In recent years, the West has discovered the herbal supplement kratom. However, the history of kratom goes back centuries in Southeast Asia where it has been considered a holistic naturopathic treatment option for a variety of health conditions.

Humans and Herbal Supplements

Kratom has helped many laborers cope with a seven-day work week in SE Asia.

Since humankind entered the Neolithic age, individuals have turned to plants to enhance their physical abilities and to seek a closer alliance with the gods. Even nowadays, people turn to herbs as a holistic remedy for a variety of problems. Kratom is an herb that has been favored for centuries but its popularity has recently swept the world.

What is Kratom?

Kratom is an herbal supplement obtained from the tropical tree Mitragyna speciosa  Traditionally, the plant’s alkaloids have been favored to combat fatigue and increase the productivity of farmworkers throughout Southeast Asia. However, now it is a favored herbal supplement known as ‘Kratom’

Mitragyna Speciosa

Mitragyna speciosa is the official name of the kratom tree which is a member of the Rubiaceae family (a member of the coffee family). It grows to a height of 4 to 16 meters. The tropical tree is indigenous to most of Southeast Asia and is very prolific in the Philippines and New Guinea. For centuries Asians have harvested and dried the leaves of the tree which they then chop into small pieces to brew as tea or to chew. Local laborers have favored the herb to combat physical fatigue and to increase their physical abilities to withstand hard labor. Depending on the location, many have also used the herb for socio-religious ceremonies. Holistic practitioners have prescribed kratom to battle the widespread morphine addiction in Thailand and to substitute for opioids in Malaysia.

The Mitragyna Speciosa Tree

As mentioned, the tree can easily towner 50 feet with a similar spread of 15 feet (4.5 meters). The stem is very erect in appearance with branching. The tree produces yellow flowers and thick evergreen leaves that appear a dark glossy in color are ovate in shape. They form an opposite growth pattern on the tree. In the fall months, the tree produces a bevy of new leaves which coincide with the area’s rainy season too.

The leaves of the kratom tree measure 20 centimeters in length (about 8 inches) and 12 centimeters (about 5 inches) across They have a very glossy surface that is dark green in color.

The History of Kratom’s Name

Kratom is known by a variety of names throughout the farming communities of SE Asia.

The name Mitragyna is believed to have been created by a Dutch botanist named Korthals who felt that the leaves and flower stigmas resembled a bishop’s mitre. However, some also state that the name arose from the use of the herb by the Mithraic cults who believed it helped in transcendence and are credited with using the herb during their religious practices for thousands of years.

Alkaloids and Kratom

Depending on the tree’s location, it can contain varying degrees of alkaloids. Clearly region and climate have an impact on the production of the phytochemicals. The two main alkaloids Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine can vary dramatically. In addition, various analogues occur such as speciogynine, paynantheine, and speciociliatine.

The Effects of the Kratom Alkaloids

May compare the effects of kratom to that of drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine. However, in large doses, kratom produces a very narcotic, sedative-like response that is very similar to opiates. 

The Southeast Asia Use of Kratom

The name kratom varies depending on the area of Southeast Asia. It is often called

  • Ketum
  • Biak (in Malaysia)
  • Kratom (Thailand
  • Thom (Southeast Thailand)

Depending on the location, kratom is favored as a remedy for disease, a stimulant, and for socializing. Manual laborers such as farmers, rubber-tappers, and fishermen, often use kratom in southern Thailand and Malaysia. In Thailand, the leaves of kratom help workers who labor in the sweltering sun tolerate the heat and receive their physical and mental fatigue. Within rural areas, kratom is favored for the treatment of fever, pain, diabetes diarrhea, and as a wound poultice. In Malaya, it is favored as an opium substitute. Within most Asian communities, kratom remains a favorite beverage for social gatherings where they are brewed into a tea. Some old-timers also enjoy smoking the leaves of the tree in a similar manner to tobacco

The Use of Mitragyna Speciosa

The alkaloids found in the Mitragyna speciosa leaves tastes very bitter, so it has historically been added to sweet beverages in an effort to mask its unpleasantness. To achieve a quick pick-me-up result, users in Southeast Asia have regularly chewed the fresh leaves of the tree. In fact, regular users often chew the leaves three to 10 times per day. Interestingly, a green leaf will weigh about 1.7 grams, and a dry leaf weights 0.43 grams. If you have 20 leaves then you will have 17 mg of Mitragynine. Either dry or green, the amount alkaloids remain the same for the 20 leaves.

