Recently, kratom has been growing popular on internet forums, and also getting attention from the media.
People who use it regularly swear by its medicinal benefits, while the DEA and FDA seem to be on a campaign to ban it.
What is kratom, and why are millions of people choosing it over pharmaceutical drugs? Is this another illicit drug that slipped through the cracks, or is there more than meets the eye?
What Is Kratom?
Kratom (aka Mitragyna Speciosa) is a herbal plant with many benefits and is native to the Southeast Asia – mainly Indonesia, Malaysia, Bali, and Thailand.
This tree-like herbal plant has great medicinal usage and has been a part of Eastern Medicine for centuries. The herb is capable of treating a myriad of health problems.
It acts as a natural stimulant and mood enhancer. Kratom has amazing pain-relieving properties as well.
It’s capable of:
- Eliminating pain
- Improving sleep quality
- Enhancing focus and productivity
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Improving mood and well being
Kratom consumers tend to feel motivated.
The herb has deep ties to Thai and Indonesian culture and has been cultivated for thousands of years.
Some people mistake it for a dangerous recreational drug but don’t be fooled. It has a lot more to offer than just a “high.”
Lesser-Known Benefits of Kratom
This herb tends to have mild euphoric effects brought along with a sense of motivation, and the ability to stay calm and composed, even under high-pressure environments.
What’s more, the herb is shown to treat dependence on substances such as opiates, alcohol, medication, etc. It helps wean-off the effects of hardcore drugs as well.
History of Kratom
Kratom is native to Southeast Asia. There indigenous people have been using it as a source of additional energy and medicinal plant to relieve pain, cough, diarrhea, and more.
Local cultures do not consider kratom a drug. Nonetheless, Thailand, one of the countries kratom is native to, banned it in August 1943.
Despite many anti-kratom claims, it did not occur because it is a dangerous drug. Instead, due to its highly beneficial effects, the herb interfered with opium sales that spiked because of wars. Kratom wasn’t taxed as opium was, and it wasn’t as profitable to the Thai government.
While the east has known the beneficial medicinal herb for centuries, in the west, however, the plant is relatively new.
In the 1830s, Dutch botanist Pieter Willem Korthals served as the official botanist for the Dutch East India Service. During this time, he made multiple discoveries including Mitragyna speciosa. It’s often suggested that Korthals named the plant Mitragyna because the shape of its leaves and flowers resembles that of a bishop’s mitre.
When citing a plant’s botanical name, the name of the botanist who discovered it appears abbreviated in parentheses after the plant’s name. For Korthals, this abbreviation is Korth., a name that may also use to refer to kratom.
In the 1930s, English botanist Isaac Henry Burkill and Malaysian botanist Mohammed Haniff reported the herb as an effective means of reducing harm in opiate users in the 19th century. This appeared in the Cambridge Journal of Asiatic Society.
Types of Kratom
Factors like where it comes from, the color of the veins, etc, form the basis of kratom strain classification.
For instance –
- Kratom leaves harvested from Thailand usually have more energetic effects
- Indonesian leaves usually have mild sedative effects
- Malaysian leaves are popular for their ‘moderate’ qualities
- The leaves coming from Bali aka Borneo provide a mix of sedative and relaxing effects.
You will mostly find it in powdered form, which tends to have a greenish shade. You can also find it in capsule form or tea; however, it’s not as common.
Red Vein Kratom
The color of its stem and the veins, as suggested by the name, tends to be red. This is the most popular type of kratom sold today. The total sales of red vein kratom are more than the sales of white and green combined.
Benefits of Red Vein Kratom Leaves
Red vein leaves are recommended for beginners (provided they come from a reliable source).
- The leaves tend to have a pleasant, relaxing, and calming effect on the mind; elevating a sense of optimism, motivation, and wellness.
- They act as a natural muscle relaxant
- Helps with insomnia
- A natural alternative to pharmaceutical drugs and painkillers
- Helpful in fighting withdrawal symptoms of opiate drugs
Red vein leaves are further divided into different categories and each type has different properties and effects. The leaves coming from Thailand have mild sedative effects, while others such as Red Sumatra are known to uplift mood.
The intensity and the spectrum of effects also depend on the dosage. When taken in small doses, red vein strains promote tranquility and peace of mind.
White Vein Kratom
White Vein Kratom strains are popular for being a mood enhancer or stimulant. The true effects depend on several factors namely – the quality of the product, the amount taken, the tolerance level of the consumer, etc.
White vein is commonly the most uplifting in nature than all other strain types. A growing number of people are finding it to be a good replacement for caffeine to stay alert, cheerful, and focused.
People who work hard and long hours will find it particularly helpful in improving focus, motivation, and concentration.
Those susceptible to gloominess, depression, and exhaustion also tend to greatly benefit from this type.
Green Vein Kratom
This particular kratom strain type lies between red and white. It comes with mild energy-boosting and mood-enhancing properties, while also being calm.
