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Is 65% Basal Root normal?


Kava Enthusiast
Hi all. Quick question, I know that in Vanuatu (as opposed to say Fiji) it is common to use basal root in addition to lateral root. I am in communication with someone who says that 65% basal to 35% lateral root is not only normal, but an "ideal" ratio for boroguru. My understanding has always been that, as a rule, more lateral root is better. Anyone have any thoughts?

Ive read a few opinions over the years on basal root, some have said it contains less lactones over all, but that it may actually contain more kavain than in the lateral roots. I have no idea where I picked this up, but its in my head. Anyway, thoughts welcome. Cheers.


The Kaptain (40g)
KavaForums Founder
My understanding has always been that, as a rule, more lateral root is better. Anyone have any thoughts?.....Ive read a few opinions over the years on basal root, some have said it contains less lactones over all, but that it may actually contain more kavain than in the lateral roots.
That's a good rule for sure. The highest concentration of all lactones resides in the lateral roots. Which is why waka, or all lateral root, grade is considered some of the best kava. About the kavain in the basal stump, I haven't heard that, but I'm always open to new information. If you do run across where you saw that be sure to let us know.


Kava Enthusiast
To play devil's advocate it seems to me that, again from memory, this is roughly about the ratio of lateral root to basal when the plant is harvested (give or take 10%). So if we know that they include basal root in most kavas, is it not reasonable to assume that most commercial kava powders reflect this ratio?

Maybe I'm stating something that is obvious to many people, but I have bought kava before that stated it was "no more than 10% basal root (or whatever). So what is happening here? Are they throwing away 60% of the rootstock just so they can make the claim? Seems to me that the 65% basal to 35% lateral is actually a pretty realistic ratio - even a good one, as Wikipedia reports lateral roots make up only 20% of the average mature plant.

But again, I'm fishing for opinions because I'd never considered this before. I always thought commercial kava's were mostly lateral root.

Andrew Procyk

Noble Kava
Kava Vendor
About 2:1 ratio of what are called chips, or stump to root is generally considered normal. Sometimes 80:20, sometimes 1:1. It is believed it brings a more favorable balance of lactones to the drink. (When I was chewing roots in Tanna, and I had only a mouthful of stump, one of the guys would hand me a peeled lateral and tell me to make sure I got some of that in there as well. Always a mix!) When you consume kava fresh, it is considered extremely tedious to effectively peel the skinny lateral roots, and the skin is really bitter. Consuming primarily the stump provides a much smoother drink. (Once it is dried, it is ALL pretty bitter.)

Generally, basal stems do contain more kavain, and across most of Vanuatu, what is primarily consumed is almost exclusively the stump-root, save the few fatty laterals on the root ball. As I mentioned in a prior post about chemotype on the other forum - it is genetically determined. Borogu will always present with a particular chemotype, BUT chemotype will vary depending on the organs tested. Similarly, if you create a varying blend of organs, you will get a chemotype that reflects that. That is one of the ways vendors wind up with varying blends of kava.

That said, even though I believe the VCMB says farmers are to get paid more for roots (laterals), because there are much less of them, there was a time for a while where export prices for roots were actually cheaper than that of basal stems, because the New Cal. and New Zealand export markets were demanding such high amounts of chips, coupled with native consumption of pretty much ONLY that portion. Also, where Fiji has definitive designations for different subground organs of the plant (waka, lewena, etc.) as far as market prices, etc. are concerned, Vanuatu does not use the same stipulations as Fiji. (I think they should, for the sake of their farmers.) But, that said, basal stump root is also very much used in Fiji, it just carries a different market designation (lewena).

That, and the general Fijian practice seems to be to dry the kava anyway - which seems insane to me when you have fresh plans growing! If you had fresh carrots, and wanted carrot juice, would you juice them while fresh? Or... would you grate them, dry them, pulverize them, soak the carrot powder in water, then squeeze it out, and drink that disgusting concoction? That is the best comparison I have found for the difference between fresh and dry kava. The carrot probably does not taste as good as the actual carrot when fresh, but once you dry the whole damn carrot, it will NEVER compare to fresh carrot juice.

The Melakula kava we carry is totally peeled, so generally carries the chemotype of only stump, and the lactone content is usually 6-7%. The others will generally test out at 8.5-10%. So, whether it is better or not is a matter of personal opinion. The laterals are "stronger" but they have different lactones.

Hope that helps.



Kava Enthusiast
Cant ask for a better response than that. Thanks Andrew.

Thanks for confirming my hunch about kavain in the stumps. I was googling to try to find something on it but couldn't. Cheers!