Currently, we do not have enough research conducted on the Kratom plant. However, pharmaceutical researchers are beginning to study it more, hoping to identify and harness its supposed discomfort relieving properties. For the past few years, the scientific community has provided us with a growing number of scientific research papers about its experiments on the Kratom plant, and the US government made some of that possible.
For example, the US Congress was responsible for legislating grant money for the endeavor. The National Institute on Drug Abuse awarded researchers at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy with almost $7 million in funding to investigate the properties of the Mitragyna speciosa plant. The federal agency gave the school a two-year, $3.5 million grant to study its alkaloids individually. Right afterward, the agency provided another five-year, $3.4 million grant to determine how the alkaloids act in unison within our bodies.
Still, other researchers are tackling the issue as well. Overall, the evidence continues to point toward the fact that Kratom does have therapeutic benefits for the user without presenting any dangerous side effects.
What is Kratom, and Where Does the Kratom Plant Come From?
Kratom is a plant product created from the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree. A Kratom tree can reach heights of up to 100 feet, and science shows that the leaves from those trees harness an abundance of alkaloids within them. It creates over 40 active compounds that are beneficial for humanity. You see, people take Kratom for the reported therapeutic effects of the substance. The demand from consumers for those benefits has created a thriving industry in the States. Unfortunately, the US doesn’t have the necessary climate to grow Kratom trees. So instead, the product must be imported from one of its native countries.
Kratom is an indigenous species to several nations within Southeast Asia. Large populations of the tree grow naturally in the rainforest regions of Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. But currently, Kratom is considered an illegal substance in Malaysia. On the other hand, the botanical substance is perfectly legal in Indonesia, which supplies the lion’s share of the world’s global Kratom trade. However, Thailand recently decriminalized kratom in the country. So, we can expect Thailand to enter the Kratom industry within the next few years.
Other Names For Kratom
While Kratom is its most common name, it goes by other names, too. For example, the plant has local names throughout the Southeast Asian countries where it grows indigenously. In those countries, you might hear kratom called ketum, biak-biak, or thom. But they’re all referring to the same tree.
Even the scientific community has a couple of different forms of the name for the Kratom plant on record. For instance, the botanist Pieter Korthals was the first researcher to detail the medicinal properties of Kratom. He named the plant Stephegyne speciosa. However, a few years later, a British surgeon named George Haviland renamed the plant Mitragyna speciosa, which we still use today. Mitragyna comes from a Bishop’s ceremonial headdress in the Catholic Church since the Kratom leaf resembled its shape.
With the emergence of Kratom in the mainstream markets of the United States, new terms have come into existence for marketing purposes. Take the newly coined name creatum as an example. To bypass the advertorial algorithms of social media platforms, a company used the creative name to get a Kratom advertising campaign off the ground. Now Google has picked up the term as a query result.
Whatever you decide to call the plant, it doesn’t change the product itself. Don’t be hindered about the names some companies choose to categorize their wares. However, most of them call it Kratom since it’s the most recognized.
What Does a Kratom Plant Need to Grow?
Should you decide to try growing a Kratom tree where you live, you must understand that it needs tropical conditions to thrive. It’s an indigenous species that grows wild in the rainforests of the southeastern subregions of Asia. The trees need high humidity and temperatures. Southern Florida has the best climate for a mainland state in the US. However, Hawaii provides the most optimal conditions necessary. Otherwise, you’ll need to keep your tree in a pot and bring it indoors during the winter.
First, you must propagate the plant, and to do that, you’ll need either seeds or cuttings for a clone. However, both forms of cultivation have low success rates. Once sprouting begins to take root, make sure the soil is rich and fertile with added nitrogen. Kratom plants also need plenty of sunlight and water. Southeast Asia goes through a monsoon season each year. So mature Kratom trees can handle the extreme weather conditions from tropical storms around the southern tip of Florida.
And of course, Kratom trees need nutrients found in the soil to produce a quality botanical product. Farmers can add fertilizer to make sure the plant receives enough nourishment. And some studies have suggested that fertilization helps increase the concentration of alkaloids found in kratom.
