There are several different ways to take Kava, and the active chemicals it contains, kavalactones. As with any pharmaceutical substance, the means of taking the substance often make a much more difference than the amount taken. This is especially true with Kava, which seems to have major differences in the quality of the product, and major differences in people's subjective reactions to the product. Reactions to Kava can react from nothing, to minor relaxation, to a feeling of well-being that approaches intoxication.
- Powder mixed in cold water: this is the traditional way that Kava is consumed, and for most people not in an area where it is grown, the most rare. This is, in my experience, also the best way to consume it. After consuming it in this manner, the effect begins within a few moments, and gradually peaks. Supposedly, the freshness of the Kava powder makes a large difference. Oliver Sachs reports that after drinking fresh Kava in this manner, he had an experience close to hallucinatory. People in North America, drinking a mixture made from Kava powder that is several weeks or months from harvest, will probably not have that intense of an experience. They will probably pay more for it, as well.
- Pills: pills come in two forms, solid ones made from compressed kava powder and filler, and capsules that contain powder within them. It would make sense that pills, since they are a purified and concentrated form of the actual substance, would have a sudden onset and strong effects. But from my experience pills are the least potent form, and I often feel that taking them is a waste of money. The pills that have powder within them can be broken open and taken sublingually, or even (if you wish) insuffulated, but even that does not appear to be too effective
- tinctures: Kavalactones are mostly nonpolar, so they should dissolve quite easily in alcohol. And because the tincture is concentrated, a small amount of tinctured Kava should be very powerful. Much like with pills, my experience has been otherwise. While the tinctures are more powerful than pills, usually having a noticeable effect, they seem to be less powerful than a normal mixture of powder in dilute water. Again, this is something that I find hard to explain on theoretical grounds.
- Tea: or technically speaking, a tisane, sometimes mixed with actual tea. At least one company, the Yogi Tea company, makes a tea that is a mixture of Kava and other spices. The other spices are there to mask the dull-wood taste of Kava, and the entire process is much more pleasant than other forms of Kava. Also, I have found this to be one of the smoothest and strongest onsets of action, which again seems somewhat paradoxical, since it is in a dilute form.
I must stress again, that as they say on the internet: "Your Mileage May Vary". Also, as with any pharmaceutically active product, especially a psychoactive one, be cautious with the use, and make sure you ease into it slowly, to find out of any physical or mental effects it might cause. Other than that...happy dreaming!