Kavalactones are the active ingredients in Kava. They are found in the plant’s root and rootstock. These Kavalactones are responsible for the calming and psychoactive properties of Kava. 

The Kava plant is produced using selective breeding methods. Due to this, different cultivars possess different compositions and concentrations of Kavalactones. The concentration can be improved with proper cultivation methods. 

The composition of Kavalactones is expressed as Kava Chemotypes. There are around 18 Kavalactones present in the plant, but only six of them play a significant role in determining the properties and effects of Kava. These six compounds contribute 96% of the total Kavalactone content. 

Kavalactones do not work alone; rather, the effects produced by different Kava varieties depend on the overall combination of Kavalactones. It is because the Kava plant belongs to the “Synergy” group of the plant kingdom. 

The Six Significant Kavalactones

The significant Kavalactones present in the Kava plant are:

  1. Desmethoxyyangonin (DMY)
  2. Dihydrokavain (DHK)
  3. Yangonin (Y)
  4. Kavain (K)
  5. Dihydromethysticin (DHM)
  6. Methysticin (M)

Desmethoxyyangonin (DMY)

This Kavalactone is responsible for some of its euphoric effect. It is present in small amounts in almost all the Kavas that are normally consumed. 

It is labeled as “1” in the list of Kavalactones and is responsible for increasing brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. DMY is responsible for adding to a sense of happiness and relaxation. 

Dihydrokavain (DHK)

DHK is one of the most significant kavalactones that’s found in all Kavas. This Kavalactone is believed to assist in the relief of pain and is a sedative.

Dihydrokavain is labeled as “2”. This lactone increases GABA chemicals in the brain.

Yangonin (Y)

Yangonin is responsible for producing a sense of relaxation. This Kavalactone is somewhat similar to the CB1 receptor, which is an endocannabinoid found in cannabis plants. It hasn’t been decided whether Yangonin is an antagonist or agonist and to what extent it is similar to cannabis.

It is labeled as “3” in the list. It works on the Central Nervous System assumed to produce calming and relaxing effects. Enthusiasts have found that Kavas high in this kavalactone have a better night’s rest. 

Kavain (K) 

Kavas rich in Kavain are termed “Day Time” Kavas because they are not heavily sedating.

Other than DHK, Kavain is most abundantly found in all Kavas. It is labeled as “4” and produces some effects similar to Yangonin. 

Kavas high in Kavain are considered among the best Kavas to consume as they produce highly desirable effects. 

Dihydromethysticin (DHM)

Kavas high in DHM are sedating and can cause vomiting and nausea. 

The Kava having high DHM is most likely to be a “Tudei Kava.” Such Kava varieties should be avoided as they produce undesirable side effects. 

Methysticin (M)

This Kavalactone is responsible for fading sensations and can help relieve pain. Methysticin is also said to be responsible for increasing serotonin in the brain.

It is labeled as “6” and usually appears in the first few numbers of popular Kava chemotypes. Most popular Kavas are rich in Methysticin. 

Kava’s Potency

Different Kava products have varying potency depending on the Kavalactone content present in them. In general, the harvested Kava roots must contain 5% to 10% Kavalactone content.

Kavas having lower than 5% kavalactone content are either poorly stored or come from a random farm not specializing in it. Though, high concentrations of Kavalactones do not guarantee good quality of Kava, as the chemotype is important as well. Knowing the Kava kavalactone concentration should is used to decide the amount of Kava powder to use per session. 

Along with potency, Kava’s chemotypes, purity, strain, and nobility are also important. Some Kavas are naturally stronger, but other factors also contribute to the strength of Kava. These are:

  • Plant’s age 
  • Farmer’s skill & practices
  • Cultivar
  • Condition of storage
  • The concentration of lateral roots

The maximum Kavalactone content in any Kava plant is normally achieved within 18 to 36 months of planting. After 36 months, there is no increase in potency, but the mass of Kava roots increases with time. It’s good practice to only buy Kava which is at least 4 years in age. Age is important, because there are other chemical properties found in Kava when it’s young that are not recommended to ingest while it’s young.

Sometimes, farmers harvest the Kava before the time due to any natural disaster or make a quick profit. Such a Kava is considered low quality and is cheap. Latent roots are the most significant in determining the quality of Kava. Kavas rich in latent roots are considered high-quality Kavas and are more expensive. These Kavas are more bitter but is expected of proper pure Waka Kava.

Storing a Kava properly is also important to retain its quality. Air-tight containers or vacuum-sealed bags are ideal for storing Kava powder. If Kava powder is exposed to moisture or air, it loses its potency rapidly. Also, freshly harvested Kava is stronger as the Kavalactones have not yet had a chance to fade. Temperature is also a factor, as heat destroys Kavalactones, so always store in a cool dark place.


Knowing about the different Kavalactones should give you an idea of what the Kava does. It is a natural herb that offers amazing experiences when consumed responsibly. 

Kava is the best option when you wish to relax or just unwind a day, or you want to hang out with friends in a good mood. Play around with the chemotypes, and see which is your favorite. 

So, are you ready to purchase Kava? If yes, then visit our store and select from a range of some of the best Kava varieties. We guarantee 100% fresh and high-quality Kava. 


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