What is Kratom?

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The herbal substance Kratom, sounds more like a space rock than a dangerous drug. So, what is it exactly? I’m sure you’ve heard a little about what it does but are lacking the information of what exactly it is, where it comes from and all of its uses. If you’ve been asking yourself these questions then you’re in the right place to find answers. Many people claim that Kratom is the solution to the opiate crisis across the world. Others speak about its potential of relieving  pain while others suggest that it is simply another drug that’s addictive and leaving it’s users dependant on it. Regardless of the side effects and controversy against Kratom, it has been coined a lifesaver herbal remedy by many who continue to use it because of the incredible benefits it offers them. What we aim to do here is provide you with enough information on Kratom that you can form your own opinion on it. One thing we all can agree on though is that there should be a call for more research on Kratom and its overall potential before it is simply dismissed as a dangerous drug; sufficient clinical tests must be conducted before decisions to make it illegal are made.

The Source of Kratom – Chemistry, Growth, Harvest

Grown naturally in the Southeastern Asian countries of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea, the real magic is found in the leaves of the Kratom tree. Botanically known as Mitragyna Speciosa, they tropical evergreen tree is a part of the coffee family (Rubiaceac). Kratom has long since been used in the regions where it is grown, for medical use. Each of the regions where a Kratom source is grown and harvested, produces its own unique breed of the natural remedial herb. Breads from Thailand and Indonesia are said to be some of the most unique and distinct in their characteristics.

Throughout the years, numerous studies have been conducted which have revealed, the alkaloid, mitragynine, previously believed to be the main active ingredient in Kratom was actually only a piece to the puzzle of what made it highly effective. Multiple research studies concluded that it was in fact a combination of many active ingredients that contributed to Kratom as being an effective form of analgesic (pain relief) medicine. It was later discovered that the other crucial component in Kratom was the presence of 7-hydroxymitragynine, discovered by researches in Japan.

Chemical Composition

For the purpose of keeping this post short and relevant, we won’t get into every single alkaloid or chemical that is present in Kratom however we will mention, there are over 25 alkaloids, and about 40 different chemicals present in Kratom. As mentioned above, the two we commonly hear about are 7-hydroxymitragynine and Mitragynine. There is another one that is quite important as well and it is called Epicatechin.

7-Hydroxymitragynine

This alkaloid has many claims behind it as being the main ingredient in Kratom. 7-hydroxymitragynine works by way of interaction with the Kappa, Delta and Mu opioid receptor sites, the Mu reception being the one which the alkaloid binds to more readily. The interaction at the receptor sites are what are responsible for the effects one would experience while taking Kratom.

Mitragynine

Thought as being the primary active ingredient in Kratom, is has since been discovered that Mitragynine, although it’s a very abundant alkaloid in Kratom, it’s not the highest occurring. The Mitragynine alkaloid binds to Delta receptors when it’s being used in low dosages, otherwise known as at the stimulant stage. If consumed at higher dosages, this alkaloid then binds to the Mu receptors and acts by minimizing pain symptoms for the user.

Epicatechin

We do not confidently know which receptor Epicatechin binds to but what we do know, based on the research of studies conducted on the alkaloid, tell us that it has the ability to act against free radicals, reducing their effects in the body. Also found to be beneficial for diabetics, this alkaloid helps manage blood sugar levels and works by mimicking endogenous insulin.

How does Kratom Grow?  

The warm and tropical climate of Southeastern Asia is ideal for growing Kratom, which can in fact grow up to a height of 100ft in perfect conditions. The majority of the leaves of Kratom, are found high in the canopy of the tree. One of the main factors affecting the rate at which the tree grows is precipitation; during the wet season, growth is accelerated. The most optimal times of growth occur before and after the wet season, that is December – March. From June – September, the tree focuses on survival and thus, growth is considerably slower during this time.

How is Kratom Harvested?

The alkaloid levels are higher in the Kratom during the dry season and for this reason, the dry season is the best time to harvest. Just with harvesting any crop, the exact point at which you harvest the Kratom will impact the quality. The most potent batches of a Kratom source will be gathering when harvested during the dry season.

