Kratom vs CBD: Effects, Benefits, and Products
So, you’re looking for natural supplements that you can infuse in your green tea each morning–something that can make you feel like a healthy, whole human. A quick Google search will reveal that CBD and kratom are popular pain management alternatives, that can also help reduce anxiety, insomnia, and stress.
But how do you decide which herb is right for you? Read on to find out more about kratom and CBD and how they compare.
WHAT IS KRATOM?
Kratom, aside from sounding like the name of a comic book lizard villain, is a species of evergreen tree called Mitragyna speciosa.
The tree is found across Southeast Asia— Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar— and its leaves can be dried and chewed on, brewed into a tea, or crushed into capsules for a number of different psychoactive and therapeutic effects.
What Can Kratom Be Used For?
Kratom shares the same plant family as coffee. Like coffee, kratom is often used as a stimulant or nootropic in low doses, which makes it a desirable energy-boosting alternative for those of us that feel like we're going to spontaneously combust from too much caffeine.
In higher doses, kratom can also provide acute pain relief. One of the alkaloids in the kratom **leaf, 7-hydroxymitragynine, was reported in one study to be thirteen times more effective at pain reduction than morphine.
Kratom is also used to treat opioid addiction from substances like heroin, fentanyl, and oxycontin. Currently, a synthetic drug called methadone is conventionally used, so kratom is an ideal option for people who prefer a natural, herb-based treatment.
How Does Kratom Work?
Fundamentally, the analgesic, or pain relief, effects of kratom work the same way that common painkillers do. The two primary active ingredients, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, attach to opioid receptors located in your brain and spinal cord and block pain messages coming from the body.
But how do the stimulant effects of kratom work? It's unclear. The kratom leaf contains over forty alkaloids (active ingredients) that have different effects in different parts of the body, so figuring out this mechanism of action is like finding a needle in the haystack. For now, let's leave the haystack-picking to the scientists— all you need to know is that the stimulant effect happens in low doses.
Is Kratom Legal?
After the public pushed back the DEA's decision to make kratom a Schedule I substance in 2016, kratom is now federally legal in the US. However, it is illegal in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, New Hampshire, Tennessee, & Wisconsin. Updates can be found in this map.
Kratom is also illegal in many European countries, like the UK, Italy, and Denmark. In the Southeast Asian countries where it is typically grown, legality is tricky. In Malaysia, for example, kratom is federally illegal, but the law is not strictly enforced.
What type of Kratom products can I buy in the US?
You can buy kratom in the form of dried leaves to chew on, ground powder to mix with food or water, capsules, and tinctures.
There are dozens of strains of kratom, but they usually fall under three color categories, named after the color of the vein that runs through the kratom leaf.
Red kratom is the most popular kind sold. It induces kratom's relaxing, pain-reducing, and sleep-enhancing effects. White kratom does the opposite— these strains are energizing, enhance mood, and increase mental alertness. And in the middle are green kratom strains, which tend to produce euphoria, chattiness, and pain reduction without lethargy or drowsiness.
WHAT IS CBD AND HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO KRATOM?
CBD, or cannabidiol, comes from an entirely different plant species than Kratom, You can find CBD in cannabis. It’s also the most abundant cannabinoid found in hemp.
Forbes predicts that, with FDA approval, the CBD market will reach $19.5 billion by 2025. This probably isn't news to you— whether you see it at your local Walgreens or on Instagram, it seems like CBD products are everywhere.
Unlike Kratom, which delivers more overt psychoactive effects, CBD is primarily an anti-inflammatory compound. Inflammation is your body's process of fighting off things that harm it, but chronic inflammation is when this process doesn't turn off and leaves your body in a perpetual state of alert.
Chronic inflammation is associated with a wide variety of issues like anxiety, arthritis, IBD, and and post-traumatic stress disorder. Because CBD is anti-inflammatory, people have reported using CBD successfully for all of these issues.
In other words, CBD is one multifaceted compound. No wonder it's spreading like wildfire!
What Is CBD Used For?
CBD can be used for many therapeutic purposes.
One disclaimer to note: the jury is still out on the specifics of CBD's healing abilities. The evidence today consists of a mixture of popular anecdotal reports and a young but growing body of scientific studies.
CBD can help with physical issues and psychological issues. People with chronic pain, like arthritis and fibromialgia, find relief with CBD, which can also reduce the frequency of seizures in people with epilepsy.
Psychologically, CBD is like a many-armed Hindu god. People find relief from anxiety and depression, and those suffering with PTSD find that CBD interrupts the retrieval of traumatic memories. It can alleviate the withdrawal symptoms in those with addiction, and it can reduce social avoidance in people with autism.
And of course, CBD is used for enhancing sleep. Given that sleep is incredibly important to maintain good physical and psychological health, this is a big one.
How Does CBD Work?
CBD works primarily by activating the endocannabinoid system, but like Kratom, CBD’s exact mechanisms of action are still under review.
The endocannabinoid system is a network of cell receptors and neurotransmitters found throughout the body that are responsible for maintaining homeostasis. So when the body is overly inflamed, CBD helps activate the endocannabinoid system to bring the body back into balance.
Is CBD Legal?
Hemp-derived CBD is legal all across the United States, and it is legal in many other countries, with the exception of Bolivia, Denmark, Iceland, Russia, Serbia, and Slovakia. It is approved only for medical use in Australia and Canada.
What type of CBD products can I buy?
Along with its multiple uses, you can also buy CBD in multiple forms, including oils/tinctures, topicals, capsules, vape pens, gummies, concentrates, or CBD-rich hemp flower.
For more on the difference between full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD, or CBD isolate, check out this post.
KRATOM VS CBD: FOR ANXIETY
For kratom to provide anxiety relief, it must be taken in higher doses. Remember, at lower doses, it is a stimulant, which could worsen anxiety.
Anxiety is one of the main reasons people take CBD, and it is safe to take over the long term. Kratom, however, has been shown to be habit-forming and addictive with long term use.
For this reason, CBD wins over kratom as a long term solution to anxiety.
KRATOM VS CBD: FOR SLEEP
CBD gently reduces stress and the hyperarousal of anxiety, making it a popular candidate for sleep enhancement.
Kratom is trickier. Red kratom, which is the relaxing category of kratom strains, is the kind of kratom typically used for sleep. However, you have to find the right dosage. Too little and you'll be up all night!
If you're struggling to sleep one night, a higher dose of kratom can get you to sleep quickly. However, if you struggle with nightly insomnia, then CBD is better as a long term solution.
CBD VS KRATOM FOR PAIN RELIEF: WHICH IS BETTER?
In the category of pain relief, kratom and CBD serve equal but different benefits.
For short term pain relief, kratom is very effective. This relief can also apply to psychological pain— people with severe depression can receive quick relief from the euphoria-tinged effects of high dose kratom.
For longer term pain relief, CBD’s anti-inflammatory power can be effective. Also, because CBD is not psychoactive, you can take it every day for a long time, and it will slowly but surely spur your endocannabinoid system into healing action.
FINAL VERDICT: TWO VERY DIFFERENT HERBS
Fundamentally, while kratom and CBD share functional similarities, they serve different purposes: CBD is better and safer for longer term use, and kratom is better for short term use.
Technically, you could make the case that CBD enhances energy. Through the alleviation of pain and anxiety, along with an enhancement in sleep, CBD frees up energy in your body to be used towards the things you want to do, like working out or studying.
Kratom, however, is a direct energy enhancer. CBD is like a consistent meditation practice, while kratom is more like coffee. It’s for this reason that people use kratom as nootropic, or a substance to enhance cognitive performance.