Choosing between CBD and Kratom (Hint: Don’t use kratom.)

Cannabidiol (CBD) and Kratom (mitragyna speciosa) have hit the headlines recently as means of tackling pain. Let’s look at the different products and check out the pros and cons of both.  The short answer to the question of which is better depends like always on your personal preferences and your own intended uses.  Let’s find out more.

What’s CBD?

Cannabidiol is a compound that comes from hemp and cannabis. One of the best known compounds to come from cannabis plants, it has been shown to be effective at tackling neuropathic pain yet is non-addictive and far less likely to give you a buzz than THC or Kratom.

CBD acts on the endocannabinoid system in your nerves by maintaining higher levels of the body’s own cannabinoids, which in turn reduce pain and inflammation in your body.

It can be consumed by eating it, though cannabinoids are oil-soluble and do better if inhaled as an oil – you get more of it in your bloodstream if inhaled through a vaporizer.

What is Kratom?

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Many kratom products contain dangerously high levels of lead and nickel.  Lead poisoning is an insidious illness that can lead to severe neurologic damage among other problems.  It is not easy to treat and it is difficult to diagnose unless suspected and specifically tested for.  Nickel poisoning increases the risk of lung cancer.  WE URGE OUR READERS TO AVOID KRATOM IN ANY FORM.  In particular, kratom (or indeed any consumable product) sourced from Southeast Asia or China is very likely (almost certain) to contain unacceptable amounts of impurities, many of which are toxic.

Kratom is an herb found in Southeast Asia that is (at least for now) legal in most states across the United States. Unlike CBD, kratom works on the body’s opioid system, which rather than tackling the cause of the pain basically tells the body that you aren’t in pain.

In other words, kratom works like opiods and has some of the same dangers as opioids, maybe including stopping breathing.  Kratom use is banned in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin and Louisiana, and the DEA has recorded 36 deaths allegedly from kratom use.

With that warning, we are going to note that the deaths attributed to kratom were in people using it with alcohol or other substances. Also, opioid is a very broad term – not every opioid has the same effects. Naloxone, for example, is an opioid but is used to reverse opioid overdoses.

You will also be surprised that many more people have supposedly died or been poisoned with CBD oil (52 in Utah, for instance).

Note, however, that these poisonings were apparently due to fake CBD oil. So the lesson is: buy your product of choice from a reputable supplier that tests its products for purity. This is especially true with kratom, because the kratom that is commonly available online is a mix of substances in various proportions, some of which are psychoactive and most of which are not well-studied pharmacologically.

You would think that given its opioid properties and the current opioid hysteria in the USA, the DEA would have put kratom on its list of Schedule I controlled substances.  Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, as we all know well.  But kratom, unlike marijuana, is not prohibited by the feds, although there was an attempt to do so in 2016.  The DEA had to back off because of a massive public protest and complaints by 51 Congresspersons.  That is probably not the end of the story however given the propensity of the DEA to want to control anything even remotely related to getting high.

How is Kratom Used?

Consumed as a refined liquid, kratom is best compared to a fruit smoothie – though do be aware it isn’t the best tasting drink in the world! Other people make tea with kratom.  You can find recipes for both types of use here.  Along with a faint feeling of nausea at first you will find your head buzzing a bit.  Unlike CBD you can build tolerance to Kratom and there can be withdrawal effects – Kratom can be addictive and one of the chemicals in kratom is said to be 13 times more potent than morphine.

There are three versions of Kratom – red, white and green veined. Essentially along with the pain relief, white Kratom gives you a buzz of energy like a strong coffee, while red veined Kratom can chill you out. Green Kratom sits in the middle of the two.

Nociceptive vs Neuropathic Pain

There are two types of pain that people can feel – nociceptive and neuropathic pain.

Nociceptive pain is the pain you feel when you have been injured in some way. Whether the pain from a needle puncturing your skin or the dreadful pain of giving birth, these experiences are both nociceptive pain.

Neuropathic pain is the pain felt as the body degrades due to diseases like Multiple Sclerosis and cancer. This pain is the nerves sending messages to the brain telling it that something is happening deep inside.

