!

    I have been drinking our kava every day for decades, as have all of my family members. None of us have any liver troubles and we’re all very healthy people! This, coupled with the thousands of years of safe kava use by peoples from all over the Pacific makes me feel sure that kava is safe when used traditionally and respectfully. It does seem to potentiate other substances that harm the liver, though, so to be on the safe side, I personally never take kava with alcohol, any pharmaceutical medication that is contraindicated with grapefruit juice, or NSAIDS painkillers, which can rapidly destroy the liver. This is just my subjective opinion, though – be sure to consult a doctor for medical advice. 🙂

    Aloha no,

  8. Hi Makaira! I have to say that after trying a few different types of Kava, I like yours the best. The taste and the effects were much stronger than other types of Kava I have heard were actually stronger. I have read a few people in online Kava communities say your Kava is very good tasting and nice effects, but kind of weak. I have to strongly disagree that it is weak, and the taste is amazing. It made me feel closer to my spiritual side as well and actually helped me build a better relationship with God as well(I know everyone’s religious beliefs is a whole other topic).

    I wanted to say thank you for the great Kava and staying active on your site, and tell you I am ordering some more soon for anxiety relief. But I had some questions.

    How long can I store the powderd Kava for? I have had it about a year now so I was thinking about getting rid of it and just ordering some paste and the whole root and chips.

    What paste do you recommend, full spectrum or Kavalactone? Or do you recommend a certain capsule over it?

    Also, you are pretty sure that the Kava root does not cause liver damage right? I am a very healthy young man in his twenties with no health problems. I know you are not a doctor but I know you are also very knowledgable about Kava. Most people say the individuals who experienced liver failure already had bad livers, were alcoholics, and usd German kava extracts that used the whole leaf.

    Thank you.

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