The Availability of Kratom in Southeast Asia

Kratom is available throughout most of Asia and can be purchased from actual kratom traders who reside within the various communities. Users are made up of two groups: those who frequently use kratom to enhance physical performance, so they tackle laborious work. Other users turn to kratom to cope with drug withdrawal symptoms, especially those trying to kick an opioid habit. In Malaysia, drug treatment centers regularly use kratom to help addicts overcome opiate addiction and cope with withdrawal symptoms.

The Legality of Kratom

In Thailand, kratom has been illegal since 1943. In Malaysia, Bhutan, and Myanmar kratom has the classification of a controlled substance. However, despite those laws, kratom use doubled between 2007 to 2011. In Malaysia, they added kratom to the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952 and they consider kratom as harmful as opiates and amphetamines. However, despite such laws in those regions, locals continue to use kratom.

In rural areas, people extensively use kratom throughout SE Asia. Most consider it a better and safer choice than heroin or methamphetamine. The effects of kratom vary by the user but most report to feel invigorating effects within five to ten minutes of ingestion. They also feel happier and stronger which is a bonus for those working in the agricultural sectors. Many feel that they have a calm mind along with great physical assets when using kratom. Interestingly, in Malaysia, kratom use has long been a male thing and is rarely seen in women. In fact, it is frown on for female use. Even when looking at the history of kratom, it has always been a male herbal supplement.

Kratom Expands into the East

In recent years, kratom has risen in popularity in the US, EU, and other countries such as Japan. The history of kratom has grabbed the interest of many users around the world. You can now purchase kratom on the internet, in pharmacies, vape stores, smoke shops, dispensaries, and other regions. Kratom is available as powders, capsules, extracts, and even in raw leaves from some vendors. At My Kratom Club, we carry a wide array of kratom strains HERE. 

Legal Control of Kratom

Kratom is cultivated for trade across SE Asia.

Currently, kratom control occurs in only a few EU Member States such as Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland. In the US, it is available in most states, but you’ll want to check your local laws. Many cities and counties continue to control and restrict the sale and use of kratom.

In the United States, estimates vary but many believe there are between three and five million kratom users

History of Kratom in the West

I. Wray, a British botanist dedicated his life to revealing to the public the potency of kratom in 1907.  He strived to show that the leaves of the tropical tree could be easily used as a herbal alternative, especially in the United Kingdom and other areas of the West. He gathered samples of kratom and then sent them off to his friends at the University of Edinburgh so they could isolate the various strains and focus on the possible medicinal use of kratom for a variety of health conditions. By 1920, they started to identify the psychoactive strains and by 1930 they showed that kratom would help ease stomach complaints and diarrhea in most users.

The ban of Kratom in Thailand came as a shock for many in the Western world who had started to accept the herbal supplement as beneficial. With the 1933 ban, the government started to show a significant province on the sale of opium. Many theorized that the money was what drove the Thai law to ban make kratom illegal. Sadly, such activities often take place around the world.

Even in the U.S. kratom remains a controversial herbal supplement. You’ll want to check your local city, county, and state laws because they can all vary dramatically.

The history of kratom is long and very illustrious. Today, most of Southeast Asia actively cultivates the tropical tree for the sale of its leaves to the West It has become a major export despite the often confusing local laws that govern the tropical herbal supplement.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of kratom or you want to purchase a kratom product then please contact My Kratom Club.