What walks like kratom, talks like kratom, even looks like kratom but isn’t? Yes, you guessed it right! Kava. While both these herbs are found side by side in most kava bars and in stores, they are anything but similar. The origin of both these herbs are worlds apart and while they have a lot of similarities, an expert would know that they are distinct in all the ways that matter. When it comes to Kava Vs. Kratom, there are a few things you should keep in mind. In this article, we will discuss what makes these herbs seem alike and what sets them apart. From their origin to their colorful effects and all the ways you can take them for all the different uses, we will discuss everything you need to know about Kava and Kratom.
Origin: Where Do They Come From?
Kratom: East Culture
Kratom or botanically known as Mitragyna Speciosa originates from a tropical, evergreen tree in the coffee family. This herb is native to the Southeast Asian regions, most prominently Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo, etc. For thousands of years, it has been a part of their culture before making its way to the west. According to many user experiences, farmers and workers use this herb to ward off exhaustion and stress.
Kava: West Culture
As opposed to kratom, Kava or botanically known as Methysticum is a plant that originates from the pepper family after grinding the roots of the perennial shrub. The native areas are based in the west most prominently the Western Pacific. Among these areas are Fiji, Vanuatu, Hawaii, Micronesia, and Papua New Guinea. An interesting aspect of Kava used in these areas is that they are consumed prior to any religious ceremony or ritual.
Method: How Are They Consumed?
Despite their underlying differences, both Kava and Kratom can be consumed in a similar fashion. Traditionally, users would directly chew the kratom leaves. Kava leaves were chewed into a pulp and then spat into the water. Nowadays, things have changed significantly and people no longer use the same methods. Users now prefer to ground them into fine powder. The most popular way of ingesting this powder is by the “toss-and-wash” method. Some store-runners also pack them into capsules to take without having to repeatedly measure the doses. In a more innovative style, kratom, and kava can be added to tea, smoothies, and other potentiators such as apple cider vinegar or citric juices. To mask the taste, you can even bake them into cakes or any dessert you would like!
Varieties: What Are Their Types?
Kratom: The Four Strains
Kratom has a wide range of strains categorized according to the veins of their leaves. Each strain has a distinct benefit and can be used in combination with other strains. These strains include White Vein Kratom, Red Vein Kratom, Green Vein Kratom, and Maeng Da Kratom. The most popular strain to use for kick-starting your day with a boost of energy is the White Vein Kratom. It enhances focus, concentration, and provides you with energy to take on the day. Red Vein Kratom is best known for its calming properties and people claim to use it for mitigating anxiety. Many claim that they are strong painkillers and relax the body almost immediately. Green Vein Kratom is all-in-one and has the effects of both the white and red strains. According to user experience, Maeng Da Kratom helped release their muscle tension and reduced pain.
Kava: The Three Categories
There are three categories of kava. Heady varieties create a clear-headed calm and slight boost of energy. Heavy kavas have more of a sedative effect, and Balanced have mixed effects.
Cultivation: How Are They Grown?
The plant Mitragyna Speciosa requires hot and humid conditions to grow which makes Southeast Asia a strong contender for its cultivation. The most treasured part of the plant is its leaves. The good thing is that since the plant is a tropical evergreen, it is present throughout the year. Mature leaves keep falling off the tree and are replaced by new ones. Once the farmers decide that it is the right time to harvest the leaves, they are cut down and thoroughly washed to remove dirt, debris, or any hazardous compounds. After this, they are dried and ground.
When it comes to kava cultivation, the cultivation can be a little complicated due to the initial sterility of the plant and the inability of the female flowers to produce either seeds or fruit. Kava farmers have to use propagation to plant and grow new kava plants. Each kava plant has to be specifically cultivated from a node on a segment of the stalk.
Pharmacology: What Are They Made Of?
On a biochemical level, Kava and Kratom are especially distinct in terms of their constituents and their mechanism of action.
Kratom: Claimed Opioid Agonist
The principal active alkaloids in kratom are mitragynine and 7-hydroxy mitragynine. Pharmacologically, it is claimed to be an opioid agonist and dopaminergic in nature. Most people believe that the mechanism of action behind kratom is that their alkaloids interact with the opioid receptors in the brain which is a system that decides how you respond to pain. People believe that these constituents act like morphine and produce the effects of a natural pain reliever.
Kava: Claimed Gabaergic
The active constituent of kava is kavalactones, particularly desmethoxyangonin. Pharmacologically, it is claimed to act as a GABAergic and these compounds depend heavily on their interaction with GABA. The GABA system is a central element of the nervous system which acts as a “brake pedal” for neurological activity. Biochemically, many people believe that it slows down the transmission of electrical signals in the nerves to relieve symptoms of anxiety, hyperactivity, hysteria, and muscle spasms. Although, no such medical findings have yet been proven. People say that kava works through this system by attaching to the GABA receptors to make them more receptive to the GABA already in our system. According to user experience, it promotes the feeling of calmness and tranquility.
Legality: Are They Legal?
Kratom: Conflict in Acceptance
Currently, kratom is undergoing a legal struggle that is both heated and complicated due to the conflict of interests. In the United States, it remains a “drug of concern” for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The decision to make it illegal has been deferred to individual states and countries.
Kava: Keen on Acceptance
In contrast to kratom, kava is getting worldwide acceptance as a safe and natural herb. In the United States, it has been legal and available for over 20 years. It is sold at stores and smoke shops as a herbal supplement. Kava is banned in Germany and Switzerland for a couple of years on account of causing liver issues.
Both Kava and Kratom are gaining increasing popularity in the west among people who are looking for less addictive alternatives for opioids and alcohol. Due to their similar uses and purposes, it is easy to mistake one for another. However, all the differences we have discussed in this article are good to keep in mind when you go shopping for a morning pick-me-up or a natural painkiller.