What is Plant-Based Caffeine? | Botanic Tonics

What is Plant-Based Caffeine? | Botanic Tonics

Reviewed by Jamal Bouie

What is Plant-Based Caffeine?

Whether you drink cold brew every morning to get to work with both eyes open, or indulge in the occasional chocolate sweet, you’ve likely experienced the stimulating effects of caffeine. 

Believe it or not, the world of plant-based caffeine is larger than just coffee, tea, and cocoa. 

Piper methysticum, known more simply as the kava plant, has been used as a natural stimulant in ceremonies and social occasions by Pacific Islanders for centuries.[1]

If you’re ready to dive into the complex world of kava and reap all it has to offer, keep reading. This guide has everything you need to know before trying kava, from cultural significance, to caffeine comparisons, to unique benefits

Understanding Kava: Nature's Stimulant and Its Cultural Significance

Kava found its beginnings thousands of years ago on the Pacific island chain of Vanuatu, and has been a permanent fixture of Pacific Islanders’ identities ever since.[1]

In Pacific cultures, the kava plant is ground down and mixed with water to create a drink that doubles as a spiritual and social lubricant. It’s traditionally drunk during ceremonies, rituals, and certain social events.

While kava’s properties have been enjoyed in the Pacific for centuries, it’s only more recently become popular with non-Pacific people. 

Kava bars have begun to crop up all over the world, with over a hundred in the U.S alone.[2] These bars preserve the social element associated with traditional kava use, but emphasize the health benefits individuals can receive from kava consumption.

Users have only scratched the surface of all kava has to offer, including its potential as a supplement to natural caffeine. 

Uncovering Various Caffeine Sources

Caffeine: it’s found naturally in many foods and drinks, used by countless people across the world for a daily energy boost, and it’s considered a drug. In fact, it’s the most-used drug in the world.[3]

Caffeine is widely recognized as a viable stimulant for alertness, increased energy levels, and enhanced focus. Unlike some other stimulants, it is generally safe when used in moderation; the FDA recommends a maximum caffeine consumption of 400 mg a day.[3] But caffeine does have several potential side effects that are less than desirable, such as:[3]

  • Sleep disruptions and insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Shakiness 
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

Caffeine is not addictive. However, prolonged caffeine intake can lead to dependency, and may cause withdrawal symptoms for a few days if you suddenly stop using it.[3]

Products with caffeine content, whether in trace amounts or more substantial quantities, are pervasive. Natural caffeine sources, found in plants, include:

  • Green tea and other tea leaf varieties
  • Chocolate and related products derived from the cocoa bean
  • Kola nut, a seed native to African rainforests
  • Yerba mate, a traditional South American caffeinated beverage stemming from the plant of the same name
  • Guarana berries, originating in the Amazon basin, and known for having a higher caffeine content than coffee

Regardless of whether you reach for naturally occurring caffeine products or not, other natural sources for cognitive enhancement can provide a less extreme energy boost

The Unique Properties of Natural Stimulants: A Deep Dive into Kava

Kava does not contain caffeine. Instead, it gets its positive cognitive properties from the different kavalactone chemicals present in the kava plant. They don’t directly affect the central nervous system, meaning cognitive function is entirely preserved.[3]

While kava has a bitter and earthy flavor, its main appeal is the positive effects it may have on the mind and body. Kava users can enjoy:[4]

  • Physical and mental relaxation
  • A clear mind and enhanced focus
  • An uplift in mood

Kava is also known to ease inhibitions, allowing for more genuine, natural conversation in social settings. [1] However, it’s important to note that kava itself doesn’t provide energy, rather helps individuals feel more relaxed and at ease. This is why, when paired with other sources of energy, such as kola nut or mushrooms for cognitive function, people may experience a cleaner lift in their overall mood and productivity. 

Health Impacts of Kava: Benefits and Potential Risks

Kava is praised for its diverse benefits, aiding with everything from anxiety, to sleep, to curbing addiction.[1] But to be the most informed kava user, it’s important to weigh all of the factors involved with its use, including the potential risks. 

Kava can potentially:[4]

  • Interact with alcohol or other drugs you take
  • Cause liver damage
  • Make you nauseous or dizzy
  • Lead to dry, flaky skin or hair loss with prolonged use

Despite the valid risks, these side effects are often rare and associated mainly with overuse. For example, liver damage due to kava is said to be nearly negligible, and flaky skin is only an issue with high kava doses, and clears up about a week after relaxing use.[1]

Kava isn’t right for everyone, but it could be right for you. If you’re looking to stray away from caffeine and try a new tool for focus, kava can help.

Find Your Focus with Botanic Tonics 

Botanic Tonics is harnessing the focus-enhancing powers of kava and making it more accessible for everyone who seeks the benefits of kava

Our feel free® tonic is made from noble kava grown in Vanuatu, kava’s origin country. The plant-based energy drink is naturally caffeinated with 100 mg of kola nut caffeine, about the same amount as you’d find in a cup of coffee. And if you want similar benefits without the caffeine, try our kava kratom drink.  

We believe in the powers of kava, just like the Pacific peoples from hundreds of years ago; we think you will too. 


  1. Research Outreach. De-mythologizing and re-branding the traditional drink kava. https://researchoutreach.org/articles/de-mythologizing-traditional-drink-kava/ 
  2. Rolling Stone. Kava: Inside the All-Natural High That’s Sweeping America. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/kava-inside-the-all-natural-high-thats-sweeping-america-125828/ 
  3. Medical News Today. What does caffeine do to your body? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285194 
  4. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Kava kava. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/kava-kava

About The Author

Jamal Bouie Botanic Tonic

Jamal Bouie

Jamal Bouie is an accomplished professional with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis. Currently, he is pursuing his PhD in Biomedicine at Salus University. Jamal has worked in several industries; he began his career in pharmaceutical manufacturing and transitioned to the cannabis industry, where he specialized in analytical testing and manufacturing, playing a vital role in ensuring product safety and compliance. Now, Jamal has turned his attention to the dietary supplement field, combining his scientific acumen with his passion for health and wellness.

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