Kratom and kava are two natural herbs tranditionally used to increase energy and well-being.
But which one is the best and the safest?
Let’s find out.
What Kratom and kava are
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tropical evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia, that is part of the coffee plant family. It is indigenous to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea, where it has been used in herbal medicine since at least the nineteenth century.
Locals chew the leaves for energy and pain relief. Nowadays it’s more abused for party purposes.
Concern is growing over the rising use of the ‘4×100’ drug cocktail among young Muslims. The 4 ingredients of 4×100 are kratom leaves, cough syrup, Coca-Cola and ice.
The straightforward ingredients for the cooking session are 30 fresh kratom leaves, boiling water, cough syrup and two of the small 240ml cans of Coca-Cola (R).
In the US, Kratom is most commonly sold in its powder form, and to a lesser extent liquid extract. The powder can be used to make Kratom tea, but since Kratom has a strong taste, most people prefer capsules.
Kratom is relatively fast acting. You should feel the effects within 10 minutes and it lasts for a couple of hours.
Some of the alkaloids have a half-life of over 24 hours and it would take about 5-6 days to completely get it out of your system.
The active compounds are alkaloids. The total alkaloid concentration in dried Kratom leaves ranges from 0.5–1.5%. In Thai varieties, mitragynine is the most abundant component (up to 66 % of total alkaloids) while 7-hydroxymitragynine is a minor constituent (up to 2 % of total alkaloid content). The additional alkaloids are only found in minuscule amounts.
Mitragynine has a low oral bioavailability of 3%, with a long half-life of approximately 29 hours following oral ingestion.
Kratom has been illegal in Thailand where it grows since 1943. The original ban was based on the fear that Kratom would reduce Thai government tax revenues from opium distribution. So the ban was not to protect the people from the “harms” of Kratom.
Since the popularity of Kratom has skyrocketed, Kratom bars have been popping up. A Kratom bar is a sort of hybrid between traditional bars, cafes, and smoothie shops. These are hotspots where the kratom community can gather to enjoy beverages infused with their favorite botanical.
Kava (piper methysticum)
The plant is native to Fiji and Indonesia and belongs to the pepper family.
Traditionally, kava root extracts have been prepared with coconut milk and water as a drink for a social gatherings in the Pacific Islands for thousands of years.
In the United States, Kava is consumed as a supplement or even a tea.
Kava contains Kavalactones, with six alone accounting for more than 90 percent of the active natural ingredients in it.
In recent years, Kava Bars in the US have been sprouting in different cities across the country, with Florida leading the pack. Here they serve drinks enriched with kava.
How they work
Most people focus just on the fact that it has pro-opioid effects, but it has many other effects as well.
Here is the list. Kratom:
- Is an alpha-2-adrenergic receptor agonist (similar to clonidine) thus lowering noradrenaline (R). This can help against anxiety, rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure.
- Lowers CRH mRNA receptors during withdrawal (R). CRH promotes the release of ACTH and cortisol. High CRH can lead to high cortisol problems.
- Antagonizes the serotonin 5-HT2A and 2C receptors (R), which will help against depression and anxiety.
- Increases dopamine release and is a dopamine D2 receptor agonist (R, R). This helps to boost mood, motivation, focus, etc.
- Decreases cortisol during a stressful event (R), thus making it a good adaptogen.
- Is an opioid agonist at the μ and κ opioid receptors (R, R). This helps improve mood and reduce pain.
- Is an NMDA antagonist. NMDA antagonists help against depression, anxiety, neurotoxicity and pain.
- Lowers inflammation by inhibiting COX-2 (the same way aspirin lowers inflammation),
- Blocks L-type and T-type calcium channels. This has protective effects on every tissue of the body, for example, the brain, heart, liver, etc. (R)
- Enhanced coherence between all brain regions which helps put you more in a flow state (R).
So in summary, Kratom is far more than just an opioid receptor agonist. It also has a mood uplifting, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, adaptogens and body protective benefits.
Here are a few of the known mechanisms. Kava:
- Has pro-GABA effects (via blockade of voltage-gated sodium ion channels), which can help against depression and anxiety (R).
- Enhanced ligand binding to GABA receptors (R)
- Reduced excitatory neurotransmitter release via blockade of calcium ion channels (R)
- Inhibits monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B), thus inhibiting the breakdown of dopamine.
- Inhibits the reuptake of dopamine and noradrenaline, thus prolonging the time it has to exert its actions.
