Kava Science

This traditional lifestyle drink has been used in the South Pacific islands by indigenous peoples for thousands of years, both as a ceremonial and social beverage, and many people report a great sense of relaxation and a feeling of contentment after just a few shells. They say they can begin to feel their lips tingle and their tongue starting to go numb within minutes (or even moments) and that’s their cue that they are about to be whisked away towards a better, less uptight, conscious experience. Shortly afterwards, the inner peace begins to manifest. This is perhaps followed by some easy conversation, a euphoric headiness, a deep easing into the couch, and a soothing sense of wellbeing as the intensity of a stressful workday gradually gets left behind.

So, what’s going on here, and why do I feel so great when I consume kava? 


Like many other herbs and plants, Piper methysticum (kava) has an abundance of phytochemicals, many of which have psychoactive properties. The drink is not brewed, fermented, or distilled like alcohol. Instead, it is derived from an abundance of these naturally occurring organic chemicals which are gently extracted from the lateral and basal roots of the plant. Although there are many pharmacologically active compounds in kava, those chiefly responsible for much of the pleasurable experience that people speak so fondly of are the kavalactones. Principle among them are the major kavalactones: desmethoxyangonin, dihydrokavain, yangonin, kavain, dihydromethysticin, and methysticin, also referred to as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, respectively, under the widely adopted chemotype naming conventions for P. methysticum.


Since, generally speaking, it is the kavalactones which confer the widely desired effects from the beverage, many people assume that a higher kavalactone content automatically means better quality kava. To some extent that isn’t an entirely incorrect assumption – you aren’t going to experience any kavalactone inspired feelings without kavalactones getting to your brain, and the more abundant a molecule is in your kava, the higher the chance that more of them will engage with the molecular machinery of your body, leading to the physiological response and subjective experience which many people enjoy so thoroughly. So yes, if you have an abundance of kavalactones in your shell, it’s likely you won’t need as many cups to achieve the same feeling that a kava of lower lactone concentration might require, but the quantity of kavalactones isn’t the only story when it comes to how many shells you’d want to drink to get just perfectly into your kava groove…

Kavalactone Bioavailability

You can’t experience any of the really groovy effects of kava for yourself until some of the kavalactones make their way through your body from your mouth to their site of action, where they can instigate their effect. There’s a long way to go (on a molecular scale) to get through the digestive system and into the brain; Much of what is consumed orally will never get to the brain, simply because not every molecule will survive the journey intact, but long before things like first-pass metabolism, enterohepatic recirculation, or renal excretion might take their share of active compounds out of your circulation, they have to get into your blood in the first place. 

Depending on how your kava has been processed, the kavalactones may be extracted into your tanoa from some kava powders more readily than from others. Further, your ability to absorb the kavalactones will depend, at least in part, on what else is (or isn’t) in the mixture. Forney Enterprises produces the purest kava powders available – we add no preservatives, emulsifiers, colours, artificial flavours, or anything else that might interfere with the natural enjoyment of the wonders that this plant can impart. We do, however, know exactly which parts of the plant to get rid of, and we use the latest in technical sophistication to help us get it flawlessly right, and in the most advanced production facilities (as operated by Forney Enterprises), there’s a lot more to it than just excluding the dirt, stalks, and leaves.

Kavalactones are sticky, and generally resistant to letting go of their fibrous restraints, meaning that even if you come across a kava powder claiming to have an unusually high kavalactone content, there’s a good chance that a better-prepared powder of lower overall kavalactone content might actually “hit” harder, smoother, and better. Further, kava that has been processed and prepared correctly isn’t likely to bother your stomach, meaning that you’ll likely be comfortable and able to enjoy all stages of the experience. This isn’t to say that Forney Enterprises skimp on the quality of their plants – we don’t. We use nothing but the very finest specimens available, but when you combine the best processing techniques in existence with superlative starting material, the end result is a superior product that is easy to drink and feels great. Our huge investment in research and development, far and away beyond what any other kava processor has done, has contributed to our ability to produce what we believe to genuinely be the highest quality kava powder you can buy anywhere on earth at any price. 

Forney Enterprises kava exceeds every industry standard in every quantifiable category for excellence against which the greatest kavas are measured; We know of no other producer that comes anywhere close to providing the level of certainly in the quality of their product that we do.  We do this not only through generations of experience and by employing the best people available for the many unique positions they fill, but also by staying at the cutting of scientific research, assisted by our own well-funded and extensively equipped on-site analytical and research laboratory.

Throughout our processing line we are constantly evaluating every aspect to make sure our consumers will never get a product that is less than optimal. Every batch of kava we sell must pass an extensive analytical testing regime to confirm not just nobility or subjective attributes such as aroma, but also undergoes in-depth microscopic analysis, colourimetry and spectrophotometry of acetonic extracts, a suite of intensive microbial assays, precision chemotype determination using the latest Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatography (UHPLC) technologies, quantitative kavalactone evaluation assisted by an advanced Accelerated Solvent Extraction (ASE) system – Our biggest afficionados also regularly gather to taste test and subjectively assess our various traditional and instant single cultivar finished products. If there is any doubt at any stage in the process, that batch will not make the cut for Forney Enterprises; You can be certain that when you drink a shell of Forney Kava, you are drinking the finest kava in the world.