Kava and Kratom are two natural substances people have started turning to when depression and anxiety are common.
Kava, or kava kava, is a plant belonging to the Pacific Islands. The natives use the plant to make a drink that relaxes them. Kratom is a tree native to South Asian countries and belongs to the coffee family. You can use the leaves for their sedative properties.
In this article, we’ll explore the differences between kava and kratom.
Table of Contents
Kava vs. Kratom For Sleep
While it is common for most people to think that Kava vs. Kratom will have similar effects, they have some significant differences that set them apart. One of them includes sleeping patterns.
Kava has calming effects, so it is an alternative to sleeping medication. A study revealed that Kava effectively alleviated insomnia and stress in 24 people. Researchers compared this effect with that of a placebo to reach these results. 
Even though Kratom is also used to reduce stress and anxiety, it doesn’t cause drowsiness. Kratom makes one active and sociable rather than sleepy if consumed within the recommended dosage. However, a larger dose of 10 to 25 grams of dried Kratom leaves can lead to calmness, drowsiness, and euphoria. This effect lasts for about 6 hours.
Kava vs. Kratom: Benefits
Kava vs. Kratom share similarities since they benefit people with anxiety, stress, and depression. Kava calms down the user, while Kratom acts as a stimulant and increases energy levels.
Kava and Kratom are mainly used as natural ways to reduce anxiety. However, the US Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved Kratom as an antidepressant. While using Kava in research, researchers observed that the plant could reduce anxiety in people much better than medication. Moreover, it has none of the side effects of that antidepressant pills.
Another study of the Kava plant extract revealed that it was a better alternative to antidepressants and anxiety-controlling drugs. 
Kratom is considered a dietary supplement and is not regulated by the FDA. While it isn’t an opioid, it has similar effects to opioids like morphine. Mitragynine is the main ingredient in Kratom. This element combines with opioid receptors in the brain to reduce pain and anxiety.
However, very little research has been conducted using Kratom for relieving anxiety. Some users did claim that they experienced an improvement in mood and a decrease in anxiety after using Kratom. If used in larger doses, it may also have sedative effects.
Kratom also has other benefits and can reduce pain, fatigue, muscle aches, high blood pressure, diarrhea, opioid addiction withdrawal, and even PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Kavalactones found in Kava also significantly affect the body, including protecting neurons from damage, decreasing pain sensations, and reducing cancer risk. 
Kava vs. Kratom: Differences
Despite some similarities, Kava and Kratom are completely different substances consumed for different benefits. While Kava is mostly used to promote sleep and reduce anxiety in people, Kratom has similar effects to opioids.
Moreover, since Kava doesn’t make people feel addicted to it, there is little risk of people depending on it. Kratom, on the other hand, can be used as an alternative to addictive drugs, which can increase the risk of tolerance and dependence. 
Kava is legal to use across the USA, while Kratom is on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s ‘drug of concerns’ list. There are currently 6 states that have completely banned Kratom, while some counties in certain states have put restrictions on it.
Kava vs. Kratom: Side Effects
Even though both components are sourced naturally, they come with a list of side effects. Kava is highly popular for reducing anxiety among people.
However, during the early 2000s, several cases of liver toxicity came up due to kava consumption. Shortly after this, the US Food and Drug Administration showed concern about liver damage due to Kava products. 
The enzymes that break down Kava in the liver also break down other medications and drugs. Kava then combines with these enzymes and prevents them from breaking down other drugs, leading to a severe liver build-up.
Another cause of concern is the adulteration of the plant. The root of the kava plant can be used to make products, but some companies use the stem and leaves, which can cause liver damage.
Kratom is relatively easier to use for people but also has multiple side effects, which include:
- Dry mouth
- More urination
- Mood swings
There may also be some serious cases, such as increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, insomnia, decreased appetite, liver and kidney problems, psychosis, and poor memory. Kratom is also known to interact with alcohol and other substances, which can lead to fatal situations.
A Kratom overdose may also cause death and coma. A sudden stop in using Kratom also leads to withdrawal symptoms, increasing anxiety and depression in people.
Is Kava The Same As Kratom?
Kava and Kratom are extracted from plants and used to decrease stress in people. However, they are completely different and have different impacts on the body. Kratom is more likely to increase addiction due to its opioid properties and the part of the brain it triggers.
On the other hand, Kava acts as an antidepressant and aids in sleeping by calming people down. It is also not addictive. So Kava and Kratom serve different purposes and are not the same things.
Kava and Kratom might be natural and plant-based, but they have risks attached. Since not much research has been conducted on either substance, there isn’t much evidence. However, if you have to use both or either of them, ask your doctor before consumption and check if it interacts with any medication or drugs you already use.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- Wheatley D. (2001). Stress-induced insomnia treated with kava and valerian: singly and in combination. Human psychopharmacology, 16(4), 353–356. https://doi.org/10.1002/hup.299
- Pittler, M. H., & Ernst, E. (2003). Kava extract for treating anxiety. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (1), CD003383. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD003383
- Tzeng, Y. M., & Lee, M. J. (2015). Neuroprotective properties of kavalactones. Neural regeneration research, 10(6), 875–877. https://doi.org/10.4103/1673-5374.158335
- Pantano, F., Tittarelli, R., Mannocchi, G., Zaami, S., Ricci, S., Giorgetti, R., Terranova, D., Busardò, F. P., & Marinelli, E. (2016). Hepatotoxicity Induced by “the 3Ks”: Kava, Kratom and Khat. International journal of molecular sciences, 17(4), 580. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17040580
- LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; 2012-. Kava Kava. [Updated 2018 Apr 10]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548637/
- Gounder R. (2006). Kava consumption and its health effects. Pacific health dialog, 13(2), 131–135.