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Is Kava The New Alcohol?

by jenny sansouci on August 21, 2015

Hi beautiful friends.

I’m coming at you live from Boulder, Colorado, where I’m hanging out for 10 days, breathing in the mountain air and exploring. There are so many healthy spots in Boulder, it’s almost overwhelming me!! Green juices and local organic food everywhere…it’s pretty crazybrains.

Check my instagram, as always, for my favorite healthy finds in Boulder and all over the world.

Last week I was periscoping quite a bit (live stream video, for those of you who haven’t jumped on the train yet). You can see some of my videos here.

I was forcing myself to do it to prepare for a couple of little TV segments (this one and this one), because I am the most awkward person alive on camera, but periscope really helps!!

Last week I shot a video after finding a kava bar in NYC – the sign outside said “Alcohol is so 2014 — try Kava!”Β 

People had a lot of questions about it, so I promised I’d write a blog about it, so you could learn all about this “alcohol alternative.” It’s been around for thousands of years but it’s growing in popularity in the US as more and more kava bars are opening.

What is Kava?

kava bar

Kava is a root that’s been consumed in the South Pacific Islands ceremoniously for over 3,000 years. The root has some incredible anti-anxiety, anti-stress and mood lifting properties to it, which is why many people consume it instead of alcohol. The photo above is from when I first found kava in San Diego, at Rooted Kava Bar.

How is Kava served?

The way kava is consumed at kava bars is usually the powdered root mixed with water to create a beverage. Depending on what kava bar you go to, they’ll make it different ways – weaker, stronger, mixed with different flavors, etc. I went to a place in Boulder yesterday called Tonic that served me INSANELY strong kava! I went in like, oh, I’ll have it really strong, no problem at all, I am hardcore. It was so potent I could barely finish it!!

It is traditionally served in a coconut shell, like the one in the above photo.

How does Kava taste?

Kava on its own tastes…not good at all. πŸ™‚ It’s very earthy…which is why many kava bars will give you a piece of fruit to chase it with or mix it with other flavors or juices. I just drink it straight up though, with water. The taste doesn’t bother me. It kind of makes your mouth feel numb for a minute…which is weird, but cool.

What effects does Kava have on you?

KavaSutra Kava Bar (the one I found in NYC) says, “the effect it will have on you is one that must be experienced to be truly understood. Kava is a healthy, safe alternative to alcohol and can provide some of the same relaxing and sedative effects without altering a person’s mind.”

Rooted says, “Kava is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity. It has scientifically proven anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and muscle relaxing properties. It is a sacred tea that when taken over time brings a feeling of happiness and well being.”

That’s exactly how I’d describe it – relaxing and calming and kind of euphoric, but without disrupting mental clarity like alcohol does. It’s really pretty awesome.


Is Kava safe?

Kava has been consumed safely for thousands of years in ceremonies, and there are not many very well documented negative side effects. You don’t get a hangover from drinking kava.

The truth is, though, kava has a history of being a bit controversial, and has even been banned in some countries, but many bans are being lifted.

According to this site, the potential for abuse is “low, but not absent.” The article also goes on to state that there have been references to adverse affects to the liver in some people, but these claims are disputed.

Please remember that I am not a doctor and I am not recommending kava to treat anything, I am merely reporting on it. DO NOT mistake this or anything I write for medical advice!!! My intent is for you to use my blog as a starting point and do your own research. So please do that, and make the decision for yourself.

This article states that in 2001, Duke University Medical Center conducted two studies on kava extract. One study showed that kava is safe for the liver, causing no noticeable problems. The other study revealed that kava extract is as effective for the treatment of anxiety as the benzodiazepine class of drugs (Xanax, Valium), without the hazards caused by those medicines.

Read More: Kava: The Anti-Anxiety Herb Is Making A Comeback

Is there a Kava bar near you?

Maybe. A quick way to find out is head over to Yelp and type in “kava” near your location.

Where can you buy Kava?

Here’s a kava root powder I found on Amazon that has pretty good reviews. Otherwise, check with a local herb shop.