Once harvested, Kratom leaves degrade extremely quickly which is why they must be dried quickly and properly before being packaged. To effectively package Kratom it should be put into a vacuum sealed air tight bag. To increase the shelf life of the product, the best place to store the bags are in a container that blocks out the light.

Note: Due to the fact Kratom degrades rapidly, it is advised to not purchase in bulk, rather, buy only what you need for a short time and always purchase freshly packed products.

What Does Kratom Do?

In the past, Kratom has been used as a herbal remedy for pain relief as well as a stimulant. Although chemically unique to that of opium derived medication, Kratom has a very similar effect to the neurological system. The potential therapeutic benefits to Kratom are vast, and yet debatable; it’s definitely a herb that has warranted a lot of attention. With just as little as a few grams of Kratom, effects similar to that of caffeine will be apparent. At low doses, Kratom will act as a stimulant while at higher doses it will function more like a sedative. The sedative effects are a result of how kratom functions in the brain like a neurological opiate and acts by triggering its mu opiate receptors. Kratom also affects activity at other receptor sites, mainly those of the serotonergic, dopaminergic, and adrenergic receptors.

What is Kratom Used For?

Uses range anywhere from treatment against opiate addictions, lifting ones mood, to stimulate the immune system, and pain relief. Although there are many other uses, these are the main ones that we hear about for what Kratom is used for.

Using Kratom

Kratom is illegal in many countries and being banned in several states. The information below on internal and external ways to use Kratom are not an endorsement for the herbal substance,  everything found here is simply informational and we advise that if you do wish to consume Kratom, it is to be done at your own risk.

Internal

  • The traditional form to consume Kratom was by chewing fresh leaves. It was said that this method of consumption was the fastest acting and most effective to receive full benefits.
  • A secondary tradition means to consume Kratom was by chewing dry leaves. Leaves were often dried to preserve them longer. A downside to this method is that the leaves often taste quite bitter.
  • Vaporizing smoke dried Kratom leaves was a common consumption method throughout Asia. The effects by this method were less substantially than orally ingesting and because of this, the method lost popularity.
  • Powder consumption is one of the most common ways individuals orally ingest Kratom. Many mix the powder, which is simply the leaves pulverized, into their juice or smoothies. To balance out the bitter taste, it is advised that you mix your Kratom powder with a citrus or fruit based drink or blend with acidic fruits.
  • Tea is probably the most common way that Kratom is consumed by users now-a-days, who are looking to manage their symptoms on their own. It is easy to make and prepare and is highly effective.
  • Capsules/Tablets are the most difficult to control when speaking about dosage intake however are probably the most convenience of all methods of consuming Kratom.
  • Extracts provide a higher concentration of alkaloids with less effects than resin intake, making them substantially more desirable.
  • Resin is highly potent. It is created by taking concentrate, heating it to a desired temperature, cooling it, drying, and finally condensing. Resin is one of the most costly forms of Kratom.
  • Tinctures are created by taking the extracts of the active alkaloids from the leaf and diluting it with alcohol. Tinctures, just like resins have a high potency and are more costly. They produce a balanced soothing effect according to many users.

External

  • Most commonly sold in the form of herbal bath and aromatherapy products. You can make these items from Kratom on your own by purchasing Kratom powder and then using it in the application you so choose to make bath bombs, soaps, etc. Many venders, such as Greenlife Kratom, a reputable vendor in Canada, sell readymade products such as soaps and incense.

Varieties

Classified first by it’s location and then by the color, each strain of Kratom has its own unique alkaloid traits and therefor will have different effects. We’ll get into specifics more on the strains in other posts however, it is important to know that there are three forms Kratom is classified under; Red vein, White vein, and Green vein.

Red Vein

Rich in 7-hydroxymitragynine, the red vein variety produces sedation effects. Active ingredients help to revive pain and elevate stress in the body. The preferred variety for red veined Kratom is that of Thai. Red vein varieties of Bali, Borneo, Maeng Da, and Indo have been shown to help with drug withdrawal.

White Vein

Characteristic of white vein Kratom is its long lasting stimulation effects. This variety contains a higher amount of mitragynine and less of the alkaloid 7-hydroxymitragynine. Used primarily for increasing alertness and motivation the white vein variety is effective at low to mid dosages.