How Is the Kratom Plant Harvested?
In countries like Indonesia and Thailand, Kratom farmers don’t have to worry about the weather conditions of their country. It’s the perfect environment for a Kratom tree. They can plant Kratom and watch it flourish with little effort on their part. Nevertheless, the cultivation of Kratom trees is only one part of the equation. Farmers must harvest mature Kratom leaves once the trees produce enough foliage. And that takes some work.
Kratom is an evergreen tree. Once it matures, the leaves are constantly replacing old ones throughout the entire year. Harvesting commences continually. Some farmers might take a break throughout the monsoon season, but it’s a nonstop hustle for most.
After picking the mature leaves, the farmers must spread them out to dry. It’s part of the fermentation process it undergoes, which is quite similar to the processes used on traditional tea leaves you find in grocery stores.
Those efforts change the chemical profile of the alkaloids inside the finished product. And that differentiation of compounds produces various effects on the consumer.
The leaves of each strain get crushed into a powdered form and packaged for exportation.
What Are the Different Types of Kratom Strains?
Currently, you’ll find numerous Kratom strains available online. For new consumers, the various offerings can become confusing. As such, we’ll try to help you understand the products better.
For starters, most strain names incorporate the region of origin. However, that’s a common myth. Those areas include places where Kratom is illegal to use or sell. So instead, its regional name identifies the effects a consumer experiences after ingestion. Regions produce Kratom that provides specific effects for users, and that fermented kratom gets labeled accordingly.
A Few Kratom Strains For Sale on the Market:
Kratom also gets categorized by the color of the vein within the leaf. As each leaf matures, the vein changes colors. And that helps to identify its compound makeup. Naturally, there are three different vein colors each leaf goes through—green, white, and red. However, a new vein color has hit the marketplace recently. That color is yellow.
Colored Veins of Kratom Leaves:
How Is Kratom Traditionally Used?
Over in Southeast Asia, farmworkers would traditionally use Kratom to boost productivity in the fields. They would pick fresh Kratom leaves off the tree and take the Kratom with them. As the peasants would work, they would take out the leaves and chew on them, swallowing the juices and saliva while spitting out the plant material. But as time progressed, the farmers found an easier way to keep a steady supply. They began making tea by boiling the leaves in a pot of water. They would carry the beverage with them to use throughout the workday, taking sips when needed.
Here in the US, we cannot chew fresh Kratom leaves. The Kratom tree isn’t an indigenous species in the US. (You can try to grow Kratom, but that’s extremely difficult.) So we must rely on the traditional tea method. Instead of using freshly picked leaves for the tea, Kratom powder gets used. You might want to strain the powder out of the finished tea in the end. It’s not necessary. The plant product is indigestible. So removing the crushed leaf keeps your digestive system from working unnecessarily. Plus, it takes away some of the bitterness from the taste.
Why Do People Use Kratom?
Like most botanical products, there are several uses for Kratom. Consumers take it for various reasons. We’ll discuss a few of the most common reasons they take Kratom right now.
Kratom is a relative of the coffee plant and the alkaloids produce energetic effects when taken in small amounts. Some consumers use Kratom first thing in the morning to get their day started.
- Motivation and Mental Focus
Along with its ability to boost energy, Kratom also gives the user mental clarity to tackle daily complications. Kratom gets marketed as a nootropic—a substance that enhances cognitive functions.
Scientific research indicates that Kratom helps relieve tension in stressful situations. It can act as a mood enhancer, too.
According to anecdotal reports, kratom relaxes muscles whenever they’re overworked or tense from stressful scenarios.
- Alleviate Physical Discomfort
Plenty of scientific research suggests that Kratom can help reduce discomfort in consumers. And some biotechnology companies are looking to harness that potential for medicinal purposes.
One of the opposing effects of taking Kratom is its ability to bring about sedative feelings. As we mentioned earlier, Kratom generates energetic effects. However, that effect is dependent on small serving sizes. Larger amounts create the opposite effect: it makes the consumer drowsy and helps them get a good night’s rest.
