Kava and Kratom 101: Everything You Need to Know


Kava and kratom products have been slowly making their way into smoke shops and liquor stores around the country. Similarly to marijuana, these federally unregulated products are raising speculation about some of the weird and serious side effects that some consumers are experiencing.

However, there are some alleged health benefits that other users are experiencing, such as pain relief. Whether you are a consumer interested in learning more about kava and kratom or a business looking to see if this is something you should sell, we break down everything you need to know about the two substances in this article.

What is Kratom?

According to the Mayo Clinic, kratom is an herbal extract that comes from the leaves of an evergreen tree (Mitragyna speciosa) grown in Southeast Asia. The leaves can be chewed and dry kratom can be swallowed or brewed. 

Kratom extract can also be used to make a liquid product. The liquid form is often marketed as a treatment for muscle pain, or to suppress appetite and stop cramps and diarrhea. Kratom is also sold as a treatment for panic attacks.

The Mayo Clinic also states that kratom is believed to act on opioid receptors. At low doses, it acts as a stimulant, making users feel more energetic. At higher doses, it reduces pain and may bring on euphoria. At very high doses, it acts as a sedative, making users quiet and perhaps sleepy. 

Dallas Vasquez, co-founder of Mitra 9, claims the range of efficacy of kratom can vary widely. “If you consume a small amount, you can get an energy boost. If you consume a lot, you can get a sedative feeling. I encourage everyone to do some research prior to consuming kratom and take it slow your first time around,” he suggests. 

Kratom Side Effects and Safety Concerns

Dallas Vasquez, co-founder of Mitra9.

Even though the substance is plant-based, the Mayo Clinic warns that the amount of active ingredient in kratom plants can vary greatly, making it difficult to gauge the effect of a given dose. Depending on what is in the plant and the health of the user, taking it may be very dangerous. Very little research has been done on kratom, so there is still much to be left discovered. 

Here are some of the known side effects of kratom:

  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Chills, nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in urine and constipation
  • Liver damage
  • Muscle pain

Vasquez says the kratom plant is very complex. And since very little of it has been studied, it falls into such a gray area, especially with the harmful side effects. 

“Kratom specifically has over 450 alkaloids in the plant, and really only about five or six have been studied,” he says. “Of those five or six, only two have been studied well enough to feel good about it at the end of the day.”

The most studied alkaloid in the plant is mitragynine, which means it’s also considered the most safe, according to Vasquez. “This is why we use an extract that nearly isolates that alkaloid and put it into our products. Of the options and regulatory framework that’s available, we want to use the best option we can,” he says. 

What is Kava?

According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF), kava is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages traveling between the brain and the body. Kava is made from the root or stump of the kava (Piper methysticum) shrub and can be consumed in a variety of ways, such as through beverages, capsules, powders, extracts and drops. 

The ADF states that traditionally, Pacific Islander communities in Australia crushed, chewed and ground the root and stump of the shrub, then soaked it in cold water to produce a drink for ceremonies and cultural practices. These rituals were said to strengthen ties among groups, reaffirm status and help people communicate with spirits. 

Some effects that kava can induce include feeling happy and relaxed, sleepiness, mouth and throat numbness and a reduced appetite. The ADF warns that a large dose of kava can cause a slight fever, nausea, drowsiness, loss of muscle control and red eyes. 

“Kava is generally recognized as a supplement and one that is widely viewed as safe for consumption,” explains Vasquez. “The only recent worrisome articles that have come out on kava are about liver damage, and those were traced back to the lack of agricultural compliance and framework for harvesting the plant.”

To put it simply, Vasquez says that when the plant is not brought to maturity prior to being harvested, there is potential for liver damage. “But if the plant is grown to maturity, there is no evidence of liver damage,” he notes. 

How Consumers Should Take Kava and Kratom

As mentioned earlier, there are a variety of different ways consumers can ingest kava and kratom. But each form has different properties and effects you in multiple ways. 

For example, according to Vasquez, kratom can be used as a painkiller, but it works best to help with pain in leaf (tea) and powder form. “These forms deliver pain relieving properties a lot better because the plant still has all of the alkaloids that help with pain relief. They’re available in capsules, as a raw leaf to drink as a tea, and then gummies have also become quite popular,” he says. 

The beverage form of kratom, which is what Mitra9 sells, may help users to elevate their moods and to relax them. 

While kratom has multiple different properties to help users feel energetic or relaxed, Vasquez says there are really only a few ways to consume kava. 

“The traditional way to ingest kava is by pulverizing the root into a powder, taking it and putting it into a cheese cloth, pouring water in it and then ringing it out. The end result looks and tastes like mud water,” he explains. “For most people, it acts as a social lubricant, dropping your anxiety levels down and getting rid of stress. It might make you more talkative, but no matter how you consume it, the effects remain the same. There’s not much variation.”

The Kratom Consumer Protection Act

First introduced in 2023, the Kratom Consumer Protection Act (KCPA) is a series of state-level legislative bills aimed at regulating the kratom industry to help ensure the safety and quality of kratom products. 

According to the Congressional Research Service, these bill require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to hold a hearing and establish a task force on the health and safety of products with kratom. It also prohibits the FDA from regulating kratom products in a manner that is more restrictive as compared to regulations for food, dietary supplements or dietary ingredients.

“The KCPA is a state regulatory framework that states can adopt, and if they choose to do so, they can add their own bullet points,” notes Vasquz. “The KCPA requires consumers 21 and over to be able to purchase kratom, along with a few labeling requirements, as well.”

As kava and kratom products continue to make their way into stores across the U.S., Vasquez is trying to educate consumers as much as possible on the two products. 

“We’re really active on our website and publish blogs to educate people,” he says. “Every can of our product also has a QR code on it that links back to our fact-finding page that’s very neutral with articles from different universities, the DEA, the FDA and the National Institute of Health. It’s a great place to go and research and come to your own conclusion on what these products are.”

It’s incredibly important to do your own research. Whether it’s through the insightful articles on Mitra9’s website or other places, there’s a plethora of information to find.