Mitragyna speciosa, commonly known as “kratom,” is a tropical evergreen plant native to Southeast Asian countries. The kratom leaves in their raw form have been used in traditional medicine in its native regions for hundreds of years. Now, kratom is becoming popular in modern western society for its various effects, as well as providing some users relief from certain complaints. Health professionals have expressed concerns about the leaf being marketed as a “medicinal treatment” because its effects and potential applications have yet to be clinically tested, and it is not approved or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The pharmacology research that exists on kratom isn’t comprehensive, but some users have reported short-term improvements to their quality of life.
How Is Kratom Used?
Kratom starts out as leaves of a plant, similar to tea leaves. As such, kratom can be prepared for consumption in a variety of ways. Leaves can be steeped like tea leaves to create a simple drinkable solution, as well as more concentrated liquid extracts. Alternatively, kratom leaves can be finely processed into a powder, which can be mixed into other beverages or foods, or else portioned into individual capsules to be taken orally.
Kratom can be used on its own or in combination with other foods and beverages, depending on user preferences. However, combining kratom with other substances should be done cautiously, as the full spectrum of effects may be affected by other active chemicals such as the caffeine in coffee.
Mitragyna speciosa is a psychoactive plant, meaning that it affects how the brain works, and can cause changes in mood, thought patterns, awareness, emotions, and behaviors. The effects of kratom most commonly reported by users are:
- Feelings of productivity or energy
- Increase in mood and sociability
- Feelings of relaxation of calmness
- Feeling more alert
Kratom may also induce psychoactive effects similar to opioids when taken at higher doses. Make sure you’re managing your dosage if you are using kratom to avoid undesired effects. Side-effects can include:
- Mood instability
- Reduced motor coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
Is Kratom Safe?
There isn’t a current consensus among pharmacologists about the safety or prolonged effects of kratom on the body, and there is no comprehensive federal regulation on the sale or use of kratom. As such, it is generally treated as a botanical or herbal supplement, although there is ongoing research into its chemical properties, and the risks or benefits associated with its use. If you are experiencing recurrent negative side effects, consult a doctor.
Types of Kratom
While traditionally kratom leaves were either chewed raw or dried for tea, today there are many types and strains of kratom available on the market. These can include:
Kratom can come in different strains as well as different forms. Red vein, green vein, and white vein kratom are all fairly common strains, but there are many others, like Maeng Da, Bali, Thai, and additionally there are mixes. Each strain is intended to produce a different effect, so when buying kratom, keep in mind that your desired experience will influence the strain that’s best for you.
History of Kratom
Kratom is a Southeast Asian plant that can be found growing indigenously in the countries of:
- Papua New Guinea
The kratom leaf has been used in herbal medicine in these countries since the 19th century, but has recently been adopted into western culture. According to the Journal of American Osteopathic Association, kratom became widely available in the United States and Europe for recreational use around 2012. Traditionally, the mitragyna speciosa plant was used to combat fatigue and improve work productivity for laborers and field workers, who had the easiest access to the indigenous plant. The leaves were either chewed on fresh or dried and made into tea. In western society, powders and capsules are more common.
Currently, the FDA has an import alert out on kratom, specifically targeting dietary supplements that contain the plant. The FDA’s concern could be attributed to the fact that there are companies selling unapproved and adulterated kratom products where kratom is mixed with other substances. Some of these companies are also making claims that their products can cure or treat medical conditions, which are clinically unproven, and can be harmful misinformation when not subject to FDA regulation and approval. This is partly why it is important to take care when shopping for kratom, and to buy only from credible and trustworthy vendors who can guarantee the purity and quality of their kratom products.
At this time, there are no outstanding federal regulations of the use, sale, and purchase of kratom in the United States. There are some wide-spread outstanding concerns about the substance’s effects, so some places have decided to ban it outright. Certain U.S. states have started to mark the sale of kratom substances illegal, or are currently reviewing restrictive legislation, due to both concerns about the effects of the substance, and poor individual use such as unintentional overdose when mixing the substance with other narcotics. If you are interested in trying kratom for yourself, make sure you know your city or state’s legal stance so that you can be an informed consumer.
Kratom, as a substance, is also not regulated by the FDA (apart from the alert mentioned above). However, companies that belong to the American Kratom Association (AKA) and have AKA endorsed products must follow the association’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). You can check out their list of GMP approved vendors on their website.