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Kratom vs CBD: Which One Should You Choose?

We take a look at Kratom vs CBD and how they stack up against each other for pain, anxiety and therapeutic effects. Read more…
Hayley Smith
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CBD & Kratom are nature’s medicine

CBD has been basking in the limelight for a number of years now, but there’s a new, old plant-medicine on the block that has been turning heads, and it’s called kratom.

If you’ve stumbled across Kratom recently and are wondering which one will be better for you, then keep reading as we put CBD and Kratom in a head-to-head battle, to see which will emerge as the winner.

In this article, we’ll be looking at Kratom vs CBD in terms of:


Kratom vs CBD

On the surface, Kratom and CBD seem to have a lot in common. After all, they both come from plants and they both reportedly relieve symptoms of pain, anxiety, and drug addiction, amongst other things. But when you look at their modes of action and the side effects they can cause, you’ll realize just how different they are.

What is Kratom?

Kratom, or Mitrogyna Speciosa, is a tree that is native to Southeast Asia. Its leaves are one of just three natural sources of opioid alkaloids, along with poppies and akuamma seeds.

Traditionally the leaves are smoked, chewed, or steeped in tea, but the commercial availability of Kratom products in the west is usually limited to dried and ground leaves and this powder is often sold in capsules.

How Kratom Works

Within Kratom leaves, over 25 different alkaloids have been identified, compounds that have a direct physiological effect on humans, three of which directly activate our opiate receptors.

Two, in particular, have been under recent scrutiny, mitragynine (MG) and 7-hydroxymitragynine (7-OH-MG). The former is the most dominant alkaloid and is thought to be responsible for most of Kratom’s pain-killing effects because, although 7-OH-MG also has potent analgesic properties, it is only present in much smaller amounts.

Mitragynine is also known to interact with other receptors in the brain including dopamine, D2, adenosine, serotonin, and alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, though the exact effects are not yet fully understood.

How Kratom Feels

The kratom tree is in the same genus as the coffee plant and, like coffee, acts as a mild stimulant when administered in low doses, apparently similar to cocaine.  Effects include improving mood, alertness, sociability, motor excitement, and some loss of coordination.

In higher doses, however, its effects are more sedative, similar to morphine, thereby functioning as an opiate substitute. When a high dose is taken, initially the effects may include sweatingdizziness, and nausea, but this is superseded with calmness, euphoria, and a dream-like sedative state. Some people have also reported hallucinations.

Both mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are psychoactive and, when abused, can make you feel intoxicated or high.


What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid compound that can be found in cannabis. More often than not it is sourced from organic hemp that is grown in the USA.

CBD can be smoked in its pure flower form and is also commonly extracted and then infused with a carrier ingredient to make a wide variety of products such as CBD oil, capsules, edibles, and topicals.

How CBD Works

CBD interacts with our body’s cannabinoid receptors, which make up our endocannabinoid system. This system is responsible for regulating many of our cognitive and physiological processes including (but not limited to), pain response, motor control, metabolism, mood, memory, and sleep.

It is known to act as an antagonist at CB1 receptors (found in the central nervous system), thereby inhibiting the intoxicating effects of Delta-9 THC. CBD is also known to act as an antagonist at alpha-adrenergic and opioid receptors.

CBD also interacts with various other receptors in our brain including serotonin 5-HT receptors, GABA-A receptors, and adenosine receptors.

How CBD Feels

In lower doses, many people find that CBD relaxes their mind and body, while increasing alertness, focus, creativity, and improving overall mood and feeling of wellbeing. At higher doses, CBD tends to have a more sedating effect.

CBD can be described to be psychoactive because it can affect your mood, but it is not intoxicating in any way.

CBD and Kratom

Therapeutic Benefits

The top two reasons why people take CBD and Kratom are for pain relief and for reducing anxiety, so let’s take a quick look at the evidence available for each.

Pain Relief

Although Kratom hasn’t been widely studied, there is some convincing evidence that shows Kratom to be an effective analgesic. A 2013 study, for example, said that there is evidence from animal models that supports analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxant effects.

A comprehensive review of all data on Kratom, published in 2020, agreed that Kratom displays analgesic properties.

