kava vs kratom



Kava is a plant of the pepper family, botanical name Piper Methysticum, indigenous to the Western Pacific (Vanuatu, Fiji, Papau New Guinea, Micronesia, and Hawaii). In these Pacific island communities, Kava is consumed before the beginning of an important religious ritual or ceremony. Most commonly though it is used as a beverage to relax and unwind from the day. Often served at Nakamals (Kava Bars), it is drunk socially instead of alcohol 



Kratom   is a tropical, evergreen tree in the coffee family, botanical name Mitragyna speciosa. It is native to Southeast Asia, (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo, etc.) where it has been a part of traditional culture for thousands of years. There, it is traditionally chewed, in raw leaf form, by workers to stave off exhaustion, relieve pain and as a mood enhancer. 

kava and kratom

Similar effects


Increasing scientific research means that the effects of drinking Kava are now better understood and well documented. Kava can be used to reduce stress or temporary bouts of anxiety, to help manage pain, relieve muscle tension and to promote overall emotional and physical relaxation. Drinking Kava can reduce social inhibitions and induce a sense of euphoria and happiness akin to other nootropics. There are 3 categories of kava. Heady varieties create a clear-headed calm and slight boost of energy. Heavy kavas have a more of a sedative effect, and Balanced have mixed effects.


Kratom has somewhat similar effects  

depending on the dosage. It is a psychoactive drug, that when consumed at a low dosage makes people more energetic, talkative, agitated and socially hyperactive. On the other hand, a higher dosage creates a sedative effect, pain relief, and a euphoric experience or dream-like state.

Distinct Pharmacological differences


Kratom contains alkaloids. The alkaloids in Kratom interact with the opioid systems in the brain, the systems that play key roles in modulating how we respond to pain. The alkaloids in Kratom act as opiate receptor agonists in the same way that morphine or other opiates do. From a pharmacological perspective, though Kratom is not an opiate itself, its’ effects are very similar to those of opiate drugs and it comes with the same risks of addiction.

While there has been little scientific research on Kratom, the main psychoactive ingredients in Kratom are believed to be the alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. The latter is known to be orally active in animals as an analgesic. These alkaloids produce normal opioid side effects. This explains why Kratom can be addictive.  Opioid side effects include the development of tolerance. Tolerance means that the effect of a drug lessens over time, and there is withdrawal syndrome upon abstinence.

The unique chemical make-up and effects of Kratom has resulted in the plant being used by people previously addicted to heroin or pharmaceutical opioids as a means to wean themselves off these drugs. It has also shown promise as a natural pain reliever for these same characteristics but much research is still needed on the plant.



The pharmacology of Kava is very different from Kratom.

While scientific research into Kratom is in its infancy, there is a growing body of scientific data on the chemistry of Kava and its’ effects. The main active ingredients in Kava are kavalactones with six alone being more important than others and responsible for over 90 percent of the active natural ingredients in the plant. Active ingredients vary depending on the variety of the plant and these are identified by a plant chemotype. Read about the science behind the natural calm of Kava.

Kavalactones interact with the limbic system, the part of our brain most associated with emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation. Kavalactones are responsible for the positive effects gained from kava root consumption. Unlike the alkaloids in Kratom, the Kavalactones in Kava are not opiate agonists and do not pose the risk of opioid side effects such as the risk of addiction.

Legal Difference

Kratom is currently undergoing a heated and complicated legal battle that could make the plant and its active constituents banned in the U
In Thailand where the plant grows in abundance and is widely used, Kratom has been outlawed for over 70 years since 1943. The original ban was linked to Kratom reducing Thai government tax revenues from opium distribution. While in recent years there have been calls to decriminalize Kratom and remove it from the list of banned narcotics in Thailand, this has yet to happen. One reason for this could be the connection between Kratom and crime in the country. In Thailand in 2011, more than 13,000 people were arrested for kratom-related crimes (5% of all drug-related crimes in that country). The use of Kratom is also prohibited in Malaysia where users can be penalized with a maximum imprisonment.

KAVA at the same time, Kava is gaining worldwide acceptance as a natural and safe herbal product.

While kava was banned in Germany and Switzerland for a number of years ago a result of research suggesting that drinking kava caused liver problems. That ban was lifted in 2015 after further research revealed the liver issues were related to other contributing factors. Read about the safety and side effects of kava.

Kava is legal in the U.S, has been available for over 20 years, and is categorized as a herbal supplement. It has been part of cultural life in the State of Hawaii for many years. Most recently it has been gaining in widespread popularity. Many kava bars have opened up across the nation. Countless people are giving up their nightly glass of wine, beer or cocktail and turning to this interesting tropical root as a more natural means of relaxation.


While Kava and Kratom may be offered alongside one another at your local kava bar and online, it’s important to know the differences. Kratom has shown to be highly beneficial for certain individuals and uses, but can be addictive and could face a future ban by the FDA. Drinking Kava, on the other hand, has no addictive properties, is ingrained in cultural and ceremonial traditions of the countries and islands where it is grown and is gaining in acceptance and popularity as a natural way to relax throughout the U.S.