- Inhibits MOA-A, thus inhibiting the breakdown of serotonin and dopamine (R, R).
- Inhibits the glycine receptor (R).
- Inhibits COX-2, similar to aspirin (R).
In summary, kava has GABA-ergic and dopaminergic effects, which are great for boosting mood and energy, while making you relaxed (not in a sedative way) at the same time.
The positive effects of the root are attributed to Kavalactones, which interact with the limbic system, the brain region highly associated with motivation, emotions, and emotional behavior.
Kratom vs kava for sleep
Both Kratom and Kava can improve sleep quality.
Kratom on sleep quality
High stress and pain are 2 big factors that can disrupt sleep quality.
Kratom helps to reduce stress (lower noradrenaline and cortisol) and pain, which can help to improve sleep quality.
Small doses of Kratom are more likely to increase your energy (mild stimulating effect) whereas higher doses can have more of a relaxation effect (R).
I’ve used both small and large doses without noticing too much of a difference in terms of sleep quality.
Kava on sleep quality
Kava supplementation has been shown to improve sleep quality and produces distinct muscle relaxation likely through its GABA-ergic effects (R).
Anything pro-GABA should help with relaxation and improve sleep quality.
Other common GABA-ergic herbs that can also help to improve sleep quality are Valerian root, passionflower, Lemon balm, etc.
Kratom vs kava for euphoric effects
Both Kratom and Kava can give you feelings of euphoria.
Kratom and euphoria
Kratom can enhance euphoria through its pro-dopaminergic and opioid and anti-cortisol, NMDA and inflammatory properties.
Opioids are known to induce euphoria. That’s why heroin and other opioids, like fentanyl, are widely abused.
Not all dopaminergic drugs induce euphoria, but boosting dopamine, in general, can make you feel better.
Anything that lowers excess cortisol, glutamate (NMDA agonist) and inflammation in the brain will boost your mood and shift you more toward and euphoric state.
Even small doses of Kratom (1/2 a teaspoon) can boost my mood and the effects are most noticeable when I’m out in nature. Things seem more bright and clear. A few times when I used Kratom and went to the beach on a warm day, it felt like a low dose of magic mushroom.
Kava and euphoria
Traditionally, kava has been used in a social setting to boost mood and induce a state of slight euphoria.
The boost in dopamine and GABA is mostly responsible for this.
Kratom vs kava for being social
When you’re social, you want to take in information, process it quickly and then respond in an appropriate way.
Often times we’re feeling too anxious, stuck in our heads or just not in a flow state and this makes socialization very difficult.
Kratom can help calm down hyperarousal (so that you’re more engaged), stop rumination (get you out of your head) and reduce anxiety, all of which help with disinhibition and enhances sociability (R).
The other interesting benefit of Kratom is that it enhanced coherence between all brain regions which helps put you more in a flow state (R).
Conversation is all about being in a flow state. Taking in information, processing it and then generating a response. The better connected your brain regions are, the smoother this process will flow.
Kratom disinhibits you. So that you can listen and speak without falling over your own thoughts.
Kratom users describe increased sociability and empathy, feeling happiness, well-being, mellowness, being able to relax, a mental calm with no loss of clarity, having more energy, increased desire to work, and a strong desire to communicate with loved ones (R).
Kava also helps to enhance sociability mainly via its dopaminergic and GABA-ergic effects. Dopamine helps with focus, motivation and social skills.
People with low dopamine, like autistic individuals, have reduced social skills.
Alcohol and phenibut are both known for dramatically enhancing social skills. Both do so via their GABA-ergic and dopaminergic effects.
Some compounds make you too chill and thus reduce the desire to be social. Both kava and kratom have slight stimulating effects, so it doesn’t necessarily make you sedated.
A good example of excess sedation is when you smoked too much weed.
Kratom vs kava to chill
Stress, feeling hyperaroused, rumination, obsessing, being in your head, etc, can all prevent proper relaxation and the ability to chill.
Kratom for chill
Kratom can help calm down hyperarousal, stop rumination and reduce stress, all of which can help you chill better.
Plus, its pro-dopamine and opioid effects can help you enjoy it more when you chill.
The combination of GABA modulation and increased dopaminergic and noradrenergic activation of kava contributes to feelings of physical relaxation with increased hedonic tone (pleasure and enjoyment), with no deleterious effects on cognition (R).
Kratom vs kava for pain
Kratom for pain
This is one of kratom’s biggest reasons for use. Higher doses are likely to be more effective than lower doses.