The mounting preclinical evidence eventually led to a small human clinical study, also published in 2020, which concluded that Kratom displayed a substantial increase in pain tolerance.

CBD has been more extensively studied and there is a body of evidence supporting its ability to treat inflammatory pain, as well as more difficult to treat neuropathic pain.

A growing number of human clinical studies have also shown promising results, including a 2003 study that concluded CBD treatment significantly reduced intractable pain (in patients with multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and limb amputation).

A small 2018 study showed CBD offered significant pain relief in kidney transplant patients and a 2019 study reported CBD treatment decreased pain by more than 30%, compared to a placebo, and in significantly more patients.

There was also a 2020 audit on 400 adults receiving CBD prescriptions in New Zealand that showed improvements in pain and quality of life.


Most scientific studies have focused on investigating the analgesic properties of Kratom, but there is a growing body of anecdotal evidence to support the use of Kratom for anxiety relief.

A review was also published in 2018 (based on the small amount of evidence available) and it concluded that Kratom does enhance mood and relieve anxiety. However, there are also other reports that link Kratom to causing anxiety, in cases where dependence has evolved.

While the evidence for using Kratom for anxiety isn’t exactly overwhelming, it is for CBD. Firstly, there is a huge amount of preclinical research available on the anxiolytic effects of CBD and then there are also human clinical studies to back it up.

2011 study that involved public speaking showed that CBD significantly reduced anxiety, discomfort, and cognitive impairment and another study published in 2011 proved that CBD reduces anxiety in people suffering from generalized social anxiety disorder.

A further compelling study, led by a Harvard scientist, is currently underway and preliminary findings suggest that taking high-CBD tincture results in less severe and fewer anxiety-related symptoms.

On top of that, there have also been numerous scientific reviews that confirm CBD’s anti-anxiety properties. One such review, published in 2015, concluded that evidence available supports the use of CBD for many different types of anxiety, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD.

CB1 and CB2 receptors

Side Effects and Safety

As mentioned previously, despite having similar reported therapeutic benefits, the way in which Kratom and CBD achieve symptom relief is very different. This may be why the side effects of Kratom and CBD are also very different, as we explain below.


There is evidence to show that prolonged use of Kratom can lead to both tolerance and addiction. Having said that, it does appear to be less addictive and has less severe withdrawal symptoms than morphine.

The substance can also be toxic in higher doses leading to a range of health complications including (but not limited to), acute injury to the brain, lungs, and kidneys, damage to the heart muscle, seizure, coma, and cognitive impairment.

Deaths have also been attributed to Kratom in Europe and America, although due to multiple-drug exposure, the exact cause of death could not be established in many of the cases.

CBD, on the other hand, boasts a remarkable safety profile, even when used long-term. Mild side effects are sometimes experienced, including tiredness, dry mouth, diarrhea, and changes in weight and appetite.

CBD is not addictive, nor intoxicating, and has caused no deaths.

Drug Interactions

Kratom can cause herb-drug interactions, especially drugs related to the central nervous system, so it is vital that you consult a doctor before taking it.

CBD can also interact with other medications you are taking, by inhibiting the metabolic process (similar to the way that grapefruit does), so always check with your physician before taking it.


Kratom is currently legal on a federal level but is banned in some US states. It is illegal in Canada and some European countries.

CBD, when derived from legally grown hemp, is legal in all 50 states. It is also legal in Canada and throughout Europe.

CBD: A Safer Solution

As we’ve shown here, there is evidence to suggest that both CBD and Kratom possess powerful pain-relieving properties. For anxiety, however, the evidence for CBD is much stronger than it is for Kratom, but to be fair that may be due to the fact that it hasn’t been studied as extensively.

Due to its morphine-like effects at higher doses, it’s thought that Kratom may be better for dealing with acute short-term pain. But CBD is more commonly recommended for inflammation, long-term chronic pain, and anxiety, due to the fact that it’s much safer, especially when it comes to prolonged use and/or higher doses.

We have heard of some people trying to achieve stronger effects by taking CBD mixed with Kratom, but caution is advised as the overlap in effects may also increase your chances of adverse side effects.

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