While researching ways to improve your health and lifestyle, you might have read about CBD and kratom. Both have become increasingly available at smoke shops, gas stations, and health food stores across the U.S. and are often sold side by side.
Though they’re commonly discussed together, it’s important to understand that CBD and kratom aren’t the same thing. In fact, they’re different in almost every way, as one can have potentially dangerous side effects.
While we still have much to learn about both CBD and kratom, there’s strong evidence that CBD is the safer and more effective of the two. Read on to learn the distinctions between them.
What Is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound extracted from the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant (typically hemp). CBD acts on the receptors in your endocannabinoid system and can boost their effectiveness.
Unlike THC, which is harvested from marijuana cannabis plants, it can’t help the user achieve a psychoactive “high.” But there have been promising studies showing that CBD can help reduce stress, anxiety, and inflammation, promoting better general wellness.
What Is Kratom?
Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia that was historically used by farmers in need of additional energy. Its leaves can be eaten whole, brewed into tea, crushed up and ingested in pill form, or smoked.
The leaves contain two active ingredients: mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. These alkaloid compounds interact with the body’s opioid receptors in a similar fashion to morphine. At low doses, kratom acts as a stimulant, sometimes causing users to feel more energetic. At higher doses, it can reduce pain and may bring on a sense of euphoria.
It’s also used recreationally as a means to experience a high-like feeling, though the effects vary based on the individual. It can bring on a relaxed, dream-like state similar to that of opiates as well. Though the effect can last for several hours, it’s reportedly less intense than other opioid drugs.
What Are CBD’s Side Effects?
The World Health Organization reports that CBD has little to no negative side effects. There have been rare complaints of headaches, fatigue, diarrhea, and drowsiness, but no substantive reports of negative effects from CBD exist.
What Are Kratom’s Side Effects?
Researchers are concerned about kratom’s negative side effects and safety problems. When used continuously, kratom use has been linked to nausea, liver damage, seizures, respiratory failure, and even death.
A 2017 study found kratom to be associated with comas and memory loss. Because it’s a drug with opioid properties, kratom can also be an addictive substance that causes withdrawal symptoms, if not taken regularly.
Poison control centers received roughly 1,800 reports regarding kratom use from 2011 to 2017, half of which resulted in serous negative outcomes. Kratom is particularly dangerous when mixed with other drugs as well.
What Does the FDA Say About CBD?
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes the potential positive impact of CBD and other cannabis-derived compounds and is conducting further research into its benefits and potential side effects.
Per the FDA website: “The Agency is committed to supporting the development of new drugs, including cannabis and cannabis-derived drugs, through the investigational new drug and drug approval process.”
While the organization warns about companies that misuse or falsely market cannabis-related products, it has approved CBD medications and continues to examine potential benefits.
What Does the FDA Say About Kratom?
The FDA has warned that kratom can bring significant harm to those who use it recreationally or for self-medication. The organization said there’s no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder, as well as that there are significant safety issues with its use.
The FDA tried to ban kratom in 2016 and strongly advised consumers not to use kratom in a 2017 warning. There are no FDA-approved uses for the substance, and the organization has also issued warnings to companies selling illegal, unapproved kratom products.
Is CBD Legal?
After the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the sale and use of CBD hemp products is legal in all but three U.S. states: Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota. (Currently, Idaho and Nebraska are working on legislation that would clarify the language of the law and allow the sale of CBD products.)
It’s important to note that these protections extend to CBD that’s cultivated from hemp plants and have a concentration of THC less than 0.3%. The legality of marijuana-based CBD remains a bit of a gray area—its sale is legal in 47 states, though 34 require a medical exception. Again, Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota are the only states where it’s entirely banned.
Is Kratom Legal?
Kratom is illegal in Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, Indiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and the District of Columbia, as well as select cities across the U.S. The FDA is considering labeling kratom as a Schedule 1 drug—that is, those which have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse—which would make it illegal at the federal level.
Though both CBD and kratom can be found next to each other at gas stations, pop-up shops, and all-natural stores, kratom is a potentially dangerous substance that shouldn’t be aligned with CBD.