Kratom, also known as Mitragyna speciosa (its scientific name), has been used for centuries for a variety of benefits. Over in Southeast Asia, where the plant grows naturally, the plant acts as a folk medicine for the indigenous cultures. And those inhabitants use the plant for a variety of ailments. To relieve their symptoms, locals either brew tea or chew kratom leaves from the tree. Those Asian communities in the region use kratom to self-treat common medical complications: e.g., diarrhea, fever, pain, and stomach cramps.
But in the past decade, the plant has grown in popularity in the western world. For the longest time, the anecdotal evidence from the kratom community was the only known proof to support those claims. But now, our scientific community is trying to prove those assertions with actual empirical evidence. And in the past few years, the number of kratom experiments performed has grown immensely.
Even with all the new scientific research in the works to determine the actual functions of kratom, we’re still in the infancy stage of understanding how the substance reacts within our bodies. And to answer some of those questions, scientists have begun looking into the pharmacokinetics of 7-Hydroxymitragynine in living organisms. And one recent study seeks to attain those answers by studying the effects in beagle dogs. But before we jump into those results, we’ll make sure you understand what pharmacokinetics entails.
Pharmacokinetics is a branch of pharmacology that studies the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of a substance in our bodies. Research of pharmacokinetics either follows intravenous drug administration or extravascular delivery (e.g., oral, transdermal, or inhalation). Because kratom consumers ingest kratom naturally by drinking a tea or swallowing it in powder form, the oral delivery of the alkaloids was the process that scientists needed to research. That way, the medical community can better understand how kratom reacts within the biological functions of our bodies whenever we ingest it.
The 7-hydroxymitragynine compound is the most potent of all the alkaloids in kratom. Yet, the amount of the substance is almost nonexistent. So the researchers needed to isolate the compound to acquire a higher dosage. Then after a test subject ingests it, they can examine its pharmacokinetics. But to get the final test results, scientists would need to discover how it manifests in blood. So they would need to recover blood samples from test subjects after taking the substance.
The answer of pharmacokinetics lies in the blood plasma found in those collected specimens. You see, out of all the blood in our body, approximately 55% of it consists of plasma. Most of the plasma is water. However, it also contains the proteins and nutrients our body needs to survive. And those proteins have an integral role to play with medicinal compounds. Those types of substances bind to the proteins in our circulatory system. And that gives backdoor access to the pharmacokinetics of the compounds.
A medicinal compound can couple with plasma proteins in our blood. And that attachment can alter how productive a substance performs, depending on the bond that takes place. The protein binding can influence how long the compound stays in our bloodstream to provide the medicinal properties we desire. So it has a direct correlation to its biological half-life.
The compounds that remain bound to proteins act as a storehouse, providing a cache within our bloodstream. The rest of the substance gets metabolized instantly and excreted from the body. But the bound portion gets released slowly, maintaining an equilibrium.
The team of scientists wanted to understand the process of oral pharmacokinetics of 7-hydroxymitragynine in a living organism, so they experimented on beagle dogs. Our canine companions received the compound, and then plasma samples were taken from those test subjects. However, this particular experiment wasn’t the first to investigate the pharmacokinetics of kratom in dogs. Researchers conducted a different study last year that sought information on how mitragynine affected beagle dogs. And that experiment used the same breed of dog. But that’s not uncommon. Beagles get used in the majority of laboratory experiments by scientists. And the reason for that has nothing to do with their biological functions. Instead, it has to do with their temperament. They’re the perfect test subjects because of their calm demeanors.
For the experiment, the scientists gave the beagle dogs 1 mg of 7-hydroxymitragynine per kg. And since the average beagle weighs approximately 10 kgs, that means those dogs got about 10 mg of 7-hydroxymitragynine. So those dogs received a lot of that molecular compound per serving. In comparison, most kratom products only contain .02% or less of the alkaloid. So that’s well over the amount a full-grown human would take per serving. To come close to that amount, you’d need to ingest around 50 grams of kratom powder per serving. But even with those beagle dogs getting such a high amount, there were no complications that arose from it.
After the beagles got their serving of 7-hydroxymitragynine, plasma samples were taken from the dogs to understand their absorption rate of the substance. And it occurred almost instantaneously. A peak plasma concentration occurred within 15 minutes after the serving. But the elimination of the compound happened slowly. It had an estimated half-life of around 3.5 hours.
There weren’t any adverse effects observed in the canines, either. So even with getting a heavy amount of stronger alkaloid, the test results showed no signs of complications. And that’s extremely important because out of the two primary alkaloids found in kratom, 7-hydroxymitragynine has a higher addictive potential in test subjects. And certain federal agencies have tried to link the substance with fictional overdose claims. But the test results in this experiment prove a high dosage produced no dangerous outcome.
The Southeast Asian indigenous communities have been using kratom and touting its benefits for centuries. Finally, people from our country began paying attention. And each year, the number of kratom consumers grows regularly. Now, the plant is getting mainstream attention for its proclaimed effects. And as the kratom consumer base increases, a more comprehensive testimonial foundation expands with it, educating others on the subject. However, in the western world, herbal remedies go through additional scrutiny by the scientific community.
But the scientific research of kratom runs on money. So the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provided millions of dollars in funding for kratom research. A few years ago, NIDA produced a $3.5 million grant for kratom research over two years. Before it expired, the agency created another five-year kratom research grant for $3.4 million. And Congress even put aside $1 million in the Appropriations Bill of 2020 for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to support the research of kratom alkaloids.
Even with proper funding, kratom research takes time to provide the necessary answers. So scientists continue to decipher the biological functions in our bodies through several studies on its pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Learning how our body affects the alkaloids found in kratom is just as important as determining how they affect our bodies. Investigating that symbiotic relationship allows the medical and scientific communities to discover the importance of kratom from a different standpoint. And our current study gives us one more notch in that belt.