Why Kava Makes Your Mouth Numb

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As we speak people around the world are drinking kava for different reasons, some for sleep, others for relaxation, and some because they like how it makes them feel. However, all kava drinkers experience the same effects, namely, that kava will make their mouths go numb.

The reason that kava makes our mouths go numb is that Kava is a topical anesthetic much like aloe vera or lidocaine. Simply put, kava in itself is a sedative that affects the surface of the body. When you drink kava it makes whatever it touches go numb, including your mouth.

Dr. Yadhu and Nirbhay wrote an article in the 2012 CNS Drugs journal going over the therapeutic potential of Kava in the treatment of anxiety disorders. In this article, the pair of researchers look at how effective Kava can be used for certain treatments. What they discovered was that kava behaved similarly to other topical anestethics.

The team at Kava-Bula looks to provide the most accurate information on the web regarding Kava. Our team lives, eats, and breaths kava culture and helps those looking for more information regarding Kava.

Let’s jump right into the article going over why kava makes your mouth go numb.

Kava As A Topical Anesthetic Making Your Mouth Numb

Kava is a member of the Piper family of plants. These plants typically differ from other plants by having multiple different flavors or effects upon eating. For nearly 2,000 years Humans have been actively consuming piper plants for their effects as well as their taste.

Kava’s scientific name is Piper Methysctium. This is because it carries a sedative property and is unique among the Piper plants. Humans in the Pacific Islands started to consume these peppers over 3,500 years ago. As they spread across the Pacific so did the Kava root which was cultivated for its sedative effects.

When you drink kava you are drinking a distilled form of kavalactone which comes from the root of the kava plant. This drink has a sedative effect and can be used as a topical anesthetic. If you were to place the kava water on your skin you will notice that over time it will become a tiny bit numb.

However, the lips and mouth carry far more nerve receptors than your skin. What this means is that when you drink the kava you are actually sedating your nerves in the mouth. This is why many people have trouble talking after a couple of large shells of kava. To prevent this we always recommend taking it slow so that you know your limit.

Often we see people who try to drink kava like it’s alcohol. This is a bad idea for many reasons. Kava should be enjoyed slowly for new drinkers and fast for veterans. Drinking kava too fast can make your mouth numb to talk, which is never a good idea.

As such, the main reason why kava makes your mouth numb is that kava is actually a topical anesthetic. Places like your mouth and lips which have substantial amounts of nerve endings will become numb from drinking a couple of shells of kava.

How To Keep Your Mouth From Going Numb While Drinking Kava

One of the main points of kava is to be social with a group of old or new friends. Unfortunately, If your mouth is numb you can’t do that. As such here are some simple tips to keep your mouth from going numb when you drinking kava.

The first tip is to water down the kava with juice. Here the potency of kava will be lessened in favor of adding a large portion of pure fruit juice such as lemon, pineapple, or apple. These juices not only lessen the sedative properties of the kava but also make the drink taste much better. Your mouth will have a hard time going numb with this tactic.

The second tip is to keep your mouth from going numb while drinking kava. Here you should drink your kava shell fast and have the kava only hit the bottom part of your mouth under your tongue. This is an old tradition and takes some time to get the hang of but if done properly you can completely negate your lips and mouth getting numb from kava.

There are some other tips we have heard about such as wearing chapstick to keep your lips from going numb but I have never tried that. It might work but it also might just be a silly bar trick.


That’s about it; kava makes your mouth numb because it is a topical anesthetic.

When you are drinking kava there are a couple of ways to prevent your mouth from going numb. However, for many people who are new just know that kava is going to make your mouth numb and relaxed. This is what some people love, others don’t.

It is important when you are drinking kava you are aware that it is a cultural drink. For many people around the world, kava is one of those things that is sacred and designed to unite the community. You should always be drinking kava in groups and never alone. Whenever you drink kava we always say ‘bula’ which means to the good health of the community and the new friends we have just made. As such, bula to you!


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