Kratom 101 – A Look at the History, Pharmacology, and Effects of this Herbal Supplement

Last updated on July 4th, 2024 at 09:36 pm

The jury is still out on the safety of kratom. Currently banned in Australia, it's still available in the US.

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Kratom or Mitragyna Speciosa is an evergreen plant native to the marshy regions of Southeast Asia. Traditionally the natives of Thailand, Malaysia, and Myanmar would handpick kratom leaves, dry them up, and brew them or swallow with water for its supposedly myriad health benefits. 

It wasn’t until the onset of the 21st century that kratom‘s visibility around the world grew dramatically. More and more people saw its potential as a possible alternative to opioids and other harmful drugs. Others would use it for managing pain, improving energy levels, and often for recreational value.

While there is no clinical evidence supporting any medical claims, there are several anecdotal accounts suggesting that kratom might be helpful, to some degree, in the management of conditions like pain, lethargy, stress, anxiety, and inflammation; to name a handful.

Kratom History

While it remains unclear as to when exactly kratom came into usage, the practice is supposed to be ancient. Among the most widespread usage of kratom – the one as an energy booster much like coffee has been the most prominent one. Peasants and laborers in countries like Thailand would chew raw leaves which allowed them to toil even in the harsh sun. If we go as far back as the early 19th century, you will find many accounts of kratom’s usage as a potential replacement for opium and a mild sedative.

But, as it became more famous for its medical potential, scientists discovered mitragynine – an important active alkaloid in kratom. By the 1960s, 20 other alkaloids were discovered with 7-hydroxymitragynine being a prominent one.

At the beginning of early 2000, aided with the help of online message boards, the general public grew more aware of kratom. By 2005, Australia had scheduled it deeming it as possibly addictive substance. Possession and sale of kratom were banned in Australia without a license.

However, in the US many campaign groups and advocates rose to fight for kratom’s legality. With their collective efforts, the DEA was forced to retract its ‘notice of intent’ which meant to place it under Schedule 1 drugs. In fact, during this time, people’s interest in kratom saw a sudden spike.

Kratom Pharmacology

Among other phytochemicals, alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are the two most important ones present in kratom leaves. Both of these are opioid receptor agonists. While the true mechanism responsible for kratom’s stimulant-like effect is unclear, the involvement of some other alkaloid is likely involved since both these compounds interact with the same receptors in the brain as opioids.

In terms of dosage – most proponents of kratom would deem 3-6 gram as ‘moderate’. Anything above 5 gram would constitute a ‘strong dosage’. It’s normal for people to consume kratom powder with juices and water. The old ‘toss n wash’ method is the most popular one where you chase down a dose with a drink before it starts settling down on the tongue to avoid the often bitter taste.

Kratom Effects – What To Expect

Let it be known that kratom is highly dose-dependent. The results could vary significantly from one user to another. The effects may also vary from being energetic to stimulating to sedating. However, on an empty stomach, they may become noticeable somewhere around at 20-minute mark. The effects may build-up gradually in terms of intensity. They could last anywhere between 2-4 hours. However, none of this is concrete.

At low doses, most users report feeling a surge of motivation, improved sociability, and talkativeness. Many notice a sudden spike in energy levels. At first, the effects might be disorientating. Therefore, it’s important to start slow. Mild side-effects like sweating, dizziness, constipation, and nausea might be there. Some users report feeling thirsty so you might want to stay hydrated. If any of these symptoms occur, wait it out until they start to fade.

At higher doses, the effects could be sedative accompanied by a diminished sensitivity to various perceptions. Some people explain this state as ‘walking-dreaming’.

Legality of Kratom

Kratom sale and distribution are not federally controlled in the US. And, while it’s not illegal, its status remains in flux. However, you should have no problem getting your hands on kratom products (at least as of the publishing date of this article).

Some states like Wisconsin, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, and Indiana have pending legislation and so kratom use might be banned there in the near future. With a few such exceptions, kratom is largely legal in the United States. In fact, the number of vendors selling kratom both offline and online has increased dramatically since 2011.

Current perspectives on the impact of Kratom use

Most kratom usage accounts are personal and the majority speaks in favor. The nature of voice if you talk about kratom’s use and impact is largely positive. However, there is a strong need for full-fledged clinical studies assessing its short and long-term implications.

Another point of concern is that since kratom is not federally controlled and neither monitored by the FDA, it can be hard to ascertain the quality of a product. Many sellers could be selling potentially adulterated products. Therefore, the user is solely responsible for buying a quality product that contains pure kratom with no added harmful substances.

It’s advised to avoid buying from vendors making promises that sound – ‘too good to be true’. It’s also imperative that as a first time user you do plenty of research before trying out kratom in any form.

Writer at 

Angela often writes about herbal and botanical remedies. She's currently a content writer for Kratom Crazy.

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