Chances are you’re familiar with the popular cannabis extract, cannabidiol (CBD). But it’s not the only natural pain relief option that has been making headlines lately. Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), a species of tree from Southeast Asia, became so popular over the last few years that it caught the attention of the federal government. It’s still legal in most U.S. states (at least for now), and many people have been using kratom to relieve the symptoms of medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, anxiety, and opioid withdrawal.
If this sounds familiar, it’s likely because CBD has been praised – and targeted – for similar reasons. So, which one is better: CBD or kratom? In this article, we’ll compare and contrast CBD and kratom to help you decide which one is right for you.
What is Kratom?
Kratom is a tropical tree found in Southeast Asia. The leaves of the Kratom tree have a long history of use in Thai botanical medicine. Though the plant contains more than 40 different compounds, there are two alkaloids in particular that have been the topic of recent scrutiny: mitragynine (MG) and 7‐hydroxymitragynine (7‐HMG). Similar to how CBD and THC interact, MG appears to be therapeutic, while 7-HMG has psychoactive properties. And while MG is the more dominant compound in kratom, 7-HMG acts on the same brain receptors as opioids, which has put the legality of kratom at risk.
Kratom can be ingested raw, but it’s typically dried, ground, and sold as capsules. Alternatively, kratom leaves can also be boiled down to an extract, which has a longer shelf life than dried kratom.
What is CBD?
CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant, in both hemp and marijuana, although most CBD on the market is made from hemp for legal reasons. It’s extracted in oil form, which is then processed and sold in various types of products, including tinctures, capsules, and CBD-infused edibles. There are several different extraction methods, ranging from CO2 extraction to using solvents like ethanol or butane.
Since it’s made from the whole plant, CBD oil can contain various other cannabinoids and terpenes that were extracted along with it. These are called full-spectrum CBD products. While CBD can be quite effective on its own, many people find it more effective when taken with other cannabinoids, including THC. Full spectrum CBD oil products are allowed to contain up to 0.3% THC by law.
You can also purchase CBD oil products that contain pure CBD and no other cannabinoids or terpenes, known as CBD isolate. Many people prefer isolate products because concerns over using and testing positive for THC that may come along with full spectrum products. Both full spectrum and isolate CBD can be found in a wide range of products such as tinctures, gummies, vape liquids, and capsules.
CBD vs. Kratom for Pain Relief: Which Is Better?
One of the things CBD is most famous for is its ability to reduce various types of pain. Studies have established that CBD is an effective anti-inflammatory, and that it can reduce arthritis-related inflammation, swelling, and pain, while preventing nerve damage and degeneration. Researchers have also found that CBD can relieve neuropathic pain from multiple sclerosis. It’s possible that CBD may be able to relieve pain from headaches and migraines as well, though more research is needed.
When it comes to kratom, there’s less scientific evidence of its benefits, though that doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. Research tends to follow public interest, so we can expect to see an increase in kratom-related studies in the near future. In fact, the University of Florida recently received $3.5 million dollars in funding for kratom research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Despite the lack of research, what we know so far is promising. A 2017 review of available medical studies concluded that kratom can effectively reduce pain, induce relaxation, and improve the immune system. And according to a large online survey conducted by Pain News Network and the American Kratom Association, over 90% of respondents reported that kratom was “very effective” at relieving pain and other medical issues.
What Are the Other Benefits of CBD and Kratom?
CBD interacts with endocannabinoid receptors throughout the body, resulting in a wide range of benefits that have been confirmed by numerous studies. And while research is still in its early stages, CBD’s effectiveness at reducing seizures led to the recent FDA approval of the first CBD pharmaceutical drug – Epidiolex – to treat a rare form of epilepsy. There is also evidence that CBD has anti-anxiety properties, and that it can improve conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep problems.
One of kratom’s biggest benefits, aside from pain relief, is its potential in treatment for opioid addiction. A recent study in Psychopharmacology found that kratom’s primary compound, mitragynine, can reduce opioid abuse, and it appears that kratom has potential as an antidepressant. That said, the FDA warns that there is no approved medical use for kratom, and research has yet to establish that kratom is safe for human use.
