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Kratom Vs. Kava – What Are Their Similarities And Differences, And Which One Is Right For You?

Pharmaceuticals don’t always have to be the answer when it comes to reducing anxiety or achieving a relaxed state. Botanical options such as kratom and kava are also viable options and are available without the need for a prescription.  

Both substances are extracts made from tropical plants that have been widely used in folk and naturopathic medicine in Asian Pacific regions to manage pain and elevate mood. They have gained popularity worldwide in recent years because of their mood-enhancing effects and each performs similar functions, so they may seem interchangeable.

However, there are notable differences between kratom and kava that give them their own specialties and distinct use cases.  Here, I’ll discuss their similarities and differences in full and help you decide which one is best for your intended health outcome.

Kava And Kratom – What Are They, And Why Do People Use Them?

Kava (also known as kava-kava) is an extract made from the root of the kava plant, which is in the pepper family. The active chemical in kava is kavalactones which help in short-circuiting your body’s response to stress.

Kava extract comes in capsules or powder and can be steeped as tea. Its use has been popular in Pacific Island cultures for generations and nowadays you can find kava bars in most major cities within the United States.  

Kratom is a compound from the leaves of a tree from the coffee family. It’s sold as capsules and as a powder that can be stirred into drinks. It helps alleviate pain by activating the opioid receptors in your brain and spinal cord—the same receptors targeted by opiates and morphine.  

People use both kava and kratom for relaxation, mood enhancement, and pain relief in place of prescription medications and other recreational substances. Since kava and kratom are classified as dietary supplements, they’re available over the counter which makes them easy to purchase.   

Kratom Vs. Kava – How Do They Compare?

Though both substances are plant-based and can be taken for similar conditions, there are distinct differences between the effects produced by kratom and kava. While both induce a relaxation response, kratom is a psychoactive substance with a mind-altering impact on some users.

All strains of kava produce the same relaxed sense of euphoria and pain relief. The same can’t be said for kratom, which comes in different strains that produce their own effect.

Some create more of a stimulant response (usually white), while others create more of a sedative response (generally red or green). It’s important to understand these differences when deciding which version of kratom is best for your specific needs.

Dosage is also an important factor in determining which effect you’ll get from kratom, which makes it a slightly more temperamental substance than kava. 

Kratom Vs. Kava Effects

Kratom has varying effects, depending on the dosage taken.

At a lower dose, kratom acts as a mood booster and a stimulant that is similar to caffeine. Higher doses of kratom cause a narcotic effect that induces relaxation and, in some instances, has been shown to alleviate withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid use.

However, kratom can have the exact opposite of its intended effects if the user does not pay careful attention to dosage.  

Kava also brings about a relaxation response without the usual drop in mental acuity that can come from prescription narcotics. It can help make interactions easier without making you feel loopy or dizzy, and this is a much-desired effect for users dealing with anxiety, especially in social settings where behavior is key.     

Kava Vs. Kratom For Euphoria 

Since both kratom and kava can provide feelings of euphoria that help relieve anxiety, they’re each a worthy choice for altering mood and helpfully reducing stress.

Kava brings about a sense of well-being and has the added benefit of alleviating physical symptoms related to stress, such as muscle spasms and tension.  

Kratom also assists with mood elevation as a pain reliever by behaving chemically similar to opiates. This allows it to sometimes be used in place of pain medication, and it is an essential element in mood-boosting.

Kratom’s euphoric effects, however, happen at a higher dosage which means more of it is required to reach the proper concentration and achieve the intended euphoric feeling. 

Kava Vs. Kratom For Sleep

When it comes to choosing a sleep aid, the effects produced by both kava and kratom can be of great assistance.

Kratom contains alkaloids which are herbal compounds that alleviate physical pain and help your brain and body relax which can help prepare you for sleep. Higher doses can produce a feeling of euphoria, which can also put you in a relaxed pre-sleep state.  Since various strains are available, some produce a better sleep-inducing effect than others.

The sedative effect of kava is also beneficial when regulating your sleep habits. It reduces your anxiety and puts you in a feel-good state of mind that makes for a perfect wind-down sensation at the end of the day. And since kava acts as a relaxant at any dosage, you don’t need to take extra as you do with kratom to attain helpful pre-sleep relaxation.

Kava Or Kratom – Which Is Best For You?

Despite the similarities between kratom and kava, your intended use can help you determine the right supplement for your needs.

If you’re looking for a natural way to alleviate your anxiety and manage your stress levels, then the proper dosage of kava can give you these desired effects. Kava can elevate your mood and gently relax you without causing you to feel sluggish. It can also assist you in achieving a good night’s sleep.  

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a pick-me-up that can boost your energy levels, then the right strain of kratom is for you. However, it also does double-duty in higher doses as a pain reliever and as a relaxant when you’re ready for sleep, making kratom a multi-faceted supplement.

Since both substances can result in adverse side effects or interact with certain medications, be sure to consult your doctor before taking kratom or kava to make sure you’re in the right physical and mental state to try them.  

Make sure to read our article on where to find the best kava, or check out our kratom reviews!


Editor’s note: we are regularly updating this review. If you see any problems, weird interpretations of the data, or just want to say hi, please reach out to hello@the-unwinder.com.

Photo by Maria on Unsplash

About the author

Christine is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with an undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. Her passion is helping others learn how strong and healthy they can become by transforming their daily habits. Christine spends most of her time in the gym and learning how she can influence others through positivity!

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