Mitragyna Speciosa, or Kratom, is a plant-based therapeutic aid that has been making quite a splash in the US. Kratom offers a host of beneficial and negative side effects, and while it has been only recently introduced to the States during this past decade, it has also been successfully used since the nineteenth century in its homelands in Southeast Asia. Thus, while it has not been FDA approved for medical use, many have found relief from kratom use.
This guide serves as a tool to help determine if Kratom is the right supplement for you. As with any supplementary aid, Kratom will affect every individual’s body in different ways, so proper research and careful testing will help prevent severe side effects from negligence.
Where Kratom Comes From?
Hailing from the tropics of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea, Kratom is made from the leaves of M. speciosa trees that are, in fact, within the coffee family. Thus, Kratom has some sedative-like and stimulant-like effects that have been featured in Southeast Asian traditional medicines since at least the nineteenth century.
Kratom leaves have been historically used for anything from physical muscle relief to increase energy, appetite, and sexual desire. Recreationally, users have also used Kratom to stay awake—similar to caffeine—and as a mood lifter. Kratom extracts have also been used for more medical purposes such as coughs and intestinal infections.
None of these uses have been approved by the FDA within the US as of 2016.
Where to Buy Kratom
Kratom can be used raw, with whole leaves being chewed and then spat out for oral consumption, but it is most commonly found in either crushed leaf form for tea, a finely ground powder form for multiple uses, or in extract powder form for more concentrated uses.
Due to its restrictions (listed below under “Kratom’s Legality”), it can be hard to find kratom in-store locally. However, there are many up and coming websites that offer Kratom, as well as established businesses that sell their stock online in multiple forms and strains. Many are more than willing to talk customers through their questions through email or phone calls, and their salespeople should be able to verify their Kratom’s viability.
The key thing to keep in mind when perusing online vendors is to make sure that they can provide lab-tested, pure and potent Kratom. As Kratom is not an FDA regulated substance, businesses are not beholden to a federal baseline of standards when creating their product. There are cases where customers have been exposed to salmonella and other unsavory substances because the vendors they purchased from did not test their Kratom.
As always, remain vigilant when purchasing supplements that affect the body chemically, including looking up and vetting potential shops and vendors.
General Side Effects
Kratom offers a wide host of side effects. In general, it is said to produce simulating effects in smaller doses and sedative effects in larger doses. The alkaloid that seems to have the most effect on the body is mitragynine, which researches suggests works similarly to opioid pain relievers. And, due to being in the same family as the coffee plant, it has similar psychoactive properties to caffeine.
Positive Side Effects
There are a variety of reported beneficial side effects of Kratom. At lower doses, users report a general uplifting of their mood, better concentration and wakefulness, muscle and body pain relief, and calming nerves. At higher doses, Kratom has been stated to create a state of euphoria and optimism, increased libido and physical endurance, and decreased feelings of depression and anxiety. Thus, many users use Kratom as a way to combat the pain produced by chronic illnesses, reduce the amount of depression and anxiety caused by mental illnesses, and increase their social abilities and work productivity.
Kratom is often listed aside CBD as a plant-based alternative to pain relievers, and it is also speculated to ease opiate withdrawal. This may be due to the fact that Kratom was historically used as an opium substitute in Malaysia and Thailand, two of its native lands. However, while it may make sense that Kratom eases opiate withdrawal symptoms—one of its main chemicals operates similarly to opioid pain relievers—there have been no formal clinical trials to study the viability and safety of Kratom to treat opioid addiction.
Negative Side Effects
Kratom offers a variety of more negative side effects as well, ranging from physically uncomfortable to medically severe. At lower doses Kratom can cause the side effects of nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite and muscle coordination, increased urination, agitation, sedation, and dry mouth. At higher doses or in users with previous medical issues, Kratom can cause more serious symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations, comas, and even death—as of February of 2018 there have been 44 deaths reported to the FDA that have been linked to Kratom usage. Kratom’s effects are worsened when taken with other drugs as well.
Additionally, despite Kratom’s reputation as being an aid for those going through opioid withdrawals, Kratom is suspected to have high rates of addiction. This is especially for those using Kratom to ease the use of or quit other substances, such as alcohol.
Many of these side effects may seem bearable or even normal to users who are experienced with other drugs or mind-altering substances. However, this does not diminish Kratom’s dangers, especially as it is an under-researched substance. If you choose to partake, consider your medical history as well as other factors, such as vendor reliability, in order to minimize Kratom’s potential negative side effects.
How to Use Kratom
If Kratom seems like the optimal path for your daily needs, there is a wide variety of products and strains of Kratom to best suit your needs.
Kratom Dosage and Forms – How is Kratom Extracted?