What About Side Effects?
While mitragynine may be able to treat opioid addiction, the other primary compound in kratom, 7‐HMG, acts on opioid receptors in the brain – meaning that it has addictive potential, hence the FDA’s negative attention. A 2014 survey of 293 people confirmed this, finding that nearly all of the participants showed signs of addiction after using kratom regularly for over 6 months. Both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms were noted, including pain, sleeping difficulty, and anger.
Along with its addictive potential, kratom can also cause side effects such as nausea, dry mouth, itching, and loss of appetite. It’s been accused of causing more serious side effects as well, such as seizures, aggression, psychosis, liver damage, arrhythmia, and memory problems – however, documentation of such issues is rare. According to one study, it’s possible to overdose on kratom, but at an extremely high dose.
It’s also important to note that, according to the FDA, kratom has been implicated in 44 deaths. Many advocates believe this is fear-mongering, as kratom was used alongside other drugs in nearly all of these cases. However, it still suggests the possibility that kratom could be dangerous, especially if taken in combination with any other substance – including over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Kratom’s reputation took another hit in early 2018, after a salmonella outbreak linked to kratom products sickened 199 people across 41 states. As a result, the FDA tested various brands’ kratom products and found salmonella in a large percentage of them, leading to numerous recalls.
On the other hand, CBD appears to be very safe, with limited and mild side effects reported, including drowsiness, dry mouth, and nausea. The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report in 2017 concluding that CBD is not only safe, but non-addictive. Like with kratom, though, the lack of oversight can lead to potential issues such as contamination, “fake” CBD oil, and CBD products that contain dangerous chemicals.
These issues highlight the importance of only buying kratom or CBD products from trusted retailers who follow safe manufacturing processes. High-quality vendors are clear and specific about what their products contain and how they’re made, and like Every Day Optimal CBD, they share 3rd party lab tests online to prove the quality, safety, and potency of their products. Additionally, CBD can affect how your body metabolizes other medications, which is one reason why it’s essential to talk with your doctor before taking any new supplements, including kratom or CBD.
Are Kratom and CBD Legal?
In 2016, the DEA made its first attempt to ban kratom, but due to public outcry, the drug remained legal in most states. After further investigation, the FDA recommended in 2017 that kratom should be labelled a schedule I drug due to the drug’s opioid-like properties – putting it in the same legal category as drugs like heroin and LSD. The jury’s still out on kratom’s legality in the U.S., but it’s already a controlled substance in several countries, including New Zealand, Germany, and Poland, and completely illegal in others, such as Thailand, Australia, and Myanmar.
Since CBD is made from cannabis, its legality has been questioned heavily. While hemp is classified differently than marijuana, the phrasing of federal laws on cannabis often leaves room for interpretation. Ultimately, hemp-derived CBD products are legal, though this can vary by state. In some states, like Ohio, CBD is only available in dispensaries.
So, Which One is Better: Kratom or CBD?
Overall, CBD is a clear winner. While some people may prefer the benefits of kratom, CBD is proven to be safe and non-addictive, with few side effects and strong scientific support of numerous health benefits. Brands like Every Day Optimal that manufacturer pure, clean, non-GMO CBD products are the better bet over kratom. That said, awareness and research on kratom is in its earliest stages, so it’s possible that more evidence of kratom’s benefits is on the horizon. But with so many similarities to opiates, it’s also possible that kratom will be banned before it can make any significant strides.
Where Can You Buy CBD and Kratom?
Both kratom and CBD-infused products can be purchased from head shops and online vendors, and CBD oils are available in dispensaries as well. It’s important when purchasing either kratom or CBD products to only buy from trusted retailers, so look for manufacturing information, lab reports, and product reviews before purchasing. Every Day Optimal is one example of a high-quality and trustworthy CBD vendor.