Kratom is a traditional herb with a long list of benefits. These diverse benefits fit the problems of the modern world very well.
Kratom is primarily used to reduce anxiety, improve energy levels, and reduce pain.
Although kratom offers many benefits to human health, it isn’t always accepted by regulating bodies. Governmental bodies have inconsistent with regard to the legal status of kratom. Countries like Sweden and Australia have banned the herb. In the United States, the laws surrounding kratom can change dramatically from state-to-state.
This has many people looking for alternatives to kratom.
Benefits Of Kratom
Before getting into our top 14 kratom alternatives, it’s important to consider what makes kratom so special. This way we can make a fair comparison to these alternative sources.
The main benefits of kratom include:
- Opioid receptor agonist, giving it powerful pain-relieving effects (Analgesic)
- Adrenergic effects allow kratom to boost energy levels (Stimulant)
- Assists opiate withdrawal symptoms by providing mild opioid receptor agonism. Useful for weaning people off opiate medications.
- Promotes heightened mood by upregulating dopamine and serotonin in the brain (through adrenergic support)
- Improves libido and sexual function by modulating dopamine (D2) receptors in the brain (aphrodisiac)
- Improves focus and concentration through mild stimulant, and dopaminergic actions (Nootropic)
Best Kratom Alternatives
1. Kava Kava (Piper Methysticum)
Kava kava is a plant originating from the South Pacific. It has a strong cultural use in social celebrations in Fiji and other South Pacific Islands.
Kava kava can be thought of as a non-stimulating kratom. It’s mainly used for reducing anxiety, helping with sleep, and relaxing the muscles after exercise.
Kava achieves this through a set of chemicals known as kavalactones. These chemicals modulate the GABA system in the brain, which is responsible for turning down brain activity to promote rest and recovery .
Many people take kava as a way to unwind at the end of a stressful day. It’s also useful for those suffering from insomnia.
We (the iSum team) often take kava before public speaking events to help us relax and maintain a clear focus under pressure.
- Fights anxiety
- Potent muscle relaxer
- Helps you perform better under pressure
- Maybe too sedating for some users
- High doses can cause liver injury
- May interact with psychiatric medications
Kava is a great alternative for kratom users for its sedative and relaxing effects. It’s not suitable for those looking for stimulation or reducing opiate withdrawal symptoms.
2. Mitragyna Hirsuta
Mitragyna Hirsuta is closely related to kratom (Mitragyna Speciosa). They’re part of the same genus (Mitragyna) different species (speciosa vs hirsuta).
Species can vary a lot from each other. A good example is tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), and eggplants (Solanum melongena). These plants are closely related but are in fact very different from each other.
The same can be said for Mitragyna Hirsuta and Kratom.
Mitragyna Hirsuta is commonly referred to as “Kra Thum Khok” in Thailand and Vietnam. It offers pain-relieving and muscle relaxant effects.
It owes these effects to an alkaloid similar to mitragynine (found in kratom). This alkaloid is called mitraphylline .
Similar to kratom, M. Hirsuta is a stimulant at lower doses and sedative at higher doses.
- Good for pain relief
- Reduces muscle aches and tension
- Not as strong as kratom
- Large doses may cause hallucinations
Mitragyna Hirsuta is a great choice for those looking to receive similar benefits to kratom, but with a more gentle touch. It’s used to relieve pain, muscle tension, and as a mild stimulant/sedative (depending on the dose).
3. Mitragyna Javanica
Like Mitragyna Hirsuta, this species is closely related to kratom. The difference is in the chemical composition of the leaves.
Mitragyna Javanica contains no mitragynine, one of the main alkaloids in kratom. Instead, this species relies on another alkaloid known as mitrajavine. This alkaloid is very similar in appearance to those found in Kratom but has different effects.
Mitrajavine is not as useful for stress-related conditions as Kratom, but excels in reducing blood pressure. It lacks many of the compounds that target the opioid receptors. Therefore, this species is not useful for pain management or reducing opiate withdrawal symptoms.
- Better tasting than kratom
- Not banned in any country
- Excellent for reducing blood pressure
- Milder effect than kratom
- Not useful for reducing pain
Mitragyna Javanica is a legal alternative to kratom. It’s great for lowering blood pressure and providing mild stress reduction. Unfortunately, it lacks many of the euphoric and pain-relieving qualities many kratom users enjoy.
4. Akuamma Seeds (Picralima Nitida)
Akuamma seeds can be thought of as African kratom. The main difference is that with this plant we use the seeds rather than the leaves.
