What is Kratom?
Kratom (scientifically known as mitragyna speciosa) is a tree of Rubiaceae family with several medicinal values and is native to Indonesia, Thailand and a few regions of Southeast Asia. Since ancient times, people have been using this tress leaves to treat many disorders like vomiting and diarrhea, skeletal and muscular pain, anxiety and depression, etc. Apart from this, it became famous due to the effects that it imparted to its users like the feeling of relaxation, ecstasy or vitality.
Kratom is a word derived from Thai for this medicinal plant. This evergreen trees generally grow in marshy regions of Southeast Asia like Thailand, Borneo, Malaysia, New Guinea, etc. It can grow as high as 60 feet and as wide as 15 feet or more. The leaves appear to be elongated to oval in shape, with a median vein running throughout the length of the leaf and bifurcating in a symmetrical fashion. Different species tend to have different colors of the vein and are accordingly termed as green, white or red vein kratom. It yields oval yellowish flower pods that contain about 50 seeds within them.
Mode Of Action
The active ingredient in the leaf, that gives it all the characteristic features, is a substance known as alkaloids. There are some alkaloids like mitragynine, mitraphylline, and 7-hydroxymitragynine.
- Mitragynine—the alkaloid responsible for most of its effects—has an affinity for the opioid receptor and this gives it the ability to treat pain. However, the key that differentiates kratom from opiate is that mitragynine has an affinity towards delta opioid receptors, whereas opiates have an affinity towards the mu opioid receptors. However, at higher doses, it tends to stimulate the mu opioid receptor and hence is said to impart narcotic effects at higher doses.
- Apart from that, it also has a slight affinity towards kappa-opioid receptors. The alertness and vigilance provided by it are due to its adrenergic activity.
- Additionally, it also binds to the serotonin receptors. This makes it useful to treat depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Because of so many types and sub-types available within this species, there is a broad spectrum of effects that this herb is known to provide.
Some of them are as follows:
- Relief from pain
- Fighting Anxiety
- Relied on Opiate withdrawal symptoms
- Mood enhancement
- Boosting up energy levels
- Boosting up the stamina
- Improving the immune system
- Maintaining blood sugar level
- Nootropic (Cognition Enhancing)
- Fighting diseases like malaria and even leukemia
Apart from the effects mentioned above, this herb is suggested for overall health maintenance due to high-antioxidant and vitamin content. Besides, it is a completely safe drug which has never caused any serious consequences except for addiction or some side effects, when taken in combination with some other substances.
Naming Of Leaf Strains
There are different naming systems adopted by different vendors. However, the general naming system is based upon the following:
- The place of origin.
- The region from where the leaf was harvested.
- The color of the vein: red or green or white.
For instance, a Green Vein Indo suggests that the leaf from which the product is made is from Indonesia and is also green veined.
Some of the strains that are the highest sellers and have gained a lot of popularity in the recent past are:
- Maeng Da
Different Vein Colors
The color of the vein is indicative of how the strain will affect an individual physically and mentally due to the different chemical contents.
Green: It is often known as a blend of the Red and White strains. It is a trivial energy promoter. It is said to impart effects like vibrant thinking power as well as additional stamina and is therefore often used by athletes and laborers. Some users have reported that green vein leaves have been useful for anxiety and depression symptoms.
White: It is a more energizing and mood enhancing variety. It also encourages attentiveness, mental vigilance, and alertness and hence used as a substitute for caffeine. Additionally, it also reinforces concentration, enthusiasm, and stamina which is useful for people who ought to work for long hours.
Red: These are more of a sedating variety. They effects commence with an initial rush and eventually turn out to have more soothing effects with a euphoric feeling. They are a good substitute for painkillers and also used for opiate detox.
