Kava vs Kratom: Differences & Similarities
Despite the pharmaceutical industry producing more and more products each year, it’s often herbal products that attract society’s attention. One of these products is Kava, which we discuss in detail below. You’ll be fascinated by some of the feedback and if you’re already using products like Kratom it’s important to find out if Kava will complement your experience. We compiled the research so you can simply learn and enjoy.
What is Kava?
Kava is the term most people use to refer to this product, but other names that you’ll come across in certain areas like Fiji or Hawaii include:
The word ‘Kava’ refers to ‘bitter’ in the Tongan and Marquesan language and that’s exactly what this product is: bitter. Unfortunately, it’s not the best tasting natural product you’ll ever try.
It’s scientific name is Piper methysticum, which refers to ‘Pepper’ and ‘intoxicating’. These words refer to the family it comes from, since Kava plants are related to the family of pepper plants.
Kava plants are mostly indigenous to areas in the Western Pacific and the powder you’ll buy from vendors today is made from the roots of the plant.
Kava can have different effects on a user, such as causing sedation, serving as an anesthetic or leading to mild euphoria. It’s the kavapyrones and kavalactones—active ingredients in the Kava root—that cause these effects. The level of its impact depends on how much you consume and also the person, since some users report that using Kava has the same impact as consuming alcohol.
Is Kava Legal?
For its beneficial applications it’s good news that the answer to ‘is Kava legal?’ is a resounding ‘yes’. It’s sold as a dietary or food supplement and can be purchased legally across the United States.
However, there are areas where its use is regulated. In the EU a temporary ban was placed on importing the substance. This happened in 2002. Later on in 2014, the ban was overturned, making it legal to sell the product as a medicinal substance, but note that it is still very strictly regulated.
In Australia and New Zealand you can legally use it and even transport it into the country, as long as you abide by strict regulations, such as only carrying a maximum of 4kg of Kava into New Zealand at a time.
How is Kava Used?
Kava comes in a diverse range of forms, including:
- Tinctures that have the Kava already dissolved in alcohol
- Powders that need to be mixed with a liquid
- Teas, a popular version you’ll find in cafes
Powder is a popular option and the process of making your drink involves the following:
- Drying the root
- Griding up the root
- Mixing the powder with water
- Letting the mixture steep
- Straining the liquid to get a brownish tea
Many prefer mixing it with milk or coconut milk or even some cinnamon in order to have a more palatable drink.
In any of these scenarios, the active ingredients will have an effect on your brain. Or rather it kind of bypasses the brain and can have an effect on your nervous system to counter pain and other conditions. Because there’s not much impact on the brain itself, your brain will usually still be clear, instead of making you feel unfocused.
Overall, this impact can result in feelings of relaxation, calmness and even a sense of happiness.
Other uses of Kava include:
- Helping users sleep easier
- Treating PMS
- Using it to manage stress and anxiety
- On occasion it may be used on the skin itself to help wounds heal and manage pain
Are there different strains of Kava?
So, are there different strains of Kava and if so, how many?
Yes, but firstly understand that there are noble and non-noble strains. Only noble strains are usually exported, with producing countries preventing the distribution of the latter strains. This is because of the kavalactones in the non-noble plants not having ideal compositions and there may even be harmful flavokavains that shouldn’t be consumed.
In terms of the noble strains, you’ll usually come across strains that are neither very weak or too overpowering in terms of its effects on you, because these are the strains mostly exported. These strains’ effects won’t last very long, making them practical for informal consumption at bars or cafes with friends.
Different strains will have different kavalactones, such as kavain, methysticin or yangonin. Kava strains’ names often incorporate the place of origin’s local name for Kava. Popular strains include:
A noble strain of Kava is safe to enjoy on a daily basis.
In its countries of origin, a non-noble strain called Tudei is used during local ceremonies, but since it’s non-noble Kava, it won’t be exported.
How do the effects of Kava compare to the effects of kratom?
In general, users will pick Kava and Kratom for similar reasons, often to handle stress or anxiety. As already mentioned, Kava is a practical solution for this since it effectively helps you experience a sense of calm. A mild euphoric experience is also possible and users may feel less socially inhibited. Physically, there may be a reduction in body pain and muscle tension. But know that this is relatively short lived because of the types of strains that are legally exported.
In a similar fashion, you can use Kratom to manage stress, but how much you consume will determine what you experience:
- Low dosages can lead to having more energy and even becoming hyperactive. In addition, feeling agitated is also a possibility. This is similar to consuming coffee, which makes sense since Kratom plants are related to coffee plants.