In general, when it comes to dosages and the amount of Kratom you consume, it is best to start small at first. Dosages under 10 grams are considered gentle, allowing beginning users to ease into Kratom’s effects. 10-20 grams creates a milder to intense effect, depending on the user’s tolerance. 20+ grams will produce the most powerful sensations and is only recommended for experienced Kratom users. As you become used to the sensations Kratom creates, you can slowly increase the amount consumed over a steady period of time.
These dosages can be taken in three main forms: whole Kratom leaves, powdered or crushed Kratom leaves, or extract from Kratom leaf resin. There is no optimal method in which to ingest Kratom; availability, convenience, and versatility are the main factors that help individual users determine their preferred way to use it.
The raw Kratom leaf is the most historical method in which Kratom has been used. Traditionally the leaf is chewed, but not swallowed, to release the Kratom’s alkaloids. The leaves can also be used to make Kratom teas, which is one of the most popular ways people use Kratom. However, it is said to be less effective than making Kratom tea from powders.
Powdered or crushed Kratom leaves are the most popular and widely available version of Kratom. It is manufactured from dried and ground Kratom leaves, preserving the leaf’s qualities while making it more shelf-stable and portable. The powder is usually available in bulk or in capsule form, but some users create their own. It can be swallowed with water or added to foods and liquids.
Kratom extracts are made from a boiled mixture of liquid and ground Kratom leaves. The reduction produced is then ground into a fine powder. While Kratom extracts tend to be more expensive than other versions due to its more difficult creation, it has less of Kratom’s infamous bitterness and also is more concentrated in nature.
When it comes to selected the optimal Kratom product, consider your daily routine and needs. Capsule and tablet form Kratom is convenient and portable, but not very customizable. Powder and raw leaf Kratom can be ingested with food and drink, but many beginners are put off by its bitter taste. Ultimately, you will need to experiment to find the product most suitable for you.
Strains of Kratom
There are also multiple strains of Kratom, which will greatly change your experience with the substance. The three strains are Red Vein, White Vein, and Green Vein Kratom.
Red Vein Kratom is the most widely available and popular strain of Kratom. It works well as a beginner’s powder as it creates a more mellow sensation of well-being and optimism. It also helps with muscle relief and tension release. Users with insomnia also use Red Vein Kratom as a sleep aid.
White Vein Kratom is considered more stimulating as it has the highest amount of mitragynine, the main alkaloid within Kratom. Thus, it is described as being more of an energizing stimulant that can also offer a mood boost. Many use White Vein Kratom in lieu of caffeine for mental alertness and wakefulness.
Green Vein Kratom is described as being a mix between Red and White Kratom strains. A milder energy booster that also creates a centered, calm state of focus, Green Vein Kratom tends to be used for social anxiety and more recreational purposes.
There are many specific subsections within the three strains, with Kratom growers producing mutations and strains that provide specific effects. When deciding on which Kratom product is optimal for you to use, it is best to do your research. Don’t purchase from vendors who are vague in their strain descriptions, and don’t be afraid to look up user reviews. As Kratom isn’t regulated by the FDA, the Kratom community will be the best source of information on any Kratom strains and products.
As Kratom is relatively new to the United States’ market, not much lab controlled tests have been performed on the substance and its effects. Thus, while there is a pattern in the beneficial side effects many Kratom users have reported, they are not clinically proven side effects.
Kratom is a controlled substance in 16 countries, meaning that its manufacture, possession, and/or use is regulated by the government. Many of these countries cite worries about Kratom’s potential for addiction as the main reason behind restricting Kratom. While the United States is not one of those countries and Kratom is currently legal in America, five states ban its use: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
Additionally, in 2014 the FDA banned the import and manufacture of kratom as a dietary supplement. There is also consideration within the government to make Kratom a Schedule I drug, which will then classify Kratom as a substance that has a high potential of abuse with no accepted medical treatment use.
Most recently, in 2019 the FDA re-warned customers that kratom is unapproved for interstate commerce and can be unsafe in commercial products. It is also on an import alert, which can lead to the confiscation of imported supplies. In essence, reasserting that those who vend Kratom are not being regulated on a federal level.
Of course, those who have used Kratom successfully have rallied to petition for Kratom’s legality. However, for the foreseeable future, its legality will remain in a negative stance. If you chose to use Kratom as a supplemental therapy, be sure to double-check your state’s policies and regulations on Kratom before purchasing and partaking.
Kratom is a substance that can produce great pain-relieving effects. It can be a beneficial, natural supplement that can act as a therapeutic aid for a variety of aches and pains within the body. However, as with all substances claiming to affect the body and the mind, it also can create a variety of unpleasant side effects. Those unpleasant side effects can also come from the lack of regulation on Kratom, allowing vendors to cut corners when manufacturing and selling Kratom.
Thus, always be careful when partaking Kratom or any other similar substance. This guide should be just the start of a journey to better learn what the natural world has to offer when it comes to the therapeutic and recreational use of Kratom, or M. Speciosa, a plant that has a long history and even longer list of controversies.