What is Kratom?

Kratom is an herbal supplement obtained from the Mitragynine speciosa tree. The tropical evergreen tree is a member of the coffee family and grows throughout much of Southeast Asia. For centuries locals have harvested the tree’s leaves by hand. The leaves are then ground for use as a tea. Local laborers in the area also chew the leaves to extract the plant’s alkaloids which act as a stimulant to help them perform their arduous job functions. Naturopathic physicians have prescribed kratom for centuries as a natural pain reliever.

Other names for kratom include:

 

  • ketum
  • thom
  • thang
  • Biak
  • Kakuam

 

The Varieties of Kratom

There are several varieties of kratom which are dependent on processing. You’ll usually encounter the following:

 

  • Green Vein
  • Red Vein
  • White Vein
  • Yellow Vein

 

The vein color is dependent on the harvesting time of the leaves and denotes the varying alkaloid content that occurs and is highly dependent on the tree’s location and individual cultivation circumstances.

Kratom names typically refer to the region of cultivation such as Bali, Vietnam, Malay, etc. Maeng Da is a popular variety named for the strain’s potency and quality instead of its region of cultivation.

The Effects of Kratom

 

In the United States, up to 15 million people use kratom for its potent alkaloids, according to the American Kratom Association (AKA). The naturally occurring plant alkaloids Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitraginine occur in varying levels depending on the strain. Over 40 different alkaloids are present in the plant’s fibers but Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitraginine act on the body’s mu-opioid receptors to render a physical reaction. In low doses, kratom acts as a stimulant but with higher doses, users feel more relaxed. Users often turn to kratom to improve their cognitive abilities, help with mood disorders, ease opioid withdrawal symptoms and cope with chronic pain.

Is Kratom Legal?

Kratom is federally legal in the United States but the FDA does have reservations about kratom and has made its stance public in the following statement, “FDA is actively evaluating all available scientific information on this issue and continues to warn consumers not to use any products labeled as containing the botanical substance kratom or its psychoactive compounds, Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has taken a stance against kratom and even worked to make it illegal. In 2016, they tried to ban kratom, but the public outcry was so intense that they reversed their decision as advocates and many in the healthcare field spoke up in support of the herb.

Understanding the Effects of Kratom

People turn to kratom for many reasons. They will ingest kratom as a powder through a toss and wash method, capsules, extracts, and teas.

Stimulant Effects of Kratom

Users who ingest one to five grams of kratom typically experience a stimulant-like effect with improved energy. They feel more alert, talkative, and social.

Sedative Effects of Kratom

At a higher dose of five to 15 grams, kratom produces sedative-like effects that are like that achieved with opioids. The user feels calmer and more euphoric. Kratom at such a dose is favored for individuals who are trying to overcome opioid addiction and cope with the drug’s withdrawals.

 

A dose that is higher than 15 grams can cause the user to feel tired and sedated. They may lose consciousness.

What are the Side Effects of Kratom Use?

The side effects of kratom are rare and typically mild.

Users might experience:

 

  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness

Research indicates that kratom might have therapeutic benefits, according to John Hopkins Medicine which is why the herbal supplement continues to grow in popularity.