Kava vs. Kratom

Kava vs. Kratom

April 30, 2021

Two plants, similar in appearance, different outcomes. Let me break it down for you - there's much to discuss.

Inevitably, the internet will always give you what you're looking for. If you're looking for an only positive review, you'll find it, if you're looking for a negative review, you'll find that as well. It's easy to fall into a particular ideology with your original intent and it's rare to come across an honest article. This is why we made the decision to include both the good and the bad, so as to give you the option to come to the general consensus on your own.


Kratom, also known as mitrogyna speciosa, and kava (Piper methysticum) are somewhat similar in the feeling they give you which is the reason kratom is seen as harmless to some - this comparison is held so loosely that it can be dangerous. To know the effects of Kratom, first you must know what in the world it is? We got you.

Kratom is a herbal extract that comes from the leaves of an evermore tree, a relative of the coffee family. Like Kava, it is consumed as a social and medicinal practice but it is most popular in Southeast Asia where its nativity resides. Whereas Kava is used both socially AND as integral parts of traditional ceremonies, residing in the South Pacific where it is an intrinsic part of their tribal traditions. Kratom lovers enjoy the substance for the way it makes them feel: energetic and euphoric. But this depends on the dosage. At low doses, it acts as a mild stimulant, making fans feel awake. At high doses it actually changes to a more euphoric and sedating experience. It's commonly used as treatment for panic attacks because of it's mood-enhancing effects.


Both plants have multiple strains used for different purposes.

Kratom has strains that split into three colors: white-vein, green-vein, and red-vein.

  • The green strain is said to be the strongest, boosting concentration, and offering pain relief. It is purported to last up to 8 hours.
  • The red strain offers a different kind of energy boosting effect that is used to treat insomnia and depression. It's usually a much shorter run lasting anywhere between 3-5 hours.
  • The white strain is the most popular, offering relaxation and pain-killing effects. It lasts up to 5 hours.

Kava has hundreds of strains across different countries in the South Pacific. All of them have differing effects dependent on their chemotypes (which we go into more detail here). But they generally fall into two classes. Noble and Tudei.

  • Noble kava, which is the most popular in the US, is known for every day drinking and relaxing. This is when the plant has fully developed over a period of 4-5+ years, and the flavokavain levels have lowered. Generally you will see much higher levels of Kavain.
  • Tudei kava is a younger kava that has not "fully ripened" to be used. The effects tend to be less on the euphoria side and more on the sedating side with the muscle relaxing effects known to be more intense and last much longer. Tudei also is known to have higher concentrations of flavokavains in their roots. Some ceremonies and medicinal situations utilize tudei but in general it is not recommended to drink often.

Both plants give consumers that euphoric feeling you might be familiar with as a fellow kava pioneer. *wink wink* However, they are dosage dependent.

The Difference

Kratom's active ingredients are known as mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, and they are found in the leaves. Which is why kratom is commonly consumed by drying the leaves out, and grinding it into a fine powder to mix in a drink. These actives work by stimulating the opiod receptors in the body.

Kava's active ingredients on the other hand are known as kavalactones. They are found all throughout the kava plant but the traditional drink is commonly processed using ONLY the roots. The aerial portions are known to have high levels of cytotoxic materials and are highly recommended to avoid (we go more in depth here)

Some things to think about

It's clear why there is a comparison between kratom and kava. However, they come from two entirely different plant families and act in different ways to get the effect they give. Although people are attracted to kratom for the euphoria, the negative effects are often overlooked. But don't take it from me, take it from the health department at Mayo Clinic, "Kratom has a number of known side effects, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Chills, nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in urine and constipation
  • Liver damage
  • Muscle pain

Kratom also affects the mind and nervous system:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Hallucinations and delusion
  • Depression and delusion
  • Breathing suppression
  • Seizure, coma and death"

Similar to how cigarettes were viewed as harmless in the 80s, kratom was thought to be when it began to spread. However, when further investigated, it was found to cause abnormal brain function. The withdrawal studies from kratom showed to be similar to withdrawals from opioids. Therefore, when people experience these withdrawals, they need the same treatment given to opioid withdrawal patients such as naloxone and buprenorphine. This treatment helped alleviate withdrawal symptoms of morphine and ethanol Although kratom is not an opiate itself, it's effects are very similar and therefore, comes with the same risk of addiction.

I'll let you draw your own conclusion with this new information.

As if that's not bad enough, There were larger quality control concerns when in 2018, many users began reporting cases of salmonella after taking kratom.

You know that thing your parents warned you about as a kid while you were sneaking cookie dough? Yeah, that salmonella.

"How many people?" you may ask. More than 130 people in 38 states, I may answer. Because of this discovery, the United States Food and Drug Administration linked more than 35 deaths to kratom-related salmonella.

The History

This plant went through a legal battle that would make it banned in the US. Now, it is banned in 15 states. It had been outlawed in the place where it was grown, Thailand, for over 75 years. There has been calls in Thailand to make Kratom legal within the last few years yet to no avail was that wish granted. One of the reasons is due to the connection to crime in the country. " In Thailand in 2011, more than 13,000 people were arrested for kratom-related crimes." It was the safer option to ban it than to let the risk continue on.

According to the FDA,

  • "In September 2014, U.S. Marshals, at the FDA’s request, more than 25,000 pounds of raw kratom material worth more than $5 million from Rosefield Management, Inc. in Van Nuys, California.
  • In January 2016, U.S. Marshals, at the FDA’s request, seized nearly 90,000 bottles of dietary supplements labeled as containing kratom and worth more than $400,000. The product, manufactured for and held by Dordoniz Natural Products LLC, located in South Beloit, Illinois, is marketed under the brand name RelaKzpro.
  • In August 2016, U.S. Marshals, at the FDA’s request, seized more than 100 cases of products labeled as containing kratom and worth more than $150,000. The products are distributed by Nature Therapeutics LLC, which does business as Kratom Therapy and is located in Grover Beach, California. The seized products are marketed under the brand name Kratom Therapy."

The Conclusion

It may not come as a surprise to you to hear that I want you to form your own conclusion. Based on all of this information, it's up to you to decide what your view on kratom is, what your view on kava is, and what's worth a try.

The biggest takeaway is the understanding that there is a major difference between the two roots and knowing what those differences are is vital if you plan on partaking.

See you next time, Kava Pioneer.

From our family to yours, Mahalo! 🤙


Written by Isabelle Franco

Opinions expressed are solely my own

Spread the Love of Kava! <3

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