Kratom or Kava? Know the Difference

For centuries, herbs have been of great value for recreational and pharmacological purposes. A horde of controversial herbs is now flooding both local and international markets, creating confusion about what is and is not safe. Among them are kratom and kava, two plants that have gained the attention of both researchers and the average population. 

Well, uninformed use of these herbs may be harmful as most of them cause addiction and psychosis and may even exacerbate existing health conditions. Therefore, you should know the herb or its extracts well before using it, or else it might end up doing more harm than good. 

Kratom or Kava? Let’s run through some details.


Kratom is a green broadleaf plant of the coffee family natively grown by Asians in the humid tropical areas of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea. Its leaves are harvested and dried, then crushed into powder or made into other forms like capsules, tablets, caplets, oil, or tinctures. Different strains exist depending on the harvesting stage, including the white, green, and red vein strains. 

For a long time, locals have used green thai kratom for leisure, mainly for its stimulating effects and painkillers. But now, several studies and research highlight kratom as a potential analgesic, anxiolytic, antidepressant, nootropic, and potent stimulant. 

The two main alkaloids in kratom, mitragynine and hydroxymitragynine, harbor great benefits but can be harmful as they are psychoactive. These alkaloids bind to several receptors in the body to alter metabolism, pain perception, mood, cognitive state, and libido. Here are some of the benefits of kratom: 

  •  Energy Supply

Mitragynine increases metabolic activities to supply immense energy to the body and brain. Excess blood glucose breaks down in the process, thereby reducing the chances of diabetes and managing the diabetic state. Also, fat does not accumulate, thus keeping the body weight in check.

  • Elevate Mood

 When you use kratom, mood hormones like serotonin become abundant in blood, suggesting that kratom increases their secretion. This helps lift your mood and alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression.

  • Relieve Pain

Kratom works like opioids by binding to opioid receptors to relieve nociceptive and neuropathic pain. It is crucial in managing chronic pain in conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.

  • Cure Insomnia

Mitragynine is a strong sedative at high doses, and when you take it before sleep, it induces and improves the general quality of sleep. It also eases muscle stress and relieves any discomfort; this helps you sleep better.

  • Enhance Sex Drive

Kratom alkaloids improve blood circulation and therefore can aid in an erection. Further, sedative and analgesic effects lower organ sensitivity to prevent premature ejaculation. Kratom also supplies enough sex energy through its metabolic actions. These benefits can enrich your sexual life and general lifestyle.

  •  Antidepressant

The primary stress hormone, cortisol, is low in kratom users, who show delight and optimism. Kratom also improves cognitive functions making you alert, sharp, creative, and mentally active. These effects cure depression and the symptoms it carries. 

Side Effects of Kratom

Mild abdominal discomfort, constipation, nausea, and irritability are some of the significant fallouts of kratom. Changes in urine, weight loss, and xerostomia are also associated with kratom use. 


Piper methysticum or kava is a leafy plant of the Piperaceae family indigenous to islands of the western Pacific. Natively, it is used as a medicine and for rituals. Locals grind the roots into powder or paste and drink it in tea in traditional ceremonies and cultural practices. Most people use kava as a dietary supplement for anxiety, insomnia, and pain relief. Kava can also act as an anticonvulsant, anesthetic agent, and neuroprotector. 

 Kavalactones and kavapyrones are the active ingredients in kava; these chemicals have depressant actions on the central nervous system. They decrease serotonin production and increase concentration and activity of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.

Benefits of Kava

  • Neuroprotection

Kavalactones protect the brain neurons from oxidative stress by inhibiting Cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2), an enzyme that promotes inflammation. Also, chemicals in kava increase the secretion of antioxidation enzymes that, in turn, activate genes through signaling to reduce oxidative stress and the death of neurons. According to a study using mice, components of kava, methysticum, and dihydromethysticin had a significant impact on an infarct on the brain of the mice.  

  •  Anxiolytic

In a specific research, seventy-five people with anxiety disorders were given kava extracts; the result was a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms among a large percentage of the group. Kava brings a feeling of relaxation, and its component, kavain, eases stress and anxiety.

  • Analgesic

Kavalactones are potent analgesics that relieve physical and neuropathic pain. Kava users report pain relief within a few minutes. The mechanism of action of kava for pain is still under scrutiny, but reviews from users put it as a potential analgesic.

  • Antidepressant

In most cases, anxiety accompanies depression, and severe health conditions result. In a placebo-controlled experiment, sixty people with long-term anxiety disorders were treated with kava; the result was a significant reduction in symptoms. Thus, kava can work for depression as an alternative to benzodiazepines which carry adverse effects.

Side Effects of Kava

Liver damage, headaches, allergies, stomach upsets, and pupillary enlargement are the significant fallouts of kava. Therefore, before using kava, you should consider its dosage, dosage form, and contraindications

In Summary

Kratom and kava are some of the most used herbs globally for many health conditions. Therefore, extensive knowledge is necessary to know their potential benefits to make informed decisions. 

Kratom is available in different forms and can cure most lifestyle diseases; therefore, if you are yearning for a better life, you should consider taking kratom. Equally, kava provides a magnificent alternative for many synthetic drugs to manage the conditions above. The choice is yours, but you should be cautious to avoid the adverse effects.