Reportedly, consuming green vein leaves results in –
- Enhanced alertness and focus
- A feeling of being ‘in the flow’
Unlike most analgesics, this one doesn’t cause drowsiness which makes it the ideal type for treating a spectrum of pain and bodily discomforts. The effects of green vein kratom leaves are more subtle in nature when compared to red or white.
Fighting Social Fears
Green Vein Kratom strains are particularly known to fight social fears. The user tends to experience a lowering of inhibitions, and have less regard for people’s opinion and views. They immediately feel more confident, even in social settings. Many people with social anxiety report improvements while taking it.
Some of the known effects of this strain are – a cheerful and friendly disposition, and feeling ‘comfortable in your skin’.
Mixing Kratom Strains
Mixing different color strains is a common practice that gives more rounded and sophisticated results.
The properties of green veins tend to curb the overstimulating effects of white veins, and analgesic effects of red strains, etc.
Mixing strains are best suited for experienced users who have tried several different strains, and know the effects of each.
Different Ways to Take Kratom Powder
As mentioned earlier, kratom is not a recreational drug. You don’t smoke or snort kratom powder; rather you ingest it orally. Take a look at some of the popular ways to take it:
1. Kratom Tea
To make tea, mix some kratom powder in water and let it simmer for thirty minutes. After that, you let the mix sit and then strain the liquid off. Most people report the effects of drinking kratom tea as – “better and more consistent.” This method is more time consuming than others, but it’s one way to go about it. The taste of the tea isn’t bad either, especially if you add honey or stevia. One can drink it both hot and cold, and try different kratom tea recipes to change things up.
2. Toss and Wash
This is the most common way of taking kratom. Toss and Wash is also the simplest way of getting it into your system. Measure the amount you want to take and gently tip it into your mouth. After that, just swill it lightly and wash it down with water. Most people typically go with a spoonful, however, be sure to consult a doctor first if you have a medical condition for which you’re taking it.
3. With Yogurt or Juice
A lot of people recommend adding kratom powder to yogurt. It’s good to go with a flavored yogurt in order to mask the powder’s taste. Most people prefer to gulp it down in one go to avoid enduring the taste which is not particularly good. However, there are some proponents who are big on taking it with yogurt.
Alternatively, you can also mix your favorite powder with a juice of your choice. Orange, grapefruit, and pineapple juice can not only mask the bitter taste but also act as potentiators.
4. Mixed with a Protein Shake or Smoothie
A lot of people claim to get a better effect after mixing kratom powder with milk or protein shake; although there is no scientific evidence to support it. Sounds tasty though!
If protein shakes aren’t something you normally take, try different smoothies. This approach allows you to mask the take and up your intake of veggies and fruits.
5. In Capsule Form
Taking kratom in pill form is not always recommended. On the plus side, you get to skip the taste of the powder. But, on the flip side, you might need to take several in order to experience the full effect. In some cases, you might not notice any results until you have taken up to 10 pills. It’s best to know your dosage or ‘sweet spot’ before using capsules.
How to Dose on Kratom?
Everyone is different. Different people may find varying levels of satisfaction with different dosages. However, it’s best to start low until you’re able to find that ‘sweet spot, where you get the maximum effects with just the right amount.
Ideally, it’s best to start with a small dose of 2 grams or even less. Wait some time and see if it starts to kick in, then slowly up it a notch.
It’s worth noting that although a small dose may not give you any effect, crossing the ‘tipping point,’ even by one gram, could make you feel ‘heady’ and ‘uncomfortable.’ Therefore, it’s best to start carefully when taking kratom for the first time, with special consideration towards dosage.
The moment nausea kicks-in; it’s a sign that the dose was higher than your body can take. If taken in large amounts of 10 grams or more, you might end-up puking.
Note – The ideal dose may vary depending on the quality of the product. High-quality kratom should begin to kick in with a dosage as low as 2-3 grams.
Important Tips While Taking Kratom
It goes without saying that any herb/plant that supposedly has psychoactive properties should be consumed with care, and with full consideration for possible side-effects caused by accidental overdoses.
The same goes for kratom.
This section covers points that are worth mentioning when taking kratom. Especially if you’re starting out for the very first time, it’s important to keep these in mind –
1. Stay Hydrated
Like coffee, kratom tends to have diuretic effects on the body. You might feel slightly dehydrated after taking it. Therefore, it’s important to drink plenty of water. If you begin to feel slightly ‘heady’, it’s a sign your body is in need of fluids. Bring water with you while going out and about.
Since kratom powder consists of primarily insoluble fiber, t’s not uncommon to get kratom constipation. Make sure to stay hydrated to avoid that.
2. Take It on an Empty Stomach
You can experiment with taking kratom even when not on an empty stomach, but only when you have found your sweet spot. For beginners, it’s best to start on an empty stomach because when your stomach is full, you need higher amounts to achieve the full effect.
