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Cannabis vs Kava: What are the Differences?

The use of natural substances for medicinal and therapeutic purposes has been a longstanding tradition in many cultures around the world. Two such substances are kava and cannabis, which have been used for thousands of years to treat various health conditions and improve overall well-being.

However, there is still much debate and confusion surrounding the safety and effectiveness of these substances, and it can be difficult to determine which one is the safer and more effective option. In this article, we will explore the effects and benefits, potential risks, legal status, and methods of preparation and consumption of kava and cannabis, in order to help you make an informed decision about which one is right for you.

Comparison of Effects and Benefits of Kava and Cannabis

Effects of Cannabis

Physiological effects: Cannabis use can produce various physiological effects, including increased heart rate, appetite, dry mouth, and red eyes. 

Psychological effects: Cannabis can cause feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and increased creativity. It can also induce anxiety and paranoia in some individuals.

Benefits of cannabis

Medicinal benefits: Cannabis has been shown to be effective in treating certain medical conditions such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. It can also improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Recreational benefits: Cannabis is widely used for its relaxing and calming effects, and can enhance the enjoyment of music, art, and other leisure activities.

Effects of Kava

Physiological effects: Kava consumption can produce physical effects such as muscle relaxation, decreased blood pressure, and reduced heart rate. Immediate effects include the numbing of the tongue and mouth when consumed.

Psychological effects: Kava has a calming and relaxing effect on the mind, and can reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, and insomnia. It can also enhance mood and promote feelings of well-being.

Benefits of Kava

Medicinal benefits: Kava has been traditionally used for its calming and relaxing effects, and has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety, stress, and insomnia. It has also been used to treat symptoms of depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Recreational benefits: Kava is used for its relaxing and calming effects, and can enhance social interactions, improve sleep, and promote a sense of well-being.of music, art, and other leisure activities.

Infographic comparing Kava and Cannabis

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Differences in Preparation and Consumption

Traditional preparation and consumption of Kava

The traditional way of consuming kava differs significantly from the traditional ways of consuming cannabis.

Kava is traditionally prepared by grinding the roots of the kava plant into a powder and brewing it in water to create a traditional beverage. This method of preparation is still the most common and widely used method for consuming kava today.

The traditional method of preparing kava involves grinding the dried kava roots into a fine powder and adding it to a strainer bag. The strainer bag is then placed in a large bowl of water, and the contents are kneaded and squeezed to extract the kavalactones, the active ingredient in kava. The resulting liquid is then consumed as a traditional beverage.

The traditional preparation of kava can vary from region to region, and the strength of the beverage can be adjusted by adding more or less kava powder to the water. Some cultures also add other ingredients to the kava, such as coconut milk or fruit juice, to enhance the flavor.

How kava consumption is different than cannabis

On the other hand, the traditional method of consuming cannabis involves smoking the dried flowers of the plant. This can be done by rolling it into a joint, wrapping it in a cigar or blunt, or smoking it through a pipe. Smoking is still a common method of consuming cannabis today, but other methods, such as vaporizing and consuming edibles, have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Other ways to consume this kava:

  • Capsules: Kava is available in capsule form, which allows for convenient and easy consumption. These capsules contain standardized kavalactone extracts, making it easier to control the dose.
  • Tinctures: Kava tinctures are alcohol-based extracts that can be taken sublingually or added to beverages. Tinctures provide a more potent and concentrated form of kava and are often used for medicinal purposes.
  • Powdered extract: Kava is also available in the form of a powdered extract, which can be added to liquids to create a beverage. The extract is more concentrated than the traditional kava beverage and provides a stronger effect.
  • Topicals: Kava-infused creams and balms can be applied topically for localized relief. This form of kava is often used for treating muscle pain, joint pain, and other types of localized pain.

Traditional Kava Preparation
Traditional Kava Preparation

Comparison of Potential Risks

Health and Safety Risks of Kava

  • Liver toxicity: Long-term use of high doses of kava has been linked to liver toxicity in some cases.
  • Allergic reactions: Some people may experience an allergic reaction to kava, resulting in skin irritation, itching, and redness.
  • Interactions with medication: Kava may interact with certain medications, including antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, and can lead to increased sedation and impaired driving ability.

Health and Safety Risks of Cannabis

Impairment: Cannabis use can impair judgment, reaction time, and motor coordination, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.
Mental health effects: Cannabis use has been linked to increased risk of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression in some individuals.
Respiratory problems: Smoking cannabis can lead to respiratory problems, including bronchitis and lung infections.

Comparison of Legal Status

Legal Status of Kava

  • USA: In the USA, kava is legal for sale as a dietary supplement, but its use as a beverage is restricted in some states.
  • Internationally: The legal status of kava varies internationally, with some countries, such as Australia and Germany, banning its sale and use, while others allow its use as a traditional beverage or dietary supplement.

Legal Status of Cannabis

  • USA: In the USA, the legal status of cannabis varies by state, with some states legalizing its use for medical and recreational purposes, while others continue to ban its use entirely.
  • Internationally: The legal status of cannabis varies internationally, with some countries, such as Canada and Uruguay, legalizing its use for medical and recreational purposes, while others continue to ban its use entirely.

It is important to note that the legal status of kava and cannabis can change rapidly, and it is always recommended to check the current laws and regulations in your area before consuming either substance.


In this article, we have compared the effects and benefits, potential risks, legal status, and methods of preparation and consumption of kava and cannabis. We have found that both substances have unique advantages and disadvantages, and that the decision of which one is safer and more effective ultimately depends on an individual’s specific needs and circumstances.

Which is Safer?

It is difficult to definitively state which substance is safer, as both kava and cannabis have their own set of potential risks and benefits. While kava has a long history of traditional use and has been found to be effective in treating certain health conditions, it also has the potential for liver toxicity.

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