Here’s my video about finding the kava bar in NYC:


What do you guys think? Have you tried kava? Would you? Do you think it’s safe to consume?! Let me know…learning from you guys in the comments is always my favorite. πŸ™‚

Lots of love from Colorado, with fingers on the pulse of the wellness word…

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy August 21, 2015 at 8:30 pm

Sounds awesome. I am sober so I have to do a little research before I try it. But I have had a stress relief yogi tea with kava in it. But I’m guessing that’s only a small amount. Anyway thank u ;))


jenny sansouci August 25, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Hey Cathy! From what I hear from kava bartenders, a lot of sober people hang out at the kava bar. πŸ™‚ BUT that’s a decision you’d have to get really comfortable with and of course check in with yourself and your sponsor about it. xoxo


Patrick Todd August 22, 2015 at 12:01 am

Bula from Fiji where Kava (Yaqona – pronounced “yanggona” – or Grog) is almost a staple diet and is drunk everywhere. It looks like muddy water but good kava (which is actually a Tongan word) has a taste that is sort of like “cleaning your mouth out” – I find it refreshing actually. It comes from the roots of a pepper plant that take 4 to 5 years to mature with the lateral roots (waka) producing the best kava. Other parts of the plant are called lewena and produce a drink that is not as strong as waka. It is a sedative and to even chew the bare roots causes your lips and your tongue to go slightly numb. Many Fijians drink it daily, usually going on until the wee small hours and therein causes some problems with productivity as, combined with the usual late night sessions and the after effects of drinking kava one is usually “groggy” the next day and their productivity is reduced somewhat. There was a bad habit developing throughout the country (especially in government departments) where they got into the habit of drinking kava at work after lunch. Frank Bainimarama (out new Prime Minister) soon put a stop to that as just about nothing could be achieved in Fiji after lunch. Vanuatu is really the place to drink kava. Fijians make their drink from the pounded dried plants but I believe that Vaunatuan (Neevans) gang drink their kava from the green, undried plant and is much stronger. With Fiji kava one can consume 10 – 12 bowls (bilos) to get an effect but Vanuatu Kava needs only 2 or three. I have tried it and it was almost the consistency of porridge – a word of warning with the Vanuatu kava … do NOT drink beer BEFORE trying Vanuatu Kava as you will soon find yourself driving the big porcelain bus or retching violently in the garden for about half an hour. The effect of kava is calming and everyone slows down, relaxes, tell stories and dim the lights. The Australian Aboriginies once got into the habit of drinking kava but the ignorant Australian Government banned it … now these poor fellows have to resort to sniffing glue or petrol as alcohol is banned as well. Kava is way less harmful that that and is better for them than alcohol which tends to fire people up into violence. As with everything – drink it in moderation. Sustained and prolonged consumption of kava has been found to cause liver problems and skin problems. Long term habitual drinkers develop “scaley” “flakey” skin … but that is a result of real long term and prolonged use. Enjoy, and maybe Kava becoming more popular will help the Fiji and Vanuatu economy. A 500 gm packet of Kava costs about FJ$25 (US$12) here in Suva.


Brynne August 24, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Got to have Kava on my trip to Fiji back in 2010, exciting to see its getting mainstream!


jenny sansouci August 25, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Yeah! Love kava.


Shea August 30, 2015 at 5:53 pm

I LOVE kava!! I first learned about it four or five years ago, when I first started struggling with anxiety. I got a kava tea and it helped. But a couple years ago I got some kava extract (I was out of town, forgot my tea, and the store was out) and it is AMAZE. Seriously. I have fairly bad anxiety, but it comes and goes, so the only medication I would be on would be a benzo and those are way too dangerous. So whenever my anxiety is flaring up, I put some extract in a little shotglass of water, shoot it (and chase it – it’s rough) and it is the only thing I’ve found that really helps. Kava is a lifechanger! I adore it. I have got to try one of the kava bars, though!


Jeneva September 1, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Hey Jenny!

I love your blog, and this post was especially intriguing because I struggle with being able to fall/stay asleep and have tried everything from melatonin (which didn’t do much for me unfortunately) to Xanax (which is too dangerous to stay on long term), so after reading this I looked into Kava and actually bought it as a supplement in capsule form from the pharmacy. It definitely has been working and seems to help my sleep but also doesn’t make me feel loopy or groggy the next morning. What I noticed in my research and wanted to share is that Kava does have some pretty serious drug interactions, so if someone is on any regular medication – particularly anything that depresses the central nervous system – be careful to look up the interactions and talk to a doctor before venturing into Kavaland πŸ™‚

Thanks for sharing this find and generally being an awesome human!!



jenny sansouci January 4, 2016 at 1:07 pm

Awesome, Jeneva! I never thought of using it that way, so I really appreciate you sharing! πŸ™‚ Thanks!! <3


Kortney October 15, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Hey Jenny I’m moving to Bay Ridge and was wondering if there are any Kava bars in the area that you might recommend? Thanks! Xoxo


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