The seeds of the Akuamma plant contain similar indole alkaloids to kratom. The main alkaloid is known as akuammine. It looks similar to kratom alkaloids (like mitragynine) and offers similar benefits as well.
Akuammine binds to the opioid receptors to produce pain-relieving and cognitive enhancement effects. It does this in a slightly different way than kratom, however.
The alkaloids in kratom are “mu opioid” receptor agonists , while akuammine, is mainly a “kappa opioid receptor agonist” .
The major difference is in how these receptors affect the brain. Mu (µ-) opioid receptors result in the euphoric and anesthetic effects. Kappa (κ-) opioid receptors, on the other hand, are better for stress-reduction . They may also cause hallucinations and depressive symptoms fo taken in larger doses.
As such, Akuamma Seeds reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and stress-related conditions. They should be avoided for those suffering depression, however, as they may worsen the condition.
- Potent anti-stress effects
- Lowers blood pressure
- May promote depressive states
- Can cause mild hallucinations
- Mildly addictive
Akuamma Seeds are a great legal alternative to kratom for those looking for natural stress-reduction.
Although very similar to kratom, there are a few key differences that need to be kept in mind with this herb. Mainly, it lacks much of the euphoric effects and may cause hallucinations if large doses are taken.
Phenibut has similar effects to Kratom but through different mechanisms. It’s considered to be a central nervous system depressant. This quality makes it useful for conditions like anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
Unlike kratom, Phenibut doesn’t rely on the effects of an alkaloid or the opioid system to produce its effects. Instead, Phenibut works off the GABA system in the brain (similar to kava). This system modulates the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) .
This PNS directly opposes the “fight or flight” system involved with acute stress and anxiety. It promotes rest and relaxation by making the neurons in the brain fire at a slower pace. It also promotes restorative processes like digestion and cellular repair.
Its ability to increase GABA in the brain has made Phenibut a popular supplement for cognitive enhancement. It’s especially useful for those suffering from anxiety, PTSD, and ADHD.
- Highly effective for reducing anxiety
- Improves mood and focus
- Lacks the pain-relieving qualities of kratom
- Can be too sedating for some individuals
- Not a natural health supplement
Phenibut is great for people looking to reduce their anxiety, sleep better at night, and lower stress. It’s especially useful for promoting clarity and concentration in people who tend to be anxious and overstimulated.
This supplement is not useful for those looking to relieve pain or benefit from the other opiate effects of kratom.
6. Marijuana (Cannabis sativa/indica)
Marijuana is by far one of the most popular and controversial plants in the modern world.
Many of marijuana’s benefits are similar to kratom but work through a completely different system.
Marijuana’s benefits rely on a set of molecules known as cannabinoids. These molecules interact with a system of receptors located throughout the body referred to as the endocannabinoid system.
This system is very complex. It regulates pain and nerve transmission, muscle contraction (smooth AND skeletal), neurotransmitter production and digestion .
Marijuana is useful for treating chronic pain in a similar capacity to kratom. The difference is that this effect doesn’t rely on the opioid receptors. This means that marijuana lacks the addictive nature these substances often have.
Marijuana is also useful as a euphoric and sedative, though much less potent than kratom.
- Potent pain reliever
- Mild euphoric and sedative
- Muscle relaxant and anticonvulsant
- Has a wide range of other benefits as well
- Illegal in many states/countries
- Has intoxicant effects that may be inappropriate for everyday use
Cannabis is a great alternative to kratom. This is especially true for those looking for pain relief, or who wish to avoid the negative effects of opiates.
7. Cannabidiol (CBD)
Cannabidiol is a specific component of the marijuana plant. The reason we’ve decided to list this separately is that CBD has unique benefits on its own.
The marijuana plant has 66 compounds classified as cannabinoids. Of these 66, the dominant ones include THC and CBD. These cannabinoids bind to special receptors in the body known as cannabinoid receptors. The most important point to understand is that each cannabinoid will bind to these receptors differently. This results in different effects within the body.
THC is the main psychoactive component of cannabis. It works by directly stimulating these receptors to exert changes in the body. This stimulation makes THC inappropriate for many neurological disorders like anxiety.
CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t stimulate these receptors directly. Rather, it acts as a modulator , bringing overactive systems back to baseline.
It has the ability to cause both stimulations, and inhibition of these receptors depending on what’s needed by the body. This gives CBD a unique set of benefits compared to other parts of the marijuana plant.
CBD is useful for anxiety, depression, inflammatory conditions, pain, convulsions, and preventing neurodegeneration. It’s non-psychoactive and has very few reported side effects.