3. Different Strain Types May Need Different Doses
Another point worth noting is that not all strain types have the same spectrum and intensity of effects. You need to establish different ‘sweet spots’ for different strain types. Some strains may affect you more with a small dose, while others need a higher dose. Therefore, it’s always best to start with small amounts.
4. Maintain a Log
You might want to start noting down the details of every dose when starting out. The details can help you keep track of factors like the timing, quality, quantity, strain type consumed, etc. You might want to write down your experience and the effects. Keeping a log helps you refer back to each experience and weigh the differences between them as you build on your doses.
What to Expect from a Typical Dose
Let it be known that different people may have different experiences with kratom. But, most people tend to feel intense warmth starting to build-up on the inside. The tip of your nose, hands, and toes may feel a little warm. Most people experience a lowering of their inhibition and a sudden burst of ‘confidence’ like never experienced before.
But, as mentioned earlier, not all people may have such strong sensations. In some users, the results are quite mild/subtle.
While it’s true that the effects of kratom can be life-changing and ‘obvious’, it’s important to be realistic in terms of what to expect. Do not expect drastic improvements in the quality of your life with it. Having too many expectations or unrealistic expectations could actually leave you feeling disappointed afterwards.
What Are the Various Effects of Kratom?
Kratom is quite unique because a low/moderate dose will typically be mildly stimulating. But, a high dose will almost always be sedating.
Kratom leaves have active alkaloids that give both sedative and stimulant-like effects. A lot of people equate the effects of kratom with that of opiates. This is because of the presence of its alkaloids.
Although kratom follows a similar action mechanism as an opiate, it is actually as addictive as coffee. As a matter of fact, kratom is best known for overcoming addiction from real opiate drugs.
Effects as a Stimulant
Kratom can provide a boost in energy (sometimes sexual energy) and a sense of heightened alertness. The person may suddenly feel an urge to do things they wouldn’t normally do.
A lot of people may suddenly find the strength to perform tough and monotonous physical jobs with ease. Since kratom has antidepressant properties, it tends to elevate mood.
One may become more friendly, talkative, and sociable. Kratom stimulates the person on a cognitive level rather than a physical level. That’s why the effects are different from that of typical CNS stimulants like amphetamine drugs or caffeine.
Effects as a Sedative-Euphoric-Analgesic
At this level, the person becomes less sensitive to emotional/physical pain and may appear calmer than usual. There’s the induced feeling of general pleasure and a meditative state.
In higher dosages, these sensations may also be accompanied by slight sweating or itching. The pupils become constricted and some people may experience slight nausea. However, nausea subsides with a bit of rest or by simply lying down.
A lot of users may suddenly find themselves having a deeper appreciation for music. The experience is best enjoyed by lying down with your eyes closed in a slightly dark room. A lot of people enter the state of wakeful dreaming where they find a part of their mind entering the ‘dream-like state’ with one foot in the real world.
Can One Use Kratom to Treat Pain?
Yes, kratom is an effective analgesic. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the most helpful analgesics (other than opium). A lot of people use this herb to remedy chronic pains and aches and manage health conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Can Kratom Be Used to Overcome Opiate Addiction?
Among the most popular/traditional uses of kratom is – using it to overcome addiction to opiates. This is a widespread problem not only for people who use opiate drugs illegally, but also for those who have been prescribed opiate pain medication.
Many people are searching for an effective remedy to overcome this addiction. A lot of kratom consumers have found it to be extremely helpful in this context. This herb contains alkaloids that act on the opioid receptors in the brain. Therefore, it can be used as a substitute for opium-based drugs to overcome withdrawals.
Many people who switch to kratom as an opiate substitute found that they were slowly able to reduce the dosage, and eventually end it without going through any of the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that although kratom carries opiate receptor agonists; its pharmacology is very different from opium-based drugs. It’s different in a way that makes it abundantly useful in overcoming dependence on opium.
Note – although kratom is popular for overcoming this addiction, it’s best to consult a physician first before going on any kind of self-medication.
Is Kratom Legal and Safe?
Kratom is a grey market product in the US, even though millions of people use it safely and responsibly while having little or no negative side effects.
It is not FDA approved, and you often find it labeled “not for human consumption.” Kratom vendors are not legally allowed to state it’s uses and benefits.
All of this causes confusion and leads people to believe it is a dangerous drug or something to avoid altogether.
The reason behind this is the “Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.” Under the DSHEA, herbs, and supplements sold in the US before 1994 can be marketed and sold without FDA approval.
Kratom did not make the cut. There’s currently no evidence that shows it was available in the US before 1994.
So, kratom is in a legal grey area, and it’s hard to get the positive word out. However, it is legal to purchase in most states as a raw botanical.
As long as you use a reputable source, kratom is completely safe and can help with many different things.