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Kava vs Kratom

Kava and kratom are plants found in the South Pacific. They are both are used in Thailand’s social, religious, and ceremonial celebrations to create a state of altered consciousness and relaxation.

When taken in small doses, the two substances can appear to have minor benefits, but when taken in larger doses they can cause severe health threats. Recently, there’s been a growing concern about using the substances.

So, how do the two compare? And what do they have in common?

Here’s what you need to know about kava vs kratom.

What is Kava?

Other than a plant that’s used in Thailand cultural ceremonies, what exactly is kava? And what are the effects of it? Kava, or kava kava as it’s more commonly known, is a shrub. Most often, a paste is made from the plant’s root and it’s mixed with either water or coconut milk.

When its juice is extracted, it can be used as an herbal remedy to reduce stress and anxiety and aid with sleep. Some people say it’s euphoric and relaxing effect is similar to that of alcohol.

Clinical studies suggest that it could be helpful in treating anxiety, stress and anxiety symptoms including muscle tension, spasms and headaches.

Although there are notable health benefits, kava kava can cause serious liver damage. Some countries have gone so far as banning any products that contain it. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions against using it.

Due to the dangers, it’s recommended that people try other herbal remedies if they’re searching for ways to relieve anxiety or promote sleep.

What is Kratom?

Kratom is an herb found in Thailand. It’s often used in cough syrups due to a compound known as mitragynine. Mitragynine is the main psychoactive ingredient that affects opioid receptors in ways similar to morphine. It can dull pain substantially.

In addition to a pain relief substance, it’s also being studied as an energy booster, a way to increase focus and attention, a possible immune system booster, a sexual stimulate and a treatment for people who experience anxiety.

Differences between Kava and Kratom

Though kava and kratom have some similarities, they affect the brain differently. Although it’s not an opiate itself, kratom affects the brain in similar ways, making it easily addictive. Kava, on the other hand, is not.

Kava interacts with a person’s limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls emotions and motivation. Unlike kratom, kava is not an opiate agonist and therefore doesn’t pose the same risk for addiction.

Dangers of Kava Use

Kava abuse can lead to serious consequences including:

  • Severe liver damage
  • Dry and scaly skin
  • Yellow skin and eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Dark urine
  • Depression

Even short-term use (1 to 3 months) can lead to those side effects and result in a need for a liver transplant or, in some cases, death.

Dangers of Kratom Use

Kratom abuse can also lead to dangerous health consequences. Some of those consequences include:

  • Dependence
  • Darker skin
  • A frequent need to urinate
  • Constipation
  • Dryness in the mouth
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Addiction
  • Withdrawal symptoms (e.g., fatigue, nausea, mood swings, hallucinations, anxiety, along with muscle and bone pain)

If a teenager you know lives with a kratom addiction, contact Next Generation Village. Personalized treatment programs cater to teenager’s unique needs. Help them ensure their future is a healthy one, call today.


National Institute of Health. “Kava” November 20, 2018. Accessed May 18, 2019.

Kandola, Aaron. “Kava kava: Benefits and safety concerns.” Medical News Daily, December 17, 2018. Accessed May 18, 2019.

Soto, Pela. “Kava Kava: Calming but Potentially Toxic.” Poison Control, Accessed May 18, 2019.

NIDA. “Drug Facts: Kratom.” April 8, 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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