The main pain-killing mechanisms of kratom are the 1) pro-opioid effects, 2) its ability to block excitatory calcium channels and 3) glutamate signaling and 4) lower inflammation.
From my experience, using 1/2 tsp of kratom is enough for a good pain-killing effect. When you exercise a lot, you tend to feel more achy and still. Kratom helps to eliminate that so that you can perform maximally without inhibition.
Kava for pain
Kava can help relax muscles and reduce pain through its GABA-ergic effects (which help reduce neurological hyperstimulation) and by lowering inflammation (R). It doesn’t have any opioid effects like Kratom.
Kratom vs Kava for Anxiety
Kratom for anxiety
Some people use kratom to help manage symptoms of anxiety, as it is believed to have relaxing and calming effects.
However, there is limited scientific research on the effectiveness of kratom for anxiety. Some studies have suggested that kratom may have anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects, while others have found no significant effects.
Kava for anxiety
One of the main benefits of kava is its ability to reduce anxiety. Most of the benefits are likely due to its GABA-ergic effects.
The therapeutic effect of kava is based on the six major lipophilic kavalactones, of which kawain and dihydrokawain have the strongest anxiolytic activity
The benefits are dose-dependent, so if you don’t feel anything at 300mg, try a higher dose (R).
Some studies show that it’s a good alternative to tricyclic antidepressants and benzodiazepines for anxiety disorders, with proven long-term efficacy and none of the tolerance problems associated with those drugs (R).
Can they be taken together?
Yes as they can have many similar benefits.
Both Kratom and Kava are dopaminergic, whereas Kava is GABA-ergic and Kratom has pro-opioid effects.
Although they have similar effects, they also have key differences, which makes them great for pairing.
The company Botanictonics did exactly that and their product Feel Free has 504 five-star ratings out of 583 ratings so far.
Can they be addictive?
Since Kratom is pro-opioid and dopamine while blocking calcium channels, the slight euphoria can become addictive. Who wants to go to being depressed right? It’s just normal to become addicted to something that makes you feel better. For example, exercise, sunlight, warm showers, food, etc.
Kava can make you feel slightly euphoric, but since it doesn’t have the same pro-opioid effects as Kratom, people generally don’t get addicted to it.
Downsides of Kratom and Kava
- Risk of addiction in susceptible individuals. Some people use it to treat opioid addiction, but end up getting addicted to Kratom.
- It can have withdrawal symptoms if you’ve taken large doses for a long time (don’t be stupid and abuse it).
- Might increase prolactin due to its opioid effect. However, unlike opioids, there have been no reported effects of respiratory depression or opioid toxic syndrome with the use of kratom alone (R).
- Might lower testosterone. One study has shown that 9-10g of Kratom daily doesn’t lower testosterone, but everyone is different.
- GI upset and dizziness are the most commonly observed side effects.
There are no real side effects so Kava except headaches, which was to most commonly reported side effect.
Previously kava has been thought to cause liver damage, but the traditional aqueous extracts in the Pacific region have not been shown to be an issue (R).
Additionally, Kava doesn’t have the same addictive potential as Kratom and can actually help lower the risk of various cancers including bladder cancer, lung cancer, prostate and others (R).
I like the effects of Kratom. I’ve tried both high doses and low doses and prefer low doses, to minimize the potential for an increase in prolactin.
Some of the main benefits I notice include:
- Feeling slightly euphoric (especially when in nature)
- Increases energy levels (which I notice the most when out and about)
- Calming effects
- Relaxing effects
- Helping with premature ejaculation
- Mild pain-killing effects
- More creativity (especially when outside)
- Less inhibition, especially when doing daring things, like tricking, etc.
I personally haven’t noticed any addictive effects, but then again, I don’t use it daily or in high doses. I haven’t noticed any sedative effects, but that’s likely because I’m using a light-colored strain. There are many Kratom strains out there and it’s generally believed that white kratom is the most energizing and focusing, whereas green kratom is the middle ground and milder, and red kratom is more sedating. I’ve only ever used the green strain, which is likely why I get a mix of the benefits, which I like.
I haven’t used kava before, but would like to do so, especially in combination with Kratom.
Good articles that will help improve how you feel:
- The ultimate guide on how to maximize your testosterone
- The ultimate guide on how to maximize your DHT
- The ultimate guide on how to maximize your dopamine
- How to become hypersexual naturally
>1000ng/dl Testosterone: My Step-by-Step Guide on How I Do It Naturally!