What is kratom, anyway? For those new to this herb, you’ve hit the motherload of kratom information here and now!
Kratom is a natural herb used for centuries in Southeast Asia. The leaves of the kratom tree have therapeutic properties, and people use them to relieve pain, anxiety, and other medical conditions.
Kratom is legal in the United States at the federal level, but there are some safety concerns about Kratom use. This article provides an overview of Kratom and its potential benefits and risks.
Looking for information about how Kratom compares to CBD? Make sure to check out our other post covering Kratom vs. CBD.
Kratom and Its Origin
Kratom, Mitragyna Speciosa, grows in tropical regions of Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia, and New Guinea. It’s known as Thom in Southern Thailand. It’s also known as Kutum, Ketum Bia, or Biak in Malaysia.
Kratom is a medium-sized perennial tree with a hardwood core. It belongs to the Rubiaceae family and can grow up to 10 -15 meters tall.
The leaves of this plant are similar to ylang-ylang leaves. The leaves are 2-5 inches broad and 3-6 inches long. There are many types of Kratom, with red and green leaf stalks.
How Is Kratom Used?
Kratom has been used for various purposes, even though it was cautioned against by the Food and Drug Administration.
Southeast Asians use Kratom as a stimulant to boost their energy levels when working in the fields. They also use Kratom as a painkiller to help with substance use disorder and drug and alcohol dependence by reducing withdrawal symptoms.
They also use Kratom as a sedative and to treat anxiety. Some people take it to get rid of diarrhea, fever, and cough and to heal wounds when applied as a poultice.
People in the United States use Kratom for various reasons, including pain relief, anxiety relief, boosting energy levels, getting high, and helping with substance withdrawal symptoms.
Traditionally, people use Kratom leaves by chewing, smoking, or brewing it as tea. Kratom usage has improved productivity by boosting strength and energy levels while reducing hunger and making users more sun tolerant. However, when it’s overcast and rainy, Kratom users may get chills.
Benefits of Kratom
Kratom is a promising medicinal plant. Its leaves have been shown in Kratom research to modulate certain nerve cells in the body that detect pain and are utilized to alleviate them.
- Kratom may alleviate pain caused by injury, back pain, nervous system problems, muscles and tendons, toothaches, body aches, and chronic pain caused by chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, etc.
- It may be substituted for morphine and other opioids used in pain management, as it has the same effects. It is ten times weaker than morphine but without respiratory depression, nausea, or vomiting.
- Higher doses of Kratom may also be used to treat opioid use disorder and reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms.
- Aids concentration and calms nerves.
- Relaxes muscles and inhibits muscular spasms.
- Reduces the peristalsis of the small intestine.
- Cures diarrhea and dysentery.
- Cough relief.
- Helps to reduce acid secretion.
- Induces sleep.
- Taking Kratom may help to work for long periods without becoming fatigued or hungry.
Why Did Kratom Become Illegal?
Kratom was one of the controlled substances in Thailand; however, this was not due to its mind-altering effects like those seen in psychoactive drugs. The reason was pure politics.
During the early 20th century, opium was legal and under state monopoly. Thai citizens began substituting Kratom for opium in response to the rising cost of opium. Because the government was losing tax money, it passed a law to ban Kratom in 1943.
Fortunately, Kratom is now legal in Thailand. In 2021, Thai authorities stated that Kratom will no longer be classified as a controlled substance. Kratom may be cultivated, purchased, or sold in Thailand without the need for authorization.
Side Effects of Kratom
Kratom use may cause side effects, including constipation, frequent urination, dry mouth, loss of appetite, drowsiness, sweating and itching, anxiety and restlessness, altered mental status, aggression, abnormally fast heartbeat, high blood pressure, insomnia, nausea and vomiting, sun allergy or the darkening of the skin, and hallucinations.
