Lately, natural alternatives are gaining increasing traction in modern global medicine (1).
Interestingly, most of these natural remedies had been trends across different ancient cultures in Asia and African regions.
Notable mentions among these organic recommendations are Kratom and Cannabis – Including marijuana and hemp. In no time, these substances have found a home in different products – think kratom capsules, marijuana-infused gummies, and CBD coffee.
Despite increasing fame, many still can’t tell apart the terms – Kratom, CBD hemp, marijuana, cannabis. To some, they are all only fancy words for the same plant.
To resolve the conflict, this article walks you through the differences between these substances, including their individual benefits, effects, and legality.
Hopefully, if you’re a health seeker looking to explore natural alternatives, this comprehensive layman guide will help you make the best-informed decisions.
First, What is Kratom?
Kratom, Mitragyna speciosa (2), is a plant of Southeast Asian origin. Over the years, the tree has become particularly popular across related regions like Malaysia, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.
While modern manufacturers have found more innovative ways of using the herb (commonly, powder and capsules), the fresh leaves are usually chewed raw by natives in these countries.
Historical evidence suggests Kratom has been a mainstay of traditional medicine (3) across many regions, boasting similar roles as opium.
Lately, the herb is increasingly used for recreational and therapeutic purposes. Research links these possibilities to Kratom’s rich alkaloid profile (4) – notably hydroxyitragynine and Mitragynine.
Potential Uses and Side Effects of Kratom
Kratom is a relatively new plant, particularly to western researchers.
Although the plant is widely under-researched, so far, a handful of kratom-linked researches and a truckload of anecdotal testimonies suggest Kratom may be a more effective and natural alternative to most chemical-laden prescriptions (5) on pharmaceutical shelves.
Research (6) traces these therapeutic potentials and psychoactive effects to Kratom’s Mitragynine, and hydroxyitragynine content.
Among the claims, here are commonly reported potential benefits of Kratom
- Pain relief
- Mood boost
- Focus and concentration
- Memory boost
- Opioids withdrawal
Remember – these claims are mainly anecdotal. Hence, researchers say more studies are required to substantiate or dispel existing perceptions.
That said, while the benefits look good, Kratom is not without some undesirable effects. In most cases, users report:
- Respiratory depression, psychosis, seizures
- Increase blood pressure.
Note, however, that most of these reports may be caused by too extreme doses.
Again, although Kratom may help manage opioid addiction, it’s in itself addictive and may cause drug dependence.
What is cannabis?
Records say cannabis may have originated from central Asia, and over time spread across Africa, Europe, and then, the Americas.
Too often, cannabis, hemp, and marijuana are wrongly used interchangeably.
Note that cannabis refers to the plant family to which marijuana and hemp are members. Yes, both marijuana and hemp plants are cannabis variants.
However, while marijuana is sought chiefly for its ‘high’ (used to refer to the plant’s psychoactive effect), hemp does not cause a high.
Now, let’s discuss how the marijuana variant and Kratom differs.
Marijuana Vs. Kratom
Although Kratom and marijuana are both prized for their recreational properties, the different substances affect the mind and bodies in their unique ways.
Kratom contains alkaloids that bind with receptors in the brain to inhibit pain levels.
Marijuana, on the other hand, works by disconnecting the body and mind, creating mind-to-body imbalance, disrupts receptors’ activities, which, in turn, reduces pain.
While 7 Hydrocymitragynine and Mitragynine are the primary compounds in Kratom, marijuana is mainly rich in THC.
Marijuana is also thought to manage a range of conditions (7), including:
- Anxiety and depression
- PTSD symptoms
- Arthritic symptoms
- Multiple sclerosis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Weight loss
That said, as with Kratom, marijuana may leave some side effects, including paranoia and anxiety.
Comparing Kratom with CBD Hemp
CBD means Cannabidiol, a compound extracted from the cannabis plant. Although CBD occurs in both hemp and marijuana, the compound is more abundant in hemp.
Simply, CBD hemp refers to CBD-rich hemp plants.
Unlike marijuana and Kratom [mainly appraised for their psychoactive tendencies, hemp is [among other reasons] bred for its non-psychoactive therapeutic potentials (8).
Increasing research reports and anecdotal testimonies suggest CBD may be highly therapeutic for a range of conditions, such as
- Chronic pain
- Epileptic seizure
- Anxiety and depression
- Heart concerns
- Cancerous symptoms
- Skin conditions
What’s more? CBD isn’t only non-psychoactive; research authors found CBD may help reduce the psychoactive effects of marijuana (9).
Legality, Kratom, marijuana, and hemp
Before you jump at either of these herbs, be sure what the UK laws think about them.
- First, Kratom
Presently, Kratom is prohibited across the UK.
Yet, kratom products are scarcely available in local smoke stores and most available on online smoke shops.
While many still think Kratom’s legalization is imminent, until then, it’s safe to consider something else.
Besides, Kratom is the least researched among the trio. Hence, there may be more long-term safety concerns, yet unknown.
Marijuana, like its high-causing Kratom counterpart, is illegal across the UK. This cannabis variant (as explained earlier) has been discriminated against for its high THC concentration.
According to UK laws, .2% THC is the legally acceptable benchmark.
While we hope the UK models Canada’s legal marijuana laws soon, for now, it’s legally unsafe to sell, possess or produce marijuana across the UK (10).
- Hemp CBD
On this trio list, CBD has particularly gained the most traction, both medical and legal.
In the UK and many parts of the world – Including the US – CBD is legal for production, consumption, and sales. However, only hemp-sourced CBD with but not more than .2 percent THC concentration is allowed in the UK.
Last Words – which should I buy?
While more research is needed, all three natural alternatives have shown some common therapeutic properties.
However, the psychoactive components of marijuana and Kratom are serious concerns – even to the UK government, hence the ban on these substances.
So, if you reside in the UK, CBD looks ideal. Besides the legal acceptance, health bodies, including the Who Health Organisation, thinks CBD is generally safe and widely tolerated (11).