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Kava vs CBD Oil

June 13, 2019
Kava root products and a shell of kava alongside a tincture bottle of CBD Oil

Kava and CBD oil are two plant-based natural remedies that are growing in popularity. In this comparison guide to kava vs CBD oil, we explain the similarities and differences between the two.



CBD stands for cannabidiol and is a naturally occurring compound or molecule found in the flowering hemp or cannabis plant. It is a phytocannabinoid, where phyto means it is a cannabinoid that comes from a plant. It is just one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. The cannabis species of plants is widely accepted as being indigenous to and originating from Asia and is known to include three main varieties.

Kava Kava

Kava is a plant of the pepper family, botanical name Piper Methysticum, which translates as intoxicating pepper, and indigenous to the Western Pacific (Vanuatu, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, and Hawaii). Kava has been used to make a beverage and consumed for centuries throughout the Pacific islands on important ceremonial occasions, to mark important milestones in life, for medicinal purposes, and for social relaxation. Learn more about what kava is.

Relaxation Kalm with Kava


Both Kava and CBD share an ability to relieve feelings of anxiety and promote a sense of calm and wellbeing. They can also both help relieve pain and inflammation in the body.

CBD is also known to aid with digestion and help people to maintain healthy blood sugar and energy levels. Kava is a muscle and body relaxant which through higher concentrations of “heavy” kavalactones (DHK and DHM) promotes sedation and can be used as a sleep aid.

Kava and CBD differ from a psychoactive perspective. Certain kava varieties, those with more “heady” kavalactones go beyond relaxation to boost a person’s mood, and depending on the dosage can stimulate euphoria and greater sociability, and empathy.

CBD has very low psychoactive properties. However, many confuse CBD with another compound in the cannabis plant, the active cannabinoid: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is THC that is responsible for the high that comes from smoking or consuming cannabis resin.

One of the active ingredients in kava, Yangonin, affects the same part of the brain as THC. Kava varieties with a higher amount of Yangonin are those that promote feelings of happiness and uplift a person’s mood.

Many marijuana advocates argue that the full health benefits of the cannabis plant come when CBD and THC are used together. But CBD and THC should not be confused as one and the same thing. They are not.

Kava and CBD are being increasingly discovered by health-conscious individuals looking for plant-based, natural remedies for relaxation and other wellness needs.

Both are safe, non-addictive substances.

Image of a Brain with Neurons Pathways
Different Physical Pathways



Research into CBD and THC led to the relatively recent discovery that the body produces its own cannabinoids, known as endogenous cannabinoids and that there is an endocannabinoid system within our bodies. This system is linked to the neurotransmitters that carry messages from one part of our body to another. Endocannabinoids connect to the central nervous system in our brain as well as to the peripheral nervous system in other parts of the body. The primary purpose of the endocannabinoid system is one of regulation – the creation of balance or homeostasis within our bodies. CBD when consumed positively affects this endocannabinoid system


Kava’s active ingredients are called kavalactones. Six main kavalactones are primarily responsible for generating the relaxation and other mental and physical effects that come from kava consumption. Kava affects the limbic system within the brain.

The limbic system is the part of the brain that triggers emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation. When overstimulated, it can result in a person feeling agitated, nervous, and anxious. The active ingredients in kava calm the limbic system.

The kavalactones Kavain and Desmethoxyyangonin promote relaxation. The kavalactone, Kavain, is also responsible for kava’s analgesic and mouth-numbing effects. The kavalactone Desmethyoxyyangonin is known to increase dopamine in the brain and is responsible for the stronger mood-enhancing properties of some kava varieties.

Read about the science behind the natural calm of Kava.

Legal Differences

CBD – complex legality

CBD is not yet fully legal in the United States. The Farm Bill based in 2018 legalized the cultivation of hemp, where hemp is defined as cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC composition. The same Bill also removed compounds derived from hemp, including CBD from oversight by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). CBD that is derived from cannabis plants with more than 0.3% THC (marijuana plants) remains under the purview of the DEA since the cultivation of marijuana remains illegal at the Federal level.

The legality of CBD is even more complex since the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) classifies CBD as a pharmaceutical drug and prohibits the sale of CBD originating from hemp plants as dietary supplements. The pediatric epilepsy drug, Epidiolex, approved by the FDA is made with CBD.

Within the United States, 30 States have now legalized marijuana, and 17 states have enacted legislation permitting CBD use only i.e. cultivation and consumption of products with no or low THC.

Kava – fully legal

Kava is officially classified as a herbal and dietary supplement in the United States and many other countries. Kava is not a drug and is not in any way regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). It is fully legal in the United States and has been part of Hawaiian culture and traditions for many centuries.

We hope you find this brief summary of the similarities and differences between kava vs CBD oil useful. Let us know if you have any additions or thoughts in the comments below.

Read more in our previous article comparing Kava vs Kratom.

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