Kratom is known to be a host of several different kinds of alkaloids, which give it, its characteristic features. Till date, almost 28 different kinds of alkaloids have been identified from different regions of this tree. Of course, the quantity and variety of alkaloids tend to differ in different strains. This variation in alkaloid profile is affiliated with the different effects imparted by each strain. Following is a list of some of the alkaloids with their precise functions and quantity:
|7-hydroxymitragynine||Pain-relief, (opioid receptor agonist), antidiarrheal, antitussive||1.5 – 2.5%|
|Mitragynine||Analgesic/painkiller (opioid receptor agonist), antidiarrheal, antitussive, adrenergic receptor agonist (a mild stimulant), antimalarial||40 – 75% [Lowest recorded content: 12%]|
|Speciogynine||Smooth Muscle Relaxer||6.5 – 7.2%|
|Mitraphylline||Muscle relaxer, vasodilator, anti-hypertensive, anti-amnesic, immune system stimulant, anti-leukemic||less than 1%|
|Epicatechin (EGC)||Antioxidant, antiviral, anti-mutagenic, anti-leukemic, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic. Commonly found in green tea||1%|
|Corynantheidine||Mu opioid Antagonist||less than 1%|
|Ajmalicine||Sedative (Anti-Adrenergic), increase blood flow to the brain, smooth muscle relaxer||less than 1%|
|Corynoxine A||Dopamine Mediator||less than 1%|
|Corynoxine B||Dopamine Mediator||less than 1%|
|Ciliaphylline||Analgesic, antitussive||less than 1%|
|Isopteropodine||Immune System Stimulant||less than 1%|
|Isorhynchophylline||Immune System Stimulant||less than 1%|
|Isomitrafoline||Immune System Stimulant||less than 1%|
|Isomitraphylline||Immune System Stimulant||less than 1%|
|Rhynchophylline||Anti-inflammatory, vasodilator, anti-hypertensive||less than 1%|
|Speciociliatine||A mild opioid receptor agonist||less than 1%|
|Speciophylline||Anti-leukemic||less than 1%|
|Tetrahydroalstonine||Anti-adrenergic lowers blood sugar||less than 1%|
|Akuammigine||Inactive||less than 1%|
|Mitrafoline||Inactive||less than 1%|
|Mitraversine||Inactive||less than 1%|
|Speciofoline||inactive||less than 1%|
|Stipulating||inactive||less than 1%|
This herb is widely used in its extract form, which is utilized on its own, in the form of various food or beverage recipes or mixed with leaves. The extracts are usually made by mixing the leaves with an organic solvent, which is evaporated to leave behind a concentrated form of the herb. This is then sold either as a resin, tincture, water-based extracts, powder form or even as an oil.
The key to enjoying the effects of this herb is its dosage. It takes time to experiment with trial and error methods to find the perfect dosage for an individual. This is because every person has a different tolerance level and hence too low dosage might not impart any effects while too high dosage can cause some side effects. The recommended dosage is as follows:
- Low: 1 to 2 grams or 0.5 to 0.9 tsp.
- Moderate: 2 to 4.5 grams or 1 to 2 tsp.
- High: 4.5 to 8 grams or 2 to 3.5 tsp.
However, it should be kept in mind that the effects tend to vary amongst the different strains and varieties used along with one’s tolerance level. High dosage can also cause a few unpleasant side effects.
It is highly advised not to take the dose regularly, as it can become addictive or develop tolerance. However, this can become inevitable for people who use it to either fight diseases or chronic pain. But, they follow the proper dosage and try to consume it in permissible amounts.
Worldwide Legal Status:
The only four countries in the world, currently, where the consumption of this herb is illegal are:
However, the reason why it is illegal in the small number of countries is more political than health-related. Hence, we can safely say that it is legal in most of the countries. There are a few nations that categorize it as a controlled substance, like:
- New Zealand.
Whereas some of the super nations like Russia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, at present, have a vague category for this herb. Though over the counter availability is not allowed in Canada and Mexico, they have legalized buying and importing of the herb.