Mitragyna speciosa, commonly known as kratom, has a long history of use in Southeast Asian folk medicine for a variety of health issues and ailments — including to relieve physical discomfort. In recent years, kratom has become more popular in Western countries for an equally diverse range of purposes. From boosting energy to supporting sleep, many people choose to use it in an effort to support their overall well-being.
Although it has not been clinically trialed or approved as a therapeutic, managing and relieving physical discomfort is one of the most popular reasons for kratom use reported by users in the United States. In a survey of over 8,000 users, 68% of respondents claimed to use kratom “for purposes of self-treating pain.” Another survey of over 2,500 Americans found that 91% of respondents used kratom to alleviate pain. Though many people in the U.S. believe they benefit from using kratom in this way, further research is necessary to understand how, why, or even if kratom can effectively reduce pain.
Currently, there are no FDA-approved uses for kratom. It’s worth noting kratom does contain active compounds, called alkaloids, that could explain some of the effects reported by some users. Two of the most abundant alkaloids — mitragynine and its derivative 7-hydroxymitragynine — are the main active compounds in kratom that are believed to be responsible for a variety of its effects on the mind and body. Research into kratom tends to focus on better understanding these particular alkaloids.
7-hydroxymitragynine, in particular, may play a major role in how kratom works to relieve physical discomfort. Both compounds appear to work as partial agonists and bind to specific receptors in the brain, though 7-hydroxymitragynine seems to be a more potent agent than mitragynine. The brain’s affected receptors seem to mediate perceptions of physical pain, but even the functioning of these brain centers is not fully understood.
While this research provides some promising early indications about how these alkaloids function, these studies have been conducted primarily on animals. More clinical research is needed to draw any conclusions about kratom’s effects on humans.
Despite growing interest in the potential benefits of this botanical, research on kratom and its pharmacology is still limited. However, research is emerging that investigates the relationship between kratom use and self-reported perceptions of pain, focusing on users’ personal experiences. An analysis of first-hand descriptions of kratom use notes that, based on user reports, “kratom may be useful for analgesia,” but that “future examination in controlled, quantitative studies” is necessary.
Another study investigates how kratom impacts users’ ability to withstand pain. In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, 26 males (all of whom were long-term, regular kratom users) reported higher pain tolerance one hour after consuming a kratom decoction. On the other hand, participants who took a placebo reported the same level of pain tolerance both before and after consumption. The authors of the study concluded: “Kratom decoction demonstrated a substantial and statistically significant increase in pain tolerance. Further rigorous research on kratom pain-relieving properties and a safety profile is needed.”
Though not a substitute for further clinical research, learning more about users’ personal experiences with kratom provides valuable insight into why and how they use it, as well as how they believe it benefits their health.
Different strains of kratom are commonly reported to have different effects on users. This is in part because kratom producers are able to cultivate kratom to have higher concentrations or different proportions of its active compounds. The result is that certain strains of kratom may be better to use for physical discomfort than others.
Generally, slow strains of kratom are better if you’re looking to alleviate physical discomfort. The following slow strains have all been cultivated specifically to provide relief to users:
Gold Bali kratom is a great option if you’re looking to reduce discomfort without sacrificing any energy. Originating in Bali, this is a type of yellow kratom that is more “moderate” than truly slow. This provides a more subtle experience than other mellow strains, but strikes a nice balance between promoting relaxation and maintaining mental energy.
Similarly, green Bali kratom can be used to help your body become comfortable and relaxed while maintaining a “clean mind.” While green kratom is typically fast-acting, this is also a more moderate speed of kratom than other green strains. This particular strain is considered top-shelf, making it a popular option for new and experienced kratom users alike.
Though it also originates from Bali, red Bali kratom has a much slower speed than its gold and green counterparts. Like other strains of red kratom, it is meant to promote feelings of physical comfort and mental relaxation. However, it may not be the best choice if you’re looking to maintain high energy.
Red Sumatra kratom comes from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. One of the slowest kratom speeds, it was cultivated to soothe, relieve both the body and mind, and augment overall well-being.
Yellow Sumatra Kratom is meant to support feelings of relief in the body while promoting mental relaxation. For many people, this is a slow strain, but for some, it could stimulate energy and creativity. Some even report enjoying taking this strain with coffee to get a mental boost while keeping their body relaxed.
In addition to the strain, the amount of kratom you take can affect how it makes you feel. It’s crucial to dose your kratom correctly so you feel the effects you desire and avoid an unpleasant experience. A moderate to a high dose of kratom (five to nine grams) is believed to produce analgesic effects, though this may be too large a quantity for beginners; starting with just 1-2 grams may be a safer starting point to see how it affects new users. In general, kratom servings are most commonly recommended as follows:
Users report that dosage needs, including how often you take it, can vary greatly from person to person. You may need a smaller or larger dose, depending on your tolerance level. Follow the serving size recommendations for your specific product, and when in doubt, it’s always best to take less rather than more.
Many people choose to use kratom to manage pain and relieve physical discomfort. Despite its alkaloids that appear to interact with certain receptors in the brain, it’s unclear if kratom truly has analgesic properties. Certain strains, such as some Bali and Sumatra kratoms, can be cultivated to have higher concentrations of those alkaloids to help relieve physical discomfort. Ultimately, the relationship between kratom and pain, as well as the pharmacology of kratom, will need further clinical study and additional research before any conclusions can be made about its efficacy as a pain reliever.