How Many People in the US Are Estimated to Use Kratom?
It’s difficult to determine the exact number of Kratom consumers in the United States. Some of them want to remain unidentified. Still, there are ways to obtain an estimated number based on other variables.
The American Kratom Association (AKA), a Kratom consumer advocacy group, surveyed the amount of Kratom exported by commercial Kratom suppliers in Southeast Asia. According to the data, the average monthly volume of Kratom exported into the US was approximately 1950 metric tons. The AKA believes the average daily dose of Kratom consumed is around 4.2 grams. That would indicate an estimated 15.6 million kratom users exist in the US alone.
Still, that number might not be accurate. There are a few things to consider whenever looking at that information. For one, they performed the survey in 2019—almost three years ago. Kratom exportation has grown significantly. The number of new Kratom businesses can attest to that fact. Plus, the data only came from the largest Kratom exporters. Lots of Kratom companies import products from smaller Kratom farms. Also, the popularity of Kratom has surged in recent years. The plant product has become a mainstream botanical supplement. The number of Kratom consumers could have easily doubled in that time.
What Alkaloids Are Found in the Leaves of the Kratom Plant?
The Mitragyna speciosa tree produces more than 40 structurally related alkaloids. Unfortunately, most scientific studies focus only on a couple of them. But there are dozens of others found inside Kratom products. We need more research to fully understand how the other alkaloids in Kratom react with our bodies. However, a few studies have begun tackling that concern. Future data should enlighten us with more evidence on those compounds.
Here are a few of the active alkaloids found in Kratom:
- Mitragynine: reacts with opioid receptors
- 7-hydroxymitragynine: reacts with opioid receptors
- Mitraphylline: anti-inflammatory properties
- Speciogynine: suggested muscle relaxer
- Speciophylline: possible antimicrobial
- Paynantheine: suggested muscle relaxer
The two primary alkaloids are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. We’ll go over those a little more in detail for you below. However, we should mention that the combined efforts of the alkaloids create an entourage effect. Those alkaloid profiles determine which therapeutic benefits are most prominent in the user.
Out of its two most active compounds, mitragynine is the most prominent. On average, the concentration of mitragynine consists of about two-thirds of all alkaloids contained in the entire plant. That calculation can differ slightly from various Kratom products, depending on the region where it grew. Like any plant, the growing conditions can alter its molecular consistency somewhat. From the scientific data conducted on Kratom across its native regions, the concentration of mitragynine can range anywhere from 12% to 66% of the total alkaloid profile.
Luckily for the consumer, the most abundant alkaloid in Kratom is also one of the most active from a biological standpoint. According to studies, mitragynine has several pharmacodynamic functions. And here are a few of the effects a user might experience after ingesting the compound.
Some of the Effects Felt From Taking Mitragynine:
- Small amounts of mitragynine have a stimulating effect.
- Moderate amounts can provide an upbeat and cheerful disposition.
- Higher amounts of the compound provide sedative effects while numbing any physical discomfort.
Mitragynine is not the only potent alkaloid found in Kratom. There’s one other molecular structure that packs more power behind its punch.
The second of the two primary Kratom alkaloids is 7-hydroxymitragynine. However, its concentration is a small fraction of all compounds combined. Like mitragynine, that concentration can differ with the region it’s grown. Its concentrated consistency ranges from 0.02% to 0.2%. Still, out of all the active Kratom compounds, 7-hydroxymitragynine is the most potent.
While Kratom generates the compound mitragynine naturally through its formal growth process, the alkaloid 7-hydroxymitragynine gets produced through oxidation. The combination of oxygen, moisture, and sunlight changes some mitragynine into its molecular cousin. Mitragynine gets converted into 7-hydroxymitragynine within our bodies, too.
Regarding the analgesic effects that result from taking Kratom, it’s the 7-hydroxymitragynine compound that provides the efficacy of discomfort reducing properties some consumers want. And it alleviates discomfort through its affinity for the mu-opioid receptors in the brain. For that reason alone, consumers should remain cautious about the size of servings they take each day. Too much can lead to Kratom tolerance, which results in higher amounts needed for desired effects.