- A higher dosage will have quite a different result, resulting in euphoria and you can even enter a dream-like condition. Therefore, your mind won’t be as clear as users of Kava report to experience. In part this is because Kratom is a psychoactive substance.
Over time you’re likely to build up a tolerance for Kratom, so you’ll need more to enjoy the same effect. And, if you were to stop using it, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms.
Does Kava and Kratom look alike?
Firstly, know that the Kava and Kratom plants look different since they come from different families, so there’s no chance of confusing the two.
With Kratom you get a wide variety of strains, grouped into red, white and green strains, so there are many colors in product lines. Kava can be any shade between yellow and brown, so you may be able to distinguish between certain types of Kava and Kratom.
Both products can be sold as capsules, which will make it difficult to tell them apart and since the powders are both fine after grinding them up, it’s best to label your products very clearly.
Which is safer, Kava or Kratom?
When you consider which is safer, Kava or Kratom, there are different scenarios to consider.
Is your safety concern making the wrong decisions while in a euphoric state? This could be possible while using either product, though some users enjoy the clarity of mind that comes when you take the right amount of Kava.
Another concern may be the danger of becoming addicted. Because of the different composition and compounds of Kava and Kratom, it’s also more likely to become addicted to Kratom while Kava doesn’t carry much risk of this. Kava doesn’t contain opioid agonists as Kratom does, which explains the different impact and addictiveness. However, as long as Kratom is used in moderation, your reliance on it won’t be much different than what you experience with coffee.
With Kratom, some experts have a concern for the health of users’ livers, although moderate use shouldn’t lead to adverse effects.
Does Kava taste better than Kratom?
For most people, Kava will be the less agreeable substance when it comes to taste. Although fresh parts of the plant may be tastier, the tea made with Kava powder has a muddy look and also carries an earthy taste. Many people prefer adding flavorants to this, whether you pick mint leaves, cinnamon or even fruit juice.
While Kratom is still not the tastiest supplement on the market, many users drink it after mixing it with only water. The taste often resembles a very strong type of tea.
What's the dosage of kava vs kratom?
You can make a pot of Kava tea and simply enjoy the effects of the substance, drinking more tea if you feel it’s necessary. A capsule usually contains between 50mg and 100mg, while experts advise that you don’t consume more than 250mg a day.
In terms of Kratom, remember that your dosage must align with your desired effect. If you only want to experience the stimulant effect, you need to stick to a small dosage. For the euphoric, dream-like state you’ll need a higher dosage but be careful not to take too much. For example, if you’re taking capsules you must only take more than one or two after you’ve given it time to enter your bloodstream. Only take more if you don’t feel the desired effect after quite a few minutes.
Also remember that your body may become used to the effects of Kratom over time. So, the dosage you take today may not be enough in future. And don’t forget that different strains have different impacts on your body, so you need to alter your dosage according to your response to the substance.
For a mid-sized dosage of an average strength Kratom strain, try +/- 7g at a time to get you started.
How much does kava cost compared to kratom?
In most cases you’ll find that Kava is more expensive than Kratom. The price of Kava did rise over the years though this may change if the products become more popular and widely available.
Your expenses also depend on how much of each product you need. If you use much more Kratom to obtain a certain effect, you may end up paying more for your monthly Kratom needs than for Kava. But when cost/kg is compared, Kava is definitely the pricier product.
Can or should you combine kava and kratom?
There’s always some risk involved when you mix different herbal products, especially if some of them are psychoactive products, as is the case with Kratom. For example, side effects may become amplified when you combine it with Kava. However, many users enjoy the effects of mixing Kratom with Kava, in order to get the best of both products.
For some people, it’s best to mix more Kava into the drink than Kratom, like a 4:1 ratio. But others prefer mixing equal parts or even slightly more Kratom than Kava. It’s all about what effect you’re after. For many the attraction is the combination of feeling relaxed but not feeling tired as well.
An important aspect to consider is exactly how you combine the products. Since Kava is quite bitter, even if you usually don’t mix anything with your Kratom, you may want to add other spices or products to create a more enjoyable drink.
You can mix the two substances in a blender with milk, or first take the Kratom drink and then follow it soon after with Kava tea. Just remember to eat something afterwards. Alternatively, strain your Kava first for 10-15 minutes and then add your Kratom along with any flavorants you prefer.
Just be careful not to overdo these mixes. If you drink a mixture of the two substances too often it could cause renal problems.
So, are you ready to add any of these natural products—Kratom or Kava—to your monthly grocery list? Look for a Kava café near you or visit your nearest Wholefoods and you too can enjoy the benefits of this root that’s legal to consume in the US and becoming more popular.
Have any questions about Kratom and Kava products? Please share your thoughts in our comments.