- Great for pain management
- Promotes more thorough sleep
- Has a long list of other health benefits
- Can cause drowsiness in some individuals
- Lacks the euphoric and stimulating benefits of kratom
- Banned or heavily regulated in many parts of the world
CBD is an excellent kratom alternative for those looking to improve their sleep, or manage pain. Unfortunately, in many parts of the United States and the rest of the world, CBD remains banned or regulated.
8. Guarana (Paullinia cupana)
Guarana is a tropical shrub found growing throughout the Amazon rainforest. Its seeds resemble human eyes, and it’s believed by traditional cultures to relentlessly watch over the forest without having to sleep.
This is a fitting description for guarana because it contains the highest known source of caffeine in the plant world. Compared to coffee, guarana has roughly four times as much caffeine by weight .
Guarana is an excellent alternative to kratom in terms of its stimulating profile. The effects of caffeine, and other related (xanthine) alkaloids are more reliable stimulants than kratoms (indole) alkaloid profile. If taken in high doses, even the most stimulating kratom will become sedative.
For this reason, guarana is a preferred option for those looking to use the stimulating activities as a pre-workout. It’s also popular for boosting workflow efficiency and mental endurance for work or school projects.
- Better energizing effects than both coffee and kratom
- Boosts athletic performance
- Potent antioxidant
- Lacks the pain-relieving qualities of kratom
- Not suitable for promoting relaxation
- Can worsen conditions like insomnia or anxiety
Guarana is a great alternative to kratom for users who want to increase both mental and physical energy. The energizing effects of this herb are some of the best available, but lacks many of the other benefits of kratom.
9. Blue Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea)
Blue lotus flowers were used in religious ceremonies in the middle east as a way to reach higher levels of consciousness.
Today, the flowers of this aquatic plant are used as a relaxant and calming euphoric. It’s useful for promoting meditation, calming the nerves, and reducing symptoms of insomnia and restlessness.
Blue lotus owes its relaxant effects to its ability to inhibit an enzyme known as monoamine oxidase .
This enzyme breaks down neurotransmitters in the brain like dopamine and serotonin. By inhibiting this enzyme, blue lotus can promote the activity of these neurotransmitters, resulting in better mood regulation. This is a common mechanism for antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications.
- Potent mood enhancer
- Useful for promoting meditative states
- Promotes relaxation
- Can be too sedating for some individuals
- Not suitable for those on antidepressant medications
Blue lotus makes for a great kratom alternative for those looking to receive sedative and relaxant effects. These effects from blue lotus are more reliable than kratom because they occur regardless of the dose. Kratom, on the other hand, can be both stimulating and sedating depending on the dose given.
Blue lotus is also a better mood enhancer and can be used as an aphrodisiac.
10. Wild opium lettuce (Lactuca virosa)
As the name implies, opium lettuce is a relative of lettuce with opium-like effects. These effects are similar to, but much weaker than other opiate agonists (like kratom). Therefore the effects of wild opium lettuce are likely the result of other mechanisms as well.
In ancient Egypt, this herb was popular as an aphrodisiac, and for producing lucid dream states.
The opiate-like effects of this herb come from the rich milky sap contained in its leaves and stems. This sap is used to treat pain both internally and topically on the skin.
Other uses of opium lettuce include the treatment of stomach ulcers, female hormonal balance, and insomnia.
- Safe and effective pain reliever (both topically and internally)
- Used to promote lucid dream states
- Mild opiate effects make it suitable for long-term use
- Not as strong as kratom for any of its benefits
- Has no stimulating benefits
Opium lettuce is a milder alternative to kratom. It’s useful for low-grade pain, insomnia, and stress. The safety of this herb makes it more suitable for long-term use than kratom.
11. Corydalis (Corydalis Turtschaninovii)
Corydalis is a herb with a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine. They use it for insomnia, pain, cardiac arrhythmias, depression, and irregular menstrual cycles.
Just like kratom, corydalis owes much of its therapeutic activity to a set of alkaloids contained within its leaves. Research on this herb has discovered over 20 active alkaloids within the leaves, each with slightly different effects on the body. This is similar to kratom, which has been shown to have nearly a dozen different alkaloids .
The alkaloids in corydalis have been shown to reduce the chances of stroke and cardiovascular disease . They lower blood pressure and promote sleep by modulating serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain .
Corydalis alkaloids also have pain-relieving qualities that work through mechanisms similar to kratom (NMDA/Opioid receptor modulation) .
