Herbal KnowledgeMay 5, 2022

The 6,000 Mile Journey of our Kava

Since 1979, we’ve been bringing herbs and humans together for a healthier world. When it comes to sourcing those herbs, we grow as many as we can on our organic farmland in southern Oregon. But we believe that the best liquid herbal extracts start with the best herbs – and we only work with ethically sourced plants. Sometimes that means traveling to the far corners of the planet to find the best quality herbs. That’s the case with Kava (Piper methysticum), which is one of our most-loved herbs, and the #1 best-selling Kava extract.

What is Kava?

A member of the Pepper (Piperaceae) family, this perennial woody evergreen shrub has heart-shaped leaves and can reach 10 feet tall. In herbalism, only the rhizome (rootstock) with root gets used.

From the time the first drop of Kava liquid herbal extract hits your tongue, you know: Our expertly crafted products are high quality. It’s a difference you can always taste, but it’s especially true with Kava. Kava makes your tongue slightly numb! (That’s completely normal and part of the experience.) Kava has a distinctive spicy, bitter and slightly soapy flavor, accompanied by a numbing sensation.

You might have heard of Kava because it provides support for occasional and mild anxiety. It also promotes peaceful relaxation, and reduces stress and frustration. Traditionally, Kava was used to support the nervous system.*

The rich history of traditional use in its native lands is why our Kava travels over 6,000 miles, all the way from the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu to Williams, Oregon. We believe in honoring the cultures and traditions that allow us to collect a world of herbs for your well-being. Our Kava comes from the region where it’s been grown by humans for over 3,000 years.

Kava’s Homeland

Vanuatu is a group of around 80 islands (with 13 main islands) located about 1,100 miles off the eastern coast of Australia. It is home to 307,000 people, and the official languages are Bislama, English and French, although there are over 100 other indigenous languages spoken throughout the islands as well! Great Britain and France each colonized the country, but it has been fully independent for over 40 years now.

In addition to fish and cocoa, plants like Kava are Vanuatu’s main exports, making this an incredibly valuable and respected herb. We’ve been sourcing Kava from Vanuatu for as long as we’ve been making liquid herbal extracts with this herb, dating back over 20 years.

While there are two main types of Kava, we only use noble varieties, because they are older, higher quality, have a long history of use and possess the most desired phytochemical profile. The active compounds in Kava are called kavalactones, and we always test ours to ensure it is rich in this beneficial compound. (Tudei or two-day Kava is the other type, but it is considered lesser quality and yields a much different effect.)

Some plants can grow just about anywhere – like Mint under a water spigot or Dandelion in the crack of a sidewalk. Not Kava. This plant has special requirements. First of all, it needs human intervention. It’s believed that the Kava we know today is the same as what grew wild and fertile in ancient times. But over time, as people selected the best plants and propagated them, the plant lost its independence. Today, it’s infertile and relies on humans for its survival.

Despite its reliance on us, Kava isn’t grown on large commercial farms in tidy rows. The plant still grows as it always has, amid thick, junglelike overgrowth in rich, black volcanic soil that’s both rocky and well-drained. Growers intersperse Kava with food staples like bananas and taro, to give it enough shade to thrive. While it needs warmth – it can’t tolerate frost – Kava doesn’t like direct sun. Vanuatu’s average winter temperature is 73 degrees Fahrenheit, but it gets up to 82 degrees on average in summer.

5 Ways That Kava Holds Cultural Significance

  • 1. It’s an Herb for the Ages

    Kava has been used in the West for centuries, but its modern uses focus on nervous system support. The way we use it now aligns with tradition across the South Pacific, which is how many in Vanuatu still use Kava today.*

  • 2. All about Ritual

    The Indigenous communities in Vanuatu prepared Kava by chewing the roots, then mixing the pulp with water and filtering it through coconut fiber. Today, it goes through a grinder, then gets washed and manually agitated in a mesh bag before drinking. This process is incredibly labor-intensive, but it’s part of the ritual of drinking Kava in a traditional way.

  • 3. It Helps Keep the Peace

    Kava beverages are offered to visitors, from herbalists to dignitaries, as has been the custom for hundreds of years. When villages or individuals have a disagreement and need to talk, they first drink Kava together.

  • 4. Modern Uses with Traditional Roots

    Since Kava is quite labor-intensive to process, we use alcohol to extract ours, which both preserves the liquid herbal extract and yields a better concentration of kavalactones. But we believe in those traditions and encourage folks to enjoy our Kava extract as a ritual, letting its trademark numbing sensation promote peaceful relaxation and reduce frustration.*

  • 5. Deep History

    Kava can grow other places in the world, even in the US, and some people even grow it in greenhouses. But for us, visiting Vanuatu when possible and sourcing it from a place where it natively grows and carries such a deep history feels rooted in what’s right.

Do you love Kava as much as we do?

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