4 MIN READ | Wellness

David Tobin

The Difference Between Kava and Kratom

Cite This
David Tobin, (2022, January 12). The Difference Between Kava and Kratom. Psychreg on Wellness. https://www.psychreg.org/difference-between-kava-kratom/
Reading Time: 4 minutes

As we live in an uncertain time, with a growing concern about health as the utmost importance, consumer preferences are shifting toward a nutrition plan that focuses on living a healthier approach that relies less on chemicals. As a result, nutritionists and health-conscious consumers have recently given a great deal of attention to plant-based (read more) nutritional supplements, which are becoming increasingly popular.

In fact, millions of Americans are shifting toward green, organic ingredients, whether cosmetics, skincare, food, supplements, and a lot more! And that’s for a good reason: wellness. Today, wellness has evolved in a broader scope and more sophisticated concept embracing fitness and diet and overall physical and mental health. 

However, not every ‘natural’ supplement will be effective for every individual. Some may be advantageous, while others may be detrimental. As a result, it is critical to understand the effects of the products you are using. You should expect the same thing if you’re looking for alternative supplements to help you improve your diseases, such as anxiety or other ailments.

Kava and kratom are two of the most talked-about topics in the supplement industry right now. These two herbs are well-known for their calming and sedative properties on the surface, and they function similarly on the inside. On looking closer, however, these herbs are ideologically different from one another, making it crucial to learn the differences between kava and kratom to determine which is safer and which is not. This is especially true now that both kava and kratom have experienced a significant increase in popularity in recent years due to the all-natural high craze that swept the nation.

What is kava?

Piper methysticum, or popularly known as kava, is a herbal plant native to the South Pacific countries like Fiji and Indonesia that is non-addictive. It belongs to the pepper family, which can grow to an average height of 6 feet and have heart-shaped leaves that are 10 inches wide.

Traditionally, kava is a social beverage, and those who partake in a communal setup are offered or possibly drink this as a ceremonial tea upon arrival. But more than that, kava was first introduced to communities in northern Australia in the 1980s as an alternative for liquor, with the particular goal of reducing alcohol-related harms in the general public. 

And that’s one of the most appealing parts of kava as a beverage, particularly for the health-conscious, because it has effects similar to alcohol but without the drawbacks like the morning misery of having a hangover. Hence, people love it for this reason. At the same time, kava is also known for its calming, sedative, and muscle-relaxant effects, similar to how alcohol is consumed.

Beyond its cultural and recreational use, it’s worth noting that kava has also been consumed for various purposes, and one of which is because of its medicinal properties (check here: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/kava-kava). For hundreds of years in the Pacific Islands, people have relied on the medicinal properties of the kava plant to treat various ailments. Based on research, its properties have reduced anxiety, stress, and muscle and nervous tension. To put it in another way, kava can make you calm down and feel good. From migraines to insomnia, infections to rheumatism, kava helps improve your overall health.

Hence, many people consume kava as a natural treatment for other ailments, particularly anxiety, for these reasons and other factors. Research shows that it can be used as a safe and effective replacement for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications and that it may be as effective as these prescription drugs. 

But one thing is for sure, though: just consume it in moderation and do your research first. And the best way is to consult your doctor. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), kava extracts and supplements pose an “acceptably low level of health risk” in their traditional form. But when consumed excessively, it may potentially harm your health, causing liver toxicity. It is also not safe to take kava in combination with other drugs or alcohol, so it is best not to consume kava if you’re taking other medications.

What is kratom?

Kratom is a herbal plant related to coffee. Its extract is derived from the leaves of an evergreen tree (Mitragyna speciosa) that grows in Southeast Asia, and like kava, it is also used to treat various ailments. They are used to make tea or dried, encapsulated, and sold as a nutritional supplement in several health food stores and other specialty stores. As with kratom leaves, they can be smoked like tobacco.

At small doses, kratom has been reported to function as a stimulant. People who have consumed low amounts of kratom have generally been reported to be more energized, alert, and friendly. It also has soothing and euphoric effects that help in recreationally promoting relaxation. Simultaneously, it is used medicinally to treat many physical and mental issues, such as anxiety, pain, high blood pressure, etc.  

If you follow health news or go to drug stores, kratom is popularly known as an energy booster, mood enhancer, muscle relaxant, and antidote for addiction withdrawal – particularly for opioids. However, research shows that the safety issues associated with kratom use have offset the herb’s medicinal benefits, which are extremely concerning.

Unlike kava, kratom has been shown to have a potential for addiction. People who become addicted to the supplement due to its euphoric effects may end up or remain dependent on the feelings they get when they take it as a source of pleasure. Frequent use, particularly at high doses, substantially increases the likelihood of abuse and addiction.

Hence, kratom is considered unsafe and shows little promise, as you can see on this page, regarding its benefits, so it is better to avoid it than sorry. At one point, some researchers believed that kratom could be a promising substitute to opioids and other medication pain killers, so it was used by some people as an antidote for opioid withdrawal. However, studies on the effects of kratom show otherwise. In fact, it has no clear benefits, and when combined with prescription medications, it can cause abnormal brain function. When this happens, you may suffer from a severe headache, lose your ability to communicate or become confused, among other symptoms. 


David Tobin did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in mental health and well-being.


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