The Controversy Surrounding the Kratom Plant
In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) tried to exercise an emergency scheduling of the two main alkaloids found inside Kratom. The agency did so at the behest of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The information provided to the DEA by the FDA claimed that 44 people had died from taking Kratom. However, upon closer inspection of the data, 43 victims had other substances in their system—dangerous narcotics. The results of the FDA Kratom study contained more misinformation whenever you discover one of the victims listed committed suicide by hanging, another from complications falling out of a window, and yet another by homicide from a gunshot wound to the chest. The FDA threw together a list of deaths where Kratom was found in the toxicology reports of the deceased—forgoing the actual causes of death of the victims.
Still, the FDA likes to tout that Kratom is harmful to users. They even argue the plant’s alkaloids are just as dangerous as opioids. However, scientific research refutes those claims as well. One experiment showed the risks from taking opioids are 1000 times greater than kratom. Nonetheless, the government agency continues to parrot its misinformation about the product. So let’s take a closer look at the scientific evidence about any risks associated with using Kratom.
Are the Alkaloids in Kratom Harmful?
According to scientific literature and studies, the alkaloids inside Kratom are relatively safe for human consumption. Consumers that take the suggested servings sizes of natural Kratom products shouldn’t have any complications using it. We have yet to find any evidence that directly links Kratom to any overdoses or deaths. All the cases suggesting otherwise had underlying causes outside of Kratom.
Now, we must always entertain the notion that we have limited data to corroborate our arguments. Kratom is a newer botanical substance on the modern US market. So it’s going to take some time before the scientific community can determine the long-term effects of taking Kratom. Then, they’ll need to differentiate the usage involved in all subjects. There’s a chance that abusing the product for an extended period may cause some complications. To stay safe, never use more than the suggested serving size. Too much of anything can be bad for you.
Still, scientific studies suggest that Kratom has several therapeutic benefits for the user. And those reports indicate Kratom is relatively harmless. We can only go by those assessments for now.
Is Kratom Addictive?
From a medical standpoint, Kratom is not considered addictive. Yet, consumers that take large quantities of Kratom can find themselves building up a tolerance to it. In rare instances, they might even go through mild cases of withdrawal effects. You see, even though Kratom isn’t addictive, habit-forming properties do exist from taking too much of the plant. That reaction is quite like overusing caffeine. Coffee is relatively harmless taken in moderation. But drinking several pots a day can lead to caffeine dependency.
There are ways to manage Kratom tolerance and withdrawal easily. To start, you should immediately cut back on your Kratom intake and stop using Kratom altogether for a few days. That allows your body to readjust to its regular routines without the aid of an outside substance. Two or three days are all that’s needed. Kratom dependency is a rare occurrence.
A researcher at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine had his team conduct an online survey on reported Kratom users to ask them some questions about their product usage. And less than 3% of them seemed to abuse the botanical supplement.
Kratom Science Relies on a Constant Supply of New Data
Until the scientific community comes to a consensus about the proposed medicinal properties of Kratom, it’s against federal regulations for a business that sells Kratom to market its botanical product as such. So Kratom vendors must remain careful how they word the effects of Kratom on their company websites.
Still, the scientific data from the recent experimentations from researchers continues to grow. And the Kratom community is slowly obtaining a better understanding of the Kratom plant and how it works. But we must remember that science constantly evolves. The things we take as facts today can become disproven tomorrow with additional evidence. And vice versa. So more research is paramount for the betterment of society.
Nowadays, too many people latch onto specific scientific studies or arranged data and propose those theories as an accurate, irrefutable depiction of the truth. We see that in discussions about Kratom.
Some people argue Kratom is nothing but a boon for mankind. Others call it a bane to society. And both outlooks are disingenuous.
Sure, Kratom has plenty of proposed benefits for the user. However, we should remain cautious whenever we measure out our daily servings of the product. There’s much more we need to learn about Kratom. Too much of anything can become bad for your health. There’s no need to take more than necessary. So stay within the recommended serving sizes. Enjoy what nature has provided for you.