Kava is often compared to, and sometimes confused with, kratom. You also see kava and kratom next to each other on health food stores the world over.
But there are some important differences between the two…
Location of origin
First things first; kava and kratom originate from different geographical locations and cultural backgrounds.
Kava hails from the Western Pacific islands like Fiji, Vanuatu, and Hawaii, where it has been interwoven into the fabric of the culture since the beginning of the region’s recorded history.
Kratom, on the other hand, is found in Southeast Asia. It is native to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia etc., where it has also been used by the native populations for many years.
Plant of origin
Kava (Piper Methysticum) and kratom (Mitragyna speciose) come from different families of plants – and different parts of the plants are used in their preparation.
Whereas the kava plant is part of the pepper family of plants (its name means ‘intoxicating pepper’), kratom comes from a tropical, evergreen plant in the coffee family.
The preparation of kava is from the roots of the plant, whereas kratom is prepared from the leaves of its plant.
Traditional and modern usage
Kava was traditionally used as a beverage in important ceremonies and to greet visitors, as well as for various health purposes. It was used in religious ceremonies where the village chief might contact the ancestors. Nowadays it is drunk in social gatherings to relax and unwind; it is usually taken either in traditional beverage form, as a pill supplement, or mixed with water from a powder.
Kratom leaves are still sometimes chewed but are more commonly taken in their dried and powdered form, mixed into water to create a cold beverage or the leaves are made into a tea.
Effects of taking it
Both kava and kratom can induce a sense of euphoria, and may boost energy levels; however, kava may also induce feelings of sleepiness, depending on the type and dosage of the kava taken.
Kratom is a psychoactive drug that can boost energy and make people more socially active; larger doses may also act as a sedative.
Kava and Kratom both have effects that lead to recreational use and use for health purposes. Both have long been used as medicine in the native populations, with workers using kratom as a stimulant to relieve exhaustion and pain, and kava being taken as a relaxant, sedative, pain reliever, and to aid sleep.
Nowadays, kava is well proven to relieve stress and is an alternative anti-anxiety treatment; other uses include treatment for muscle pain and it may even be used in cancer treatment in the future.
Potential dangers and health risks
Kava is gaining more widespread acceptance around the world as its health benefits are increasingly being shown to outweigh the risks – especially as an anti-anxiety treatment. Dangers to the liver have been well-publicised but are greatly dependent upon the type and amount of kava taken; the vast majority of people who take high quality kava in moderate doses have no problems.
Kratom, on the other hand, is generally more frowned upon and, in many places, regulations are tightening. In the U.S., there is currently a legal battel over a ban. There is less scientific study on kratom than kava, but it is known that Kratom interacts with the brain differently to kava. It behaves more like an opiate drug, whereas kava works on the GABA receptors; it also stimulates the serotonin and norepinephrine receptors, whereas kava stimulates the dopamine receptors.
This means that kratom can be addictive, unlike kava. It has even been used to wean people off heroine, which may be one of the reasons why it has a more negative reputation than kava.
There you go – kava and kratom in a nutshell! As you can see, there are quite a few similarities, but a couple of important differences to bear in mind.