Kava vs. Weed: Comparing Benefits | Botanic Tonics

Kava vs. Weed: Comparing Benefits | Botanic Tonics

Reviewed by Jamal Bouie

Kava vs. Weed: Comparing Benefits

Kava and weed are both great options for relaxation and occasional stress relief, however, their effects, styles of consumption, and interaction with the body can vary quite a bit. While kava leaves are traditionally brewed into tea, weed is typically smoked or consumed as edibles. Kava is completely legal, while weed legality varies from state to state and it is still illegal in the majority of the US. Kava typically does not result in any psychoactive effects and the kavalactones work on the brain’s limbic system, while cannabis contains THC, which does result in psychoactive effects and its compounds work on the endocannabinoid system.[1] With these differences, deciding which plant to consume really comes down to personal preference. 

Understanding the Differences Between Kava and Weed

Kava kava, or Piper methysticum, is a plant in the pepper family native to Southeast Asia. Its active compounds, kavalactones, work on the brain’s limbic systems by interacting with various neurotransmitters. More specifically, kava’s mode of action is most closely tied to enhancing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for decreasing neuronal activity.[1] This is what leads to the calming effect without any cognitive impairment, meaning you can go about your typical day with a newfound sense of calm! 

Weed, on the other hand, with the active THC compounds, works slightly differently through binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and throughout the body. The endocannabinoid system plays a very active role in regulating physiological and cognitive processes, including but not limited to mood, appetite, and memory.[1] By altering normal brain communication, THC provides that “high” feeling, including sensations of euphoria, altered senses, relaxation, and changes in perception of time.[1] The effects of weed tend to include more cognitive impairment, so you will have that relaxed feeling that you might be searching for, but it might be more difficult to work through typical daily tasks.

Despite their similarities, the legal status of both kava and weed differs quite a bit. Kava, which is classified by the FDA as a dietary supplement, is legal in all 50 states.[2] In contrast, cannabis legality varies by state, with some states that have completely legalized it, some that have legalized medical marijuana, some that have decriminalized it, and some that keep it illegal altogether.[3] When deciding between kava and weed, take into consideration the legal status of cannabis in your state. 

Exploring the Health Benefits of Kava and Weed

The health benefits of both of these plants are quite complex and span a full range of mental, physical, and neurological effects. While some benefits are clear, the use of these plants for therapy or medicine is consistently in debate due to the uncertainty of the medical-based evidence. 

Kava's Potential Benefits

Kava, and its most active compounds, which are known as kavalactones, are known to have many benefits. But, does kava make you high? In short, no, but kava has anti-inflammatory effects and an anxiolytic nature, making it effective for enhancing muscle relaxation, minimizing feelings of occasional anxiety, and improving sleep quality.[4] While use of kava in medicine or therapy is not approved, there is no denying that some of its benefits can be effective for general body regulation, making it a great at-home dietary supplement for a calmer mind and relaxed body.

Weed's Potential Benefits

Marijuana, although controversial, has been used for medicinal purposes and therefore has potentially stronger medical backing for its benefits. Weed has been known to reduce pain and inflammation, reduce nausea and stimulate appetite, and even treat certain medical conditions such as epilepsy or glaucoma.[5] With its anti-nausea effects, it has also been used extensively with cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.[5] These benefits have supported approval for Medical Marijuana in the majority of the United States, however, recreational use of marijuana is still under debate due to concerns regarding dependency and potential negative side effects. 

Comparing Side Effects and Risks

As with many supplements, there can be short term side effects ranging from stomach discomfort or headaches, but with both of these plants, there are potential long term side effects and risks to be aware of before adding them to your diet. 

Kava Side Effects

Kava’s natural benefits don’t always come for free – some consumers report headache, nausea, fatigue, and restlessness after consuming it.[4] Longer term data is still very speculative due to minimal human research and the hepatotoxic risk, which was reported in the early 2000’s. With that being said, there is some reason to believe that consuming kava at higher amounts above the recommended kava serving size for prolonged periods of time, can have slight adverse effects on the liver.[4] At normal consumption levels, studies show no considerable changes in liver function.[4]

When adding a new supplement to your diet, it is important to always consider any potential interactions with other medications or substances. With the potential side effects related to the liver, there are signs that drinking alcohol with kava could add additional stress to the liver.[5] It is also advised to avoid taking any other anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications, diuretics, and medications affecting the liver.[6] If you are taking any prescription medications, it is best to consult a medical professional before adding this herbal remedy to your routine. 

Weed Side Effects

With marijuana’s approval for medical use, it was proven that the negative side effects are within the tolerability of other medications.[5] The primary consideration for long term risk of marijuana use lies with smoking. Similar to smoking cigarettes, smoking weed can come with lung damage, increased risk of cancer, and poor pregnancy outcomes.[5] Additionally, weed use can lead to dependency when used frequently and withdrawal symptoms, so if you decide to use weed regularly, be aware of any habits that could start to form.[5] Lastly, due to the effects of cannabinoids on memory and cognitive function, there is potential for impaired cognition and memory loss over longer periods of use.[5] 

Which Option Is Right for You?

Since both of these plants work similarly to provide a feeling of relaxation that you might be searching for, the decision of which one is best for you is yours to make! When deciding between kava and weed, you will likely want to take into consideration the legal status of weed in your area, the desired effects you are after, and any current medications that might interact. If you are still struggling to decide on which plant alternative is best for you, it might be helpful to consult with a healthcare professional for more personalized advice. 

Finding Balance with Botanic Tonics

If you have tried weed before and it wasn’t for you, or if you enjoy weed but want to try something new, or if you are new to this world altogether, kava could be a great relaxation supplement to add to your life. With less of an effect on cognition and memory loss, kava use can provide the relaxation you might be searching for while still allowing you to go about your day like normal. If neither of these solutions seems right to you, you can always look into other natural alternatives for relaxation and occasional stress reduction like rhodiola, lion’s mane, ginseng, and ashwagandha. If you are ready to give kava a try, try feel free kava kratom tonic tonic by Botanic Tonics. Our tonic is made with a unique mix of noble kava and ground leaf kratom to provide you with feelings of serenity, relaxation, and focus, perfect for when you are looking to wind down after a long day. 

Get ready to feel relaxed with Botanic Tonics feel free CLASSIC tonic. 


  1. Cannabis vs Kava: What are the differences? Union Square Lamps 2024 https://unionsquarelamps.com/cannabis-and-kava-what-are-the-differences/ 
  2. Kava Drug Enforcement Administration https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/kava.pdf 
  3. Marijuana legality by state DISA 2024 https://disa.com/marijuana-legality-by-state 
  4. Kava as a clinical nutrient: promises and challenges MDPI 2020 https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/10/3044 
  5. Marijuana and Medicine - Assessing the Science Base Institute of Medicine https://usiraq.procon.org/sourcefiles/IOM_Report.pdf 
  6. Kava kava Mount Sinai https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/kava-kava

About The Author

Jamal Bouie Botanic Tonic

Jamal Bouie

Jamal Bouie is an accomplished professional with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis. Currently, he is pursuing his PhD in Biomedicine at Salus University. Jamal has worked in several industries; he began his career in pharmaceutical manufacturing and transitioned to the cannabis industry, where he specialized in analytical testing and manufacturing, playing a vital role in ensuring product safety and compliance. Now, Jamal has turned his attention to the dietary supplement field, combining his scientific acumen with his passion for health and wellness.

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