Green Vein

Well rounded and stable, the green vein strain is known for  producing multiple effects. Just as with the white vein variety, the green also has a higher composition of the alkaloid mitragynine and less of 7-hydroxymitragynine.

*White & Green varieties of Malay, Maeng Da and Thai strains have been noted as being used as memory and intellectual enhancements.

Controversy around Kratom

The main controversy around Kratom is due to the fact that it simply hasn’t been studied enough and there are not enough clinical trials to know the effects with 100% certainty. Due to this, the FDA along with other governing health organizations, have recommended against the use of Kratom as an analgesic (pain relief), way to come off opiates, or for use in aromatherapy, among other things. Some studies conducted have already identified harmful interactions which make the herbal substance potentially dangerous for consumption. Other studies conclude that Kratom binds to the same opiate receptors  as morphine and that the potency is considerably higher.

The potential for permanent side effects, with extended use, is a high possibility and until this can be out ruled by countless studies, the substance is a strictly ‘consume at your own risk’ herbal. Containing almost just as many alkaloids as similar hallucinogenic or opium drugs, researchers say that more studies must be done before Kratom is ruled to be not dangerous. Organizations like the FDA claim that Kratom can lead to a dependency and addiction just as any other drug.

In terms of regulation, because the FDA has not cleared it as being safe, there is currently no established standard to guarantee purity and check for contamination in the products. Without these regulations, you never know the safety of the product you are purchasing.

Current top Legislation in the News

  • The DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, is in the process of classifying the main active ingredients in Kratom in order to add it to its list of Schedule 1 substances, meaning that certain types would be illegal.
  • According to the National Institutes of Health, the FDA has a ban on Kratom for import.

FAQ  – A Couple Burning Questions

  • Is the Kratom sold online pure?

Due to the fact that there isn’t regulation in place to ensure that vendors are testing their kratom source or final products for contaminated, you never know what you’ll be getting. This means, if purchasing Kratom from any vendor, online or in a shop, there is a risk that it may contain other substances, some of which could be harmful.

There have been cases circulating where it’s been found that Kratom has been laced with harmful drugs that when consumed, create severe side effects, including death. It is not uncommon to hear about instances where Kratom has contained an artificially elevated concentrate of 7-hydroxymitragynine.

  • I heard Kratom was blamed for 40 hospitalizations related to Salmonella contamination. How could the product have become contaminated with Salmonella?

Although Salmonella is commonly associated with contamination in raw meats, chicken in particular, it can find its way on to other sources too. This is exactly what has happened in the outbreak of Salmonella with Kratom sources, first observed in October of 2017. As there are no regulations for Kratom, not all vendors are spending the time and money to run tests at the source of where they get their Kratom and neither are they re-testing once they receive the product. At the moment, since the original source of the Salmonella contamination cannot be narrowed down, it is advised to stay away from Kratom unless you are confident that your kratom source is free from contaminants.

The Centre for Disease Control, has confirmed, there have been no deaths related to the recent salmonella outbreak caused by Kratom.

  • If I need to consider only 2 things before orally ingesting Kratom, what would they be?

First things first, make sure you have done sufficient research and are aware as much as possible of the risks, not only the benefits. Two things you should be aware of before ingesting Kratom would be your tolerance and the physiological make up of your system. In regards to dosages, always take less than is recommended so you can understand how your body reacts to it. If you plan to increase dosages, do so by small increments to ensure you are staying in control of the effects it has on your body.

Conclusion  

Many individuals stand behind the belief that Kratom shouldn’t be dismissed just yet until further research has been conducted proving that it is in fact a dangerous herbal substance. Supporters also strongly voice the sentiment of wanting to work with governing bodies to discuss proper regulation of Kratom in order to make is standardized and thus safe for consumption. Until these steps are taken, it is the responsibility of everyone to make sure that wherever they are buying from, it is from a vendor that is putting their kratom through rigorous testing to ensure there are no contaminants present. Being a responsible user and taking all necessary precautions when buying, will help ensure that Kratom receives the proper research and testing it deserves.

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