CBD and Kava: How Do They Compare?

CBD and Kava: CBD Tincture on countertop

Posted on August 21st, 2020

While cannabidiol has been receiving a lot of attention in recent years, kava is another plant-based remedy that has significantly grown in popularity. As more and more people seek alternative ways of improving their overall health without taking pharmaceutical drugs, hemp-based products such as CBD and herbs like kava, have seen a significant increase in demand. Although these two plant-based remedies don’t share any direct link, they are known to have similar potential health benefits. They may help with symptoms of pain, depression and anxiety, muscle tension, sleep problems, and so on. 

However, one important question remains; how do CBD and kava actually compare? It is worth mentioning that there are some significant differences that exist between these two compounds. Understanding the differences will help you better determine which of the two products is the best option. In this piece, we have provided a comprehensive guide on the similarities and differences between CBD and kava. 

We will take a look at their origins, health benefits, legality, safety profiles, and how the two work. Additionally, we will also discuss any potential side effects associated with the use of these products. 

The Origins of CBD and Kava


CBD otherwise referred to as cannabidiol, is much more popular and widely used than kava. It is a naturally occurring compound present in hemp or cannabis plant. CBD is a phytocannabinoid, which is a term used to refer to cannabinoids derived from plants. It falls amongst the main compounds of the hemp plant. While it is similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t possess the psychoactive properties of THC. This means that taking CBD products doesn’t produce a high effect. The main purpose of cannabidiol is to help maintain balance within the body. The cannabis plant is believed to have originated from Asia, and it has three main varieties. 

Kava kava capsules on natural boardKava

Kava is an herbal plant and member of the pepper family. Its botanical name is Piper methysticum, which means intoxicating pepper. Indigenous to the pacific islands (Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Micronesia), this herb has been used for thousands of years by the inhabitants of these regions. Kava kava is a herbal beverage that is made from the roots of the Piper methysticum. The traditional way of making this beverage is by drying the root, then crushing it into a powder before mixing it with water. It is often taken on key ceremonial events as a way of marking key life milestones, for health purposes, and as a way of relaxation. 

Nowadays, companies that work with kava products utilize more superior extraction techniques aimed at maximizing the concentration of kavalactones, which are the main ingredients of kava. Using these methods, companies are able to make a product with a concentration of up to 90%.

How Are They Used? 

Both kava and CBD are known for their potential benefits. They may help manage stress and symptoms of anxiety and to promote a sense of calmness and wellbeing. Both may also be helpful in relieving pain and inflammation. 


CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system to help regulate the internal functions of the body. A lot of people are looking to CBD as a natural way to help manage conditions such as chronic pain, inflammation, insomnia, stress, and anxiety. There is also ongoing research on its potential to help more serious diseases. Some of these include diabetes, cancer, schizophrenia, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and many more.

CBD may also assist with digestion, and it may help individuals regulate their blood sugar and energy levels. 

With the FDA approving Epidiolex, a cannabis-based product, in 2018 as a way of treating seizures linked to rare forms of epilepsy, it was clear that CBD was becoming more mainstream and that its potential health benefits were becoming more widely accepted. This has increased hope for more CBD products being introduced into the market. One of the key selling points of CBD is that it lacks the psychoactive properties of THC. People who are looking to gain the benefits of the cannabis plant but don’t want to experience the high associated with marijuana find CBD very appealing.   


On the other hand, the kavalactones present in kava interact with neurotransmitters found in the brain to produce a calming effect. Kava is also considered a muscle relaxant which, and when administered in high concentration, can be used as a sedative. As such, it is being used to help people suffering from sleep disorders such as insomnia.

Certain strains of kava, and depending on the level of dosage, can induce a sense of euphoria and increased sociability. Yangonin, which is one of the active ingredients of kava, targets the same area of the brain as THC. This means that kava strains that have a higher concentration of Yangonin are responsible for promoting feelings of happiness and improved moods. While some may look to kava to aid with sleep concerns, a study conducted in 2015 involving 1602 participants found that there wasn’t any significant difference between the use of kava in treating insomnia and the use of placebo. 

The applications of kava can be divided into two distinct groups: 

  1. Therapeutic uses – This includes lowering stress and anxiety, improving sleep, relaxing muscles, and enhancing better moods.
  2. Social uses – This includes promoting creative thought processes while working and stimulating conversations with others.

Tanasi CBD Tincture being used in morning coffeeCBD vs Kava: How Do They Work?


Thanks to a growing body of research on CBD and THC, we now know that the body produces its own cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are referred to as endocannabinoids and that within the body, there is a complex system known as the endocannabinoid system. This primary role of this system is homeostasis or maintaining balance. The endocannabinoid system is connected to neurotransmitters responsible for transmitting signals from one part of the body to another. Hence, basically, the endocannabinoid system serves as a messaging service for the body. It is crucial for body organs to communicate with one another effectively in order to regulate homeostasis.

CBD works by positively stimulating this system, which may help to return the body to an ideal state. This molecule interacts with anandamide – a unique chemical messenger that is naturally produced in mammalian bodies – which helps to stimulate the endocannabinoid system. 


As mentioned earlier, the active ingredients of kava are known as kavalactones. While the kava plant contains about 18 different kavalactones, only six types of kavalactones account for over 96% of the total kavalactone content. This means that the other 12 are rarely considered. 

It is important to note that all six key active ingredients of kava directly affect the brain’s neurotransmitter function. Unlike CBD, kavalactones don’t interact with the endocannabinoid system; rather it interacts with neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and so on. However, it is important to keep in mind that Yangonin, one of kava’s active ingredients, does interact with the endocannabinoid system, but not in the same way as CBD. Yangonin interacts with the ECS in a similar way as THC. This explains why kava offers euphoric and mild psychoactive effects in substantial doses. 

CBD vs Kava: Side Effects

One of the key selling points of CBD is that it doesn’t cause any adverse reactions. It has minimal side effects even when consumed in huge amounts. Additionally, it is non-addictive. This means that even after extended use, you won’t need to take larger amounts to feel the effects. The only notable side effects, though rare and mild, include nausea, drowsiness, and dry mouth, unlike many prescription drugs, some of which have been reported to cause serious side effects.

On the contrary, various studies have found kava to cause some side effects; this is particularly so when taken in relatively large doses. These side effects can include skin problems, fatigue, headaches, diarrhea, dizziness, and more.

Additionally, the National Institute of Health recorded more than 50 cases of liver damage associated with the consumption of liver. There are claims that suggest that consuming kava may lead to hepatotoxicity, which refers to chemical-caused liver damage. 

It is also believed that the consumption of kava, in addition to other substances such as alcohol and diuretics, could cause some serious negative effects.

CBD vs Kava: Legal Status

Hemp-derived CBD is federally legal throughout the US, however, some state and local laws may differ. The sale and use of CBD are only allowed provided that it is extracted from hemp, which means containing 0.3% or less THC content. 

Considering that kava doesn’t provide the same level of psychoactive effects as marijuana, it isn’t classified as a schedule 1 drug. While it is legal in the United States, the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) issued an advisory in 2002 that warned users against the potentiality of liver damage. However, more research is required in order to verify or refute these claims.

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