- Promotes sleep onset for those suffering from insomnia
- Additional benefits for menstrual pain and depression
- Potent pain-relieving activity
- Useful for promoting longevity by improving cardiovascular health
- Lacks any stimulating effects
- The alkaloids are not as well studied as those in kratom
- Different sources of corydalis can have variable effect profiles
The sedative, analgesic, and hypotensive effects of corydalis make it a great kratom alternative. As an added benefit, corydalis is non-addictive compared to kratom because it doesn’t rely on the opiate receptors to provide its effects.
12. Kanna (Sceletium Tortuosum)
Kanna is a traditional African herb with potent mood-enhancing activity. It’s used in traditional medical systems to treat depression, anxiety, and poor libido. It was also a popular appetite suppressant among South African indigenous tribes.
Like kratom, Kanna relies on alkaloids for its benefits. Mesembrine, the main alkaloid in Kanna, acts as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) . This is a common mechanism of action for antidepressant drugs.
Kanna is great for boosting mood and producing mild euphoria or relaxation.
- Great for promoting meditative states
- Potent mood enhancer
- Appetite suppressant
- Lacks many of the pain-relieving qualities of kratom
- Can be too stimulating for some people
- Not suitable for those on antidepressant medications
Kanna is a great kratom alternative for improving mood and focus but isn’t useful for pain or opiate withdrawal symptoms.
Caution is advised when taking antidepressant medication due to their similar effects. Taking them together could result in side effects from the pharmaceutical antidepressants.
13. White Willow Bark (Salix alba)
The bark and leaves of white willow contain a chemical known as salicylic acid. This compound has since been modified to produce acetyl-salicylic acid, which is the chemical name for Aspirin.
It comes as no surprise then that white willow bark is used as a pain reliever. The level of analgesia from this herb is comparable to kratom but works through different mechanisms (COX-2 inhibition) .
Rather than inhibiting pain through the opioid receptors, white willow bark targets inflammatory causes. This makes it a more effective pain reliever for conditions like arthritis, migraines, and back pain.
Due to the anti-inflammatory effects of white willow, it’s also used to speed healing throughout the body.
- Effective pain-killer (Natural aspirin)
- Speeds healing and reduces inflammation
- Great for reducing fevers
- Not suitable as a sedative
- Not suitable for people taking blood thinners
White willow bark is a great kratom alternative for those looking for pain relief. We believe white willow is an even better choice than kratom if the source of pain is inflammatory conditions (like arthritis).
White willow is not a good kratom alternative if the goal is to produce a state of euphoria or stimulation.
14. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola is a small succulent-like plant found growing at incredibly high altitudes. It’s thought to be one of the most adaptable plants in the world.
Rhodiola survives everything from freezing cold winters to scorching hot summers. It’s drought resistant and can survive weeks of constant rain and storms. All the while living in one of the lowest oxygen climates on earth.
The main reason we recommend Rhodiola is for its adaptogenic effects. It works on the HPA axis in the brain to improve our capacity for resisting stress . This allows us to sustain energy levels longer and relieves depression and fatigue.
Rhodiola is useful for improving cognitive function, including learning and memory. It’s popular among athletes for boosting physical performance and helps mountain climbers prevent altitude sickness.
- Great athletic performance enhancer
- Improves memory and concentration
- Buffers the stress response system
- Not as useful for pain-relief as kratom
- Can be too stimulating for some users
Rhodiola is very different from kratom but has similar benefits. It’s more reliable for boosting athletic performance than kratom, however, it lacks the pain-relieving and sedative qualities.
15. Yohimbe (Pausinystalia Yohimbe)
Yohimbe contains a series of indole alkaloids very similar in structure to those found in kratom. These alkaloids have the ability to dilate blood vessels and therefore lower blood pressure .
The main target of Yohimbe is the adrenergic system. This system controls our blood pressure, heart rate, and energy levels .
One of the main uses of Yohimbe today is as a sexual stimulant and energy tonic. It’s used by athletes for promoting athletic performance (including strength and endurance).
- Mild stimulating effects
- Aphrodisiac qualities (men and women)
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lacks the sedative and pain relieving effects of kratom
- Improper dosage can result in opposite effects
- Scientific research is unreliable on this herb due to poor research practices in older studies
Yohimbe is a great alternative to kratom for those looking to boost energy levels and improve libido. It’s superior to kratom for reducing blood pressure and has a more positive legal status globally. Yohimbe isn’t suitable as a sedative or for pain-relief.
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