CBD and kratom are both being investigated for the ways they may affect conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, and substance abuse.
Some people claim kratom can be an effective substitute for CBD. On the surface, they may appear to have some common ground. However, there are important differences between the two substances. These two herbal remedies work in different ways on a molecular level and come with different risks and side effects.
What is kratom?
Kratom, also known as “mitragyna speciosa,” is a tree that originates from South East Asia. It grows naturally in countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. People from these areas have used kratom for thousands of years. Traditionally, natives of these areas chewed the leaves for its stimulant-like properties.
Similar to coffee, kratom acts as a stimulant at low doses. These effects are what make it successful as an energy booster and dietary supplement. However, at high doses, kratom exhibits characteristics similar to those of opiates.
Other than the poppy plant, and akuamma seeds, kratom is the only natural source of opioid alkaloids in the world. Kratom has a long history of use as an opium substitute for this reason.
Though the plant contains more than 40 different alkaloids, two alkaloids, in particular, 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.
In its natural form, kratom can be chewed, smoked, or steeped in tea. Most commonly, kratom is ground into a powder and mixed with a liquid, usually warm water. Unlike cannabis, kratom does not need to be heated to be activated. As such, it can be consumed in its raw form, including via a capsule.
Uses for kratom
Kratom has a long history as a remedy for a wide number of conditions and symptoms. In the past, it has been used to treat problems such as:
- Muscle pain
Despite being banned in several countries, it is still regularly consumed at social gatherings in Southeast Asia. In the modern age, it is commonly used for:
- Chronic pain
- Opiate withdrawal
- Energy booster
Unlike cannabis, kratom does not provide immediate relief. The effects of kratom are typically felt within an hour.
Pain relief is one of the most common uses for kratom. According to an online survey conducted by the Pain News Network in collaboration with the American Kratom Association, over 90 percent of participants found kratom to be very effective for the relief of pain.
Kratom has long been used to treat substance withdrawal, especially from opioids. The opioid crisis in North America has been at least partially responsible for kratom’s rise in popularity. Many addicts have found kratom to be incredibly effective in helping to wean them off of more powerful opioids like heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl.
Some have been able to use kratom to eradicate the symptoms of opioid withdrawal until they disappear altogether.
Some individuals have reported success using kratom in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD) have been successfully treated with kratom.
It is also capable of producing an anti-inflammatory effect. This may make it an effective treatment for joint and bone-related pain. However, more clinical research is required to fully endorse kratom as a treatment for such conditions.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis. While CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the cannabis plant.
While CBD is a component of cannabis, by itself it does not cause a “high.” Most CBD on the market is made from hemp for legal reasons. It is often 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 is 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 percent 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 of concerns over 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.
Physiologically, CBD functions by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a natural, endogenous network of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors in the human body. ECS receptors exist in nearly every cell type, which explains CBD’s massive range of uses.
Uses for CBD
One of the things CBD is most famous for is its ability to reduce various types of pain. However, its uses can go beyond just treating pain. It has been recently discovered to be a strong anti-inflammatory. Studies have established that CBD is an effective treatment for symptoms such as:
CBD has shown promise as an anti-anxiety agent. Numerous animal and human studies have demonstrated positive results in addressing anxiety and stress disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder. CBD has even been shown to potentially improve other conditions that anxiety affects.
For instance, some patients have reported a reduction in insomnia symptoms after treating their anxiety with CBD. Similarly, individuals suffering from substance withdrawal have found relief in CBD. Research suggests that not only might CBD reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression caused by withdrawal, but it could also impact cravings and relapses.
What is the difference between kratom and CBD?
While mitragynine (MG) 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. It is important to note, the risk for kratom addiction is less severe than the risk other opioid agonists present. Also, the withdrawal symptoms of a kratom addiction are mild compared to full-blown opiate withdrawal.
Albeit, the addiction risk of kratom is a disadvantage in comparison to CBD which poses little danger or risk of adverse effects.
Along with its addictive potential, kratom can also cause side effects such as:
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
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.
CBD appears to be very safe, with limited and mild side effects reported, including:
- Dry mouth
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.
Is kratom and CBD legal?
The legality of kratom differs from country to country, and state to state. Countries like Poland, Germany, and New Zealand have declared it a controlled substance. Others like Australia, Myanmar, and Thailand have made it outright illegal. Be sure to check the legal status of kratom in your country, region, and city, as it may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
When it comes to the United States, kratom’s legal status is constantly under threat. Its close relation to opioids has drawn criticism from US lawmakers. In 2016, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) made its first attempt to ban kratom from the country.
In 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that kratom be classed as a Schedule I drug alongside other opioid narcotics. Following public outcry, the DEA and FDA have chosen not to act on these recommendations, meaning that kratom is still legal at the federal level.
Numerous states have taken the initiative to ban kratom locally. States like Alabama, Indiana, and Tennessee, among others, have opted to make kratom illegal. Certain American cities, including Denver, San Diego, and Sarasota, have also decided to make kratom illegal within their jurisdiction.
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.