The fiber of Kratom leaves should not be ingested because it is difficult to digest. Eating frequently can cause “Kratom bags,” which are hard lumps in the stomach and can cause stomach pain. As a result, traditional methods of taking Kratom, such as chewing the fiber, boiling it into a tea, or smoking it, are considered safer alternatives to powdered Kratom in many Kratom products, such as in a capsule or tablet form.
Kratom Is One of the Psychoactive Drugs
Kratom leaves consist of approximately 0.5% alkaloids. Half of which is Mitragynine, and the remainings are Speciogynine, Paynanthine, and Speciociliatine.
The medicinal chemistry of this herbal substance appears quite complex, suggesting several critical active compounds may exist. The exact mechanisms by which Kratom works are still unknown, but studies have shown that it is similar to opioid drugs.
According to a study on a group of frequent kratom users, kratom appears to have a stimulant effect at low doses and a sedative effect at high doses.
Some strains of Kratom give users a euphoric high, while others are known for pain relief. Kratom use may be safer than opioids and other drugs when used for a limited period.
How Does Kratom Affect Opioid Receptors?
Kratom doesn’t contain opioid compounds. But its alkaloids interact with the delta and kappa opioid receptors like natural analgesic agonists. On the other hand, classic opioids such as morphine bind primarily to the mu-opioid receptor.
Mitragynine is around a hundredth of the potency of morphine in terms of its effects on opioid receptors. 7-hydroxymitragynine, another alkaloid in the plant, has about one-tenth the potency of morphine. However, Kratom only contains a tiny amount of these.
Kratom’s alkaloids are not powerful enough to qualify the plant as a narcotic, even though they bond with opioid receptors. However, it may be used to assist individuals with opioid or substance use disorders.
Who Should Avoid Using Kratom?
Due to the adverse effects of Kratom exposure, individuals who have heart disease, mental disorders, alcoholism or alcohol dependence, as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women, should avoid using Kratom.
While Kratom ingestion may help people get out of alcohol dependence and lessen their withdrawal symptoms, it is not a good idea to mix Kratom and alcohol. Many individuals use Kratom and alcohol together with no problems. However, most Kratom deaths and adverse effects from exposure to Kratom have been from Kratom taken with other substances, including alcohol.
If you experience serious negative outcomes or adverse effects from Kratom exposures or overdoses, drink plenty of water and sour food, such as lemon juice. Then, contact poison centers or go to the hospital immediately.
The Usefulness of Kratom in Opioid Withdrawal
One of the most promising potential uses for kratom is its ability to help those with opioid use disorder and other substance abuse. Several studies have shown that kratom can effectively reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal and other substance withdrawal and decrease cravings for these substances.
Not only does this make Kratom a potentially helpful treatment for people trying to overcome opioid addiction, but it could also help those trying to wean themselves off prescription pain medications.
If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, Kratom use may be worth considering as a treatment option. However, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional first and to carefully monitor your use of Kratom to ensure that it is safe and effective for your needs.
Is Kratom Legal in the United States?
Kratom, Mitragyna Speciosa, is not currently regulated by the federal government in the United States. In the US, Kratom products are still legal in most states. However, several states have passed legislation to regulate or ban its use, limiting treatment options for those with drug and substance abuse.
Drug Enforcement Administration and FDA Advisory
To prevent a potential public-health hazard, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has declared its intent to classify the active components of Kratom as Schedule I Controlled Substance.
According to the statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., the Food and Drug Administration advised consumers not to use Kratom because of its potential for abuse and warned them of deadly risks from Kratom exposure. The Food and Drug Administration has also seized several Kratom products as unapproved drugs and dietary supplements.
Closing Thoughts on Kratom
Despite the uncertainty surrounding Kratom, Mitragyna speciosa can be an effective treatment option for those with chronic pain, opioid withdrawal, as well as drug and alcohol dependence. If you have safety concerns about the health effects of Kratom use, it is important to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first and to carefully monitor your Kratom use and drug interactions over time.
With the right precautions, Kratom use may be safer and more effective for you compared to other drugs, especially when used for a limited time under supervision.