CBD is known to really help with neuropathic pain as it sends the body off to tackle the symptoms of the pain, while Kratom is great for nociceptive pain as it tells the body that the pain isn’t there. This isn’t the end of the story, as there are real advantages and disadvantages of taking both.

CBD Is Also an Anti-inflammatory

The first thing to note is that CBD is an anti-inflammatory. This means that the compound acts on the source of the pain as well as tackling the pain itself. One use of CBD oil is in skin creams, either for cosmetic purposes or for mild pain relief (or both.) People also use CBD oil in various forms for their dogs and cats.  Looking just at that measure, one might assume that CBD is a lot more versatile than Kratom.Even in states where medical marijuana is legal, people often choose CBD oil over high THC preparations because it doesn’t mess with your perceptions thanks to it not giving you a buzz.

CBD is often available as part of a ‘full spectrum’ cannabis oil where a number of other terpenes and cannabinoids are included in the preparation.   Not all cannabinoids have had as much research as CBD but they are known to work in concert with CBD on the nervous system, which in return produces a better effect on the sensation of pain. You can access ‘CBD isolates’ too, which are just a pure CBD preparation and does just has the effect CBD is known to give on the endocannabinoid system. We have an article here on how to make your own CBD Oil.

Kratom Has Been Used Extensively for Generations

Assuming kratom is too dangerous to use would be wrong when looking at the worldwide use of kratom.  In indonesia and other southeast Asian nations, kratom has been used for generations by millions of people and in particular in agricultural workers.  Presumably the psychoactive substances in kratom make the back-breaking work of farming a little more tolerable.

Kratom is Used for Opioid Withdrawal

While it works on the opioid system, kratom has less of an effect on your body than prescription pain medicines like morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl. This means that people can use kratom to wean themselves off prescription opioid addiction – precisely the reason that there was a huge outcry when the DEA went to ban kratom from sale, and the reason that the DEA (at least temporarily) backed down when the response from the public hit them.

Like the opioids that kratom can help the drug user break free from, it can cause addiction. The biggest problem with all opioids is that the body builds tolerance and you get sick when you withdraw from them. This is a big reason people prefer medical marijuana to opiate pain medications – you can’t really get hooked on it.

Unlike morphine, heroin, fentanyl and oxycodone, the withdrawal effects are much milder from Kratom. Put bluntly, sudden withdrawal from a hard opioid like morphine can actually kill you. Though a handful of deaths have been associated with Kratom use, in nearly all cases Kratom was used with things like alcohol (that also can depress the respiratory system) and other opioids.

CBD is also used to withdraw from opioids

Marijuana has been shown to help people come off Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). A 2018 scientific paper in the Cannabis and Cannabnoid Research journal showed:

“The compelling nature of these data and the relative safety profile of cannabis warrant further exploration of cannabis as an adjunct or alternative treatment for OUD.”

With the growing opioid epidemic in the US, cannabis could well be the more comfortable and less risky option for opiate withdrawal than kratom in many cases.

That aside, CBD oil, whether full spectrum or as an isolate, has significant differences over kratom in tackling pain. It is less addictive than the Indonesian herb, doesn’t give you a buzz, and often tackles the symptoms of the pain as well as dulling the pain itself. There are pros and cons to both kratom and CBD oil, but in terms of pain management it is probably worth trying CBD oil first.

If nothing else given the DEA’s habit of banning things it doesn’t understand, CBD oil is set to be legal for far longer than kratom!

Stick to USA Products

We do not advocate kratom products, which some people use as an opioid substitute.  We urge our readers to understand that lead poisoning and nickel poisoning is a very real danger with kratom use, and avoid kratom use entirely.  In addition, we recommend that you only use CBD and other alternative health products that are grown and compounded in the USA, because there have been many reports of products from China and Southeast Asia containing heavy metals and other stuff that is poisonous to humans (and pets.)So if you are using natural health products or CBD products, please stick to stuff made in the USA.  For instance, check out the products from our friend Anthony at PureSource Labs.  Read his interview here. Or watch the interview video here.


This post is sponsored by Kratom Crazy, a seller of kratom products online including bulk products.