Kratom Guides

Khat vs. Kratom

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is native to Southeast Asia but has found a home in the hearts of many people worldwide. Its versatility and effectiveness have made it a go-to for those seeking alternative medicines, though it’s commonly used for its analgesic properties.

Khat leaves come from Catha edulis, a shrub indigenous to the Middle East and East Africa. People chew its leaves for the stimulating effects, a practice that has deep roots in the culture of these countries. 

Though similar, these plants have stark differences. Here we’ll compare the two and explain what makes each unique.

Written by Audrey Webber
Last Updated 4 months ago

Audrey Webber

Anthropologist & Freelance Writer

Khat vs. Kratom: A Comparison Chart

The following chart gives a quick look at some of the most critical aspects of the two plants. 

Active Ingredients Cathine and CathinoneMitragynine, 7-Hydroxymitragynine, & Others
Psychoactivity NoMild
OriginMiddle East, East AfricaSoutheast Asia
Main Benefits Reduced appetite, improved concentration, euphoriaHelps with pain, anxiety, depression, addiction, and energy
Pain SupportBelieved to provide a low level of pain support. Believed to provide a moderate-to-high level of pain support
Mood SupportMay produce an energetic feelingMay produce a sense of wellbeing and peace 
Level of Safety Moderate riskLow to moderate risk
Dose100 grams to 300 grams of fresh leaves2 grams to 12 grams
LegalityCathinone is a Schedule 1 DrugFederally legal; state laws vary

What is Khat?

Khat is a flowering plant that comes from parts of Africa and the Middle East. In its native areas, khat consumption has gone on for thousands of years. Its two main alkaloids, cathine, and cathinone, make it similar to ephedrine. 

Khat is extremely popular in Yemen; as many as 90 percent of men, 73 percent of women, and even 15-20 percent of children partake regularly. 

It makes up approximately 30 percent of Yemen’s groundwater usage and represents up to 50 percent of each household’s purchases. 

People traditionally use khat for multiple reasons. In Harar, for example, users chew it for entertainment, religion, and work [6]. There is evidence that the people of Harar started chewing khat before the 19th century. 

Unfortunately, khat can be addictive, especially if used regularly. Those who become addicted to khat have high morbidity. Its use comes with high economic and societal costs.   

What is Kratom?

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a close relative of the coffee plant. The leaves of kratom plants grow in Southeast Asia. Since the early 19th century, workers have chewed the leaves to avoid burnout. Its alkaloid content varies and is what gives the strains their unique effects. Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are the two dominant alkaloids and give kratom its energizing and sedative effects.

Kratom has a strong taste that most people don’t like. Many users make it into a tea or take it in capsule format to avoid the bitter taste. 

There are many different kratom strains with varying effects, giving you greater control over the impact you feel.  

Kratom strains fall into three categories.

  1. Red Vein Kratom Strains — the most sedative and analgesic strains.
  2. White Vein Kratom Strains — the most euphoric and energy-boosting strains.
  3. Green Vein Kratom Strains — a middle-ground between the red and white strains.

Kratom usage is cultural, too, and can come with similar societal problems. The biggest difference is in the strength of the addiction. Kratom addiction is less severe and easier to break; in fact, it can help ease the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. 

It also helps with many issues that usually require prescription drugs, like depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia. While kratom isn’t a cure, it’s often the thing that nudges users into more normal life.

Khat plant, known for cathinone, a stimulant, which is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite, and euphoria
Khat (Catha edulis)

Pain Management: Khat vs. Kratom 

Kratom has a long history of helping people manage pain

Khat offers less pain management, but it has similar benefits to ibuprofen and amphetamines [1]. 

Mood Support: Khat vs. Kratom 

Khat typically provides a boost of energy when taken, similar to other ephedrines. However, shortly after the effects wear off, reactive depression symptoms occur. Khat could make symptoms worse in those with pre-existing psychiatric diseases [2]. 

Kratom enhances mood, but the effects don’t last. It’s powerfully euphoric while you’re on kratom. Afterward, the effect wears off and puts you back to square one. 

Benefits & Side Effects: Khat vs. Kratom

Kratom is safer and has only been linked to deaths when mixed with other substances. Kratom can be addictive, though this takes long-term use and withdrawal symptoms are less severe than with opiates. 

The overall risk of death from khat and kratom is low, but khat has a higher risk of severe side effects and death. 

Why do people take these in the first place? They both come with some attractive benefits. Unfortunately, these benefits can lead to addiction, especially when it comes to khat. 

Khat’s Benefits

When you first chew khat, it causes many acute effects, including the following:

  • Appetite suppression 
  • Boosted work performance
  • Energy boost
  • Euphoria 
  • Excitement
  • Increased concentration
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure 
  • Increased imagination 
  • Increased inhibition
  • Increased locomotor activity 
  • Increased mental alertness
  • Increased wellbeing 
  • Libido boost
  • Talkativeness 

Kratom’s Benefits

Kratom also has several benefits. These vary based on the strain and dose you take but may include: 

Using any substance long-term can cause problems. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the risks, but not always. Here’s a look at the side effects you could face from the extended use of khat or kratom.

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa)

Khat’s Side Effects

Khat comes with several safety risks and is addictive. It can increase the risk of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, central nervous system, obstetric, and genitourinary diseases. It’s also believed to cause cancer in some cases. [3]

Khat’s risk of death is relatively low, but it does happen. For instance, 13 people in the UK died due to taking khat from 2004-2009 [4].  

Numerous potential side effects seem to point out that khat isn’t safe [5]. These include: 

  • Acute myocardial infarction 
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation 
  • Depression
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Gastritis
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of concentration
  • Numbness
  • Periodontal disease

Taking khat on a regular basis (defined as at least three times per week), or suffering from khat withdrawal, can lead to: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Cravings
  • Delusions 
  • Hypnagogic hallucinations 
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability 
  • Lack of concentration 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Low Mood
  • Manic behavior 
  • Numbness
  • Restlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Tremors 
  • Violence

Kratom’s Side Effects

Most side effects of kratom become noticeable after two to eight weeks of regular usage. These include: 

Kratom can be addictive with long-term usage. Fortunately, it’s much less addictive than opioids.

Kratom also has signs of continued usage and withdrawal, though these are usually less severe:

Legality: Khat vs. Kratom

Khat itself is not illegal, but its main compounds are. Cathinone is federally a Schedule I Drug, and cathine is a Schedule IV Drug. States can choose to make contradictory laws, though. 

On the other hand, kratom is federally legal though some states have banned it. 

Kratom is easily accessible online or in local shops if it’s legal where you live

Key Takeaways: Khat vs. Kratom

Khat and kratom both have pros and cons. 

If you’re looking for a way to deal with the withdrawal symptoms of opioid addiction, kratom is definitely the best choice. Kratom is also generally safer to take than khat and has fewer symptoms when you decide to stop taking it.

Another big bonus for kratom is that it’s legal throughout most of the US Khat is illegal in the US and has been since 1993. 

No matter which one you choose to take, be careful of any potential side effects. Overall, though, kratom is believed to be safer, making it the better choice. 


Further Reading