Kratom is a tropical herb with origins in Southeast Asia whose leaves are known to have psychotropic effects. The scientific name of kratom is mitragyna speciosa. This herb also goes by the name of kratum, biak, ithang, kakuam, thom, or ketum.
Which Are the Different Strains of Kratom?
Generally, there are three different varieties of kratom which are categorized based on how they are processed. The white vein kratom is harvested when the veins and leaves of the plant are still young and white, similar to how white teas are processed. The taste is rather strong and may not be appealing for beginners.
Red vein kratom is processed using plenty of sunlight and produces a very mellow form of the herb. It is a form of kratom that is not stimulating, but is sedating. It has strong calming effects and may be used for pain relief.
Green vein kratom is the in-between form of kratom that is processed from mature plants. It has stimulating properties, but also initiates a sense of calm and endurance.
Possible Benefits of Kratom
The two active ingredients in kratom are mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine. These bioactive compounds interact with opioid receptors in the brain centers that are involved in causing sedation, pleasure, and pain.
When consumed in low amounts kratom functions as a stimulant and increases sociability and alertness. In higher dosages it suppresses pain by acting on the mu opiate receptors in the brain.
Kratom has also been used to successfully treat opioid addiction.
So far, evidence is anecdotal and preliminary. This warrants larger randomized trials to give clearer direction.
How is Kratom Consumed?
The leaves of kratom can be eaten raw. Alternatively, they can be dried and crushed into a powder which can be used to make teas or packed into capsules. The leaves can also be smoked.
Is Kratom Addictive?
This has been a controversial subject. A recent mice study that was conducted by a PhD researcher Susruta Majumdar showed interesting results. Unlike conventional opioid drugs, the active ingredients in kratom do not cause respiratory depression or physical dependence.
He concluded that kratom merits further investigation to determine if the active ingredients can be harnessed for therapeutic benefits that are potentially less addictive.
Kratom has been used safely for many years in Southeast Asia. So far, there have been no direct deaths linked to kratom. However, there have been complications resulting from the use of adulterated or contaminated kratom products.
Is Kratom Legal in the US?
In 2016, the FDA listed kratom as a schedule 1 substance with no known medicinal value and high potential for addiction. They however rescinded that decision later due to an avalanche of petitions.
Consequently, the legality of kratom in the U.S. remains a grey area. As much as it is not illegal at a federal level, several states have banned its use. However, some states are looking more to regulate the use of kratom rather than place a complete ban on it. This will pave the way for research into the use of kratom as a therapeutic substance.