Kava vs Kratom: Differences & Similarities

The differences and similarities between kratom and kava

Herbal products like kratom and kava are becoming much more popular in the United States. Historically, both of these plants have been reported to produce a variety of effects including euphoria and relief. In light of the many stories about why people are interested in these plants, we still want to see more scientific research about the potential benefits of kratom and kava. Some people confuse kratom and kava, but each plant has its own unique qualities.

Kava Vs. Kratom

Kava, also known as kava-kava and Piper methyscticum, is a native plant of islands in the South Pacific like Polynesia, Micronesia, Fiji. People in those parts of the world have traditionally treated it like both an herbal remedy and a recreational drink. It’s normally said that people seek kava when they want to feel relaxed, relieved, and excited about life.

Kratom is the leaf of the mitragyna speciosa plant, which is in the same family as the coffee tree. It grows naturally in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and other parts of Southeast Asia. People in those parts of the world have chewed, smoked, or brewed kratom leaves for the natural alkaloids in the plant. The effects of kratom alkaloids have been said to include euphoria, relaxation, and relief. Even though some people claim that these two plants are similar, it’s important to recognize the differences between kratom and kava.


Kava is often sold as tincture, powder, or capsules, and the type chosen will affect the best way to prepare kava. Kratom is also sold in a few different formats, but the most popular by far is kratom powder. Traditionally, people have chewed kratom leaves, brewed them like a tea, or smoked them. When you buy kratom powder in the United States, you’re looking at dried and ground leaves from the mitragyna speciosa tree. 

One of the reasons many people confuse kava and kratom is because both have frequently been prepared as drinks. Brewing ground kava root with water results in a murky drink and kratom tea looks very similar. Both of these plants have strong tastes, which is why these drinks are often mixed with other liquids to balance the bitter flavor.

Legal Status

While the legality of kava seems fairly stable, there are many advocates working hard to keep kratom legal in the United States. The DEA announced that it planned to ban kratom in 2016, but never proceeded with that because they were met with such resistance from doctors, lawyers, kratom consumers, and other citizens. The FDA has taken a stance against kratom, but organizations like the American Kratom Organization are calling on the FDA to follow the science and revise their opinion of the plant. The best kratom companies in the United States are staying up to date with our ongoing political battle to keep sales legal.

The United States has been more progressive when it comes to legislation surrounding kava. This may be because some residents of Hawaii, like people from other Pacific Islands, have considered kava to be part of their culture for many years already. The United States recognizes kava as a legal herbal supplement. You may even find kava at your local smoothie store, while most people buy kratom online.

Reported Effects of Kratom and Kava

One of the biggest reasons people buy kratom is because of the way alkaloids interact with opioid receptors in the human body. Prestigious organizations like Johns Hopkins Medicine have published information about the potential benefits and side effects of kratom. A survey of nearly 3,000 people found that most people report buying kratom for the following reasons:

  • 91% of people surveyed buy kratom for physical discomfort.
  • 67% of people buy kratom to improve their mood.
  • 41% of people buy kratom as a plant-based alternative to prescription pills.

Both plants have been reported to have similar effects. Throughout history, people have claimed that kava and kratom may lead to experiences of euphoria, relaxation, and relief. We still want to see more research on both plants before making definitive claims about the benefits of kratom or kava. To understand the differences more completely, it’s important to learn about the chemical differences between kratom and kava.

Pharmacological Differences Between Kratom and Kava

To truly understand why people buy kratom, you need to know what an alkaloid is. Alkaloids are defined as natural organic compounds that contain nitrogen and produce physiological effects on either humans or animals. Many researchers have concluded that kratom alkaloids interact with the human body similarly to anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs. Examples of those drugs include oxycodone, fentanyl, ibuprofen, and even anesthesia drugs.

According to The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, kratom alkaloids (mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine) interact with the delta, kappa, and mu-opioid receptors in humans. The organization even published research stating that 7-hydroxymitragynine in kratom has a “13- and 46-fold higher potency than morphine and mitragynine, respectively.” That statement implies that the mitragyna speciosa leaf has a lot of potentials, which is why we look forward to additional studies.

The most known natural ingredients in kava are called kavalactones. While kavalactones from kava may interact with the limbic system, which is associated with emotion, motivation, and behavior, they’re not believed to bind with opioid receptors the way alkaloids in kratom do. The lack of interaction with opioid receptors may be another reason the FDA doesn’t speak out against kava the way it speaks out against natural kratom (despite the accessibility of prescription opiates in the United States).

Is Kratom Better Than Kava?

The decision to buy kratom or kava is a personal one. We’re not medical professionals, so we won’t claim that one is necessarily better than the other. That said, our staff at In Sense Botanicals is made up of people who regularly advocate on behalf of kratom. We do sell some other herbal products as well, including Incarvillea Sinesis powder, which some people buy instead of kava. 

For the most part, though, we’re in the business of providing fresh, authentic kratom. We want our customers to have access to pure mitragyna speciosa leaf powder without fillers or additives, so we form partnerships with some of the best suppliers in Indonesia. In Sense, Botanicals exists to improve the reputation of kratom by finding quality harvests and selling them legally.

Can I Combine Kava With Kratom?

Because there are some similarities between kava and kratom, many people buy both of them side by side. We’ve heard of some people combining the two plant materials, but that isn’t something we recommend. As pure kratom enthusiasts, we believe it’s best enjoyed by itself, which is how it comes from the ground. 

Choose Your Kratom Supplier Wisely

When you buy kratom from In Sense Botanicals, you’re choosing a product that has been evaluated for quality and purity. We use careful processes and use lab analysis to confirm the purity of our mitragyna speciosa leaf powder. Operating in Placerville, California, we deliver locally and ship the product throughout the United States as federal and local laws allow. Contact us if you have any questions before choosing a product, or shop for kratom online today.

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