Kava vs Kratom

Kava vs. Kratom

While both of these plants are appealing to similar demographics, there are some key differences when it comes to the effects produced and how they’re produced. Curious about the most noteworthy differences?  Read on to learn more!

Pharmacological Differences and Effects 

While there are some similarities between the two plants, the mechanisms of action between Kava and Kratom are very different. While both plants have appeal to those who are looking to reduce anxiety, pain and promote euphoria, you’re essentially comparing apples to oranges. 

When somebody consumes Kava, the effects primarily come from compounds called Kavalactones, which act on GABA receptors and promote dopamine reuptake inhibition

Kratom influences a number of neurotransmitters while stimulating the Mu and Delta opioid receptors.  

The Effects of Kava 

Kava can have pain-relieving effects, but not in the same way that Kratom does. Its pain-relieving effects are mostly rooted in the reduction of muscle tension and the body relaxation that comes from the plant’s GABA activity. 

Many people who use Kava compare its effects to alcohol, but without the loss of thought clarity and with less of an effect on inhibitions. 

Many recovering alcoholics use the plant to fight cravings, because of the way that it produces a similar sense of calm without some of alcohol’s nasty side effects, like changes in personality and memory loss.  

There are even Kava bars where people can go to socialize with other kava drinkers. 

Although, like alcohol, it may not be the best for the liver, despite being thought of as the lesser of two evils when comparing the risks/rewards of the two substances. 

Those looking for an alternative to benzodiazepines and other anxiety medications also turn to Kava quite often. 

If you’re considering using Kava, be sure to check with your healthcare provider, conduct thorough research, and use your own discernment. The same goes for Kratom! 

The Effects of Kratom 

Kratom, at its core, is an incredibly effective pain reliever due to acting on the brain in a similar way to how pharmaceutical pain killers do. It also has a powerful effect on mood – producing the onset of euphoria and a reduction of anxiety.  (See our round-up of the best kratom for anxiety.) 

In lower doses, Kratom’s energizing effects tend to take center stage – which has an appeal for those looking for an alternative to stimulant medications for ADHD, and for those who just need a boost or assistance with regulating energy, which makes sense given that Kratom is related to the Coffee tree. 

When higher doses are ingested, Kratom’s sedative and analgesic effects take over, resulting in “classic” opiate effects – although kratom is technically not an opiate, as evidenced by it having an effect even on people taking suboxone.  

With these similarities to opiates/opioids comes a similar side effect profile, in addition to other unique side effects, some known and others still unknown due to the lack of research. 

We cover side effects in more detail in some of our other articles. 

Addiction Potential 

While both of these substances have the potential to be habit-forming, the general consensus seems to be that Kratom has far more potential to lead to dependence and physical addition than Kava. 

This is largely in part because of what allows Kratom to be effective – the way that it interacts with the opioid receptors. 

While the opinion of many seems to be that there is less abuse potential for Kava, you shouldn’t take our word for it, as we are not medical professionals. 

Legal Differences Between Kava and Kratom

Kava is entirely legal in the United States, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a push by the government to change that as things currently stand. 

Kava did face a fair bit of scrutiny in the past, during its initial “boom” in the 90s, when it was banned in some European countries after research was released that pointed to liver damage potential. Since then, some of those countries have reversed their bans in favor of placing a consumer warning on Kava products instead, after more research indicated there wasn’t enough evidence to say for certain. 

Kratom, on the other hand, is currently banned in 9 cities and in 6 states, with regulatory legislation pending in a large handful of other states.  

The legal climate surrounding Kratom is steadily changing, so it’s important to stay up to date on the laws in your area if you do decide to try it out to avoid repercussions. 

The Takeaway 

Kratom and Kava both offer potent relief and seem to improve the overall quality of life for individuals looking to cope with a variety of circumstances. 

The effects of these two plants are similar in their ability to induce a state of relaxation and euphoria, but the type of relaxation/euphoria, and how that effect is produced within the body is starkly different. 

If you’re looking for a plant to use purely for relaxation purposes, rather than pain relief, Kava may be the safer place to start in terms of side effects and addiction potential, although you should consult with a trusted expert before proceeding.

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