Kratom is the name of a tree from the coffee family native to Southeast Asia. Also known as mitragyna speciosa, it is grown in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Its leaves are dried and used to make tea or encapsulated and sold as a supplement. Kratom leaves can also be smoked like tobacco.
You can find kratom leaves, powder, and capsules in some health food stores, vape shops, and online specialty stores. The most common uses of it are to relieve pain, depression, and opioid addiction. The two most active compounds found in kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, work on opioid receptors, but with fewer side effects.
Kratom has been used for hundreds of years in Asia as a natural home remedy. Traditionally, it has been used to treat:
However, while modern science has lent some support to these and other traditional medicine claims, much more research is needed.
Research has found several potential health benefits to taking kratom:
Kratom has been studied as a potential sexual enhancement supplement. Researchers examined several clinical studies and reported findings regarding the aphrodisiac effects of kratom. They concluded that kratom is an effective plant-based sexual enhancer.
Kratom comes in three different strains, which all are effective relievers for chronic pain. White vein, green vein, and red vein varieties provide pain relief by attaching to opioid receptors. One compound found in kratom, 7-hydroxymitragynine, is 13 times more potent than morphine.
Although kratom targets opioid receptors like morphine and codeine, it is considered an atypical opioid. Kratom selectively inactivates specific signals, which may explain the more tolerable side effects compared to typical opioids.
Kratom has many mood-enhancing effects. Reports show that kratom is an effective treatment for opioid addiction. It has been proven to help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms of morphine and ethanol.
Other studies show that kratom has potential as an antidepressant and a hunger suppressant. In one animal study, researchers determined that kratom lowers corticosterone levels in mice. Elevated corticosterone levels are associated with depression.
In another study with rats, kratom supplementation suppressed hunger by inhibiting the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for appetite and cravings. More research on humans is needed to examine if kratom has similar effects.
Because kratom has such potent ingredients, you should consult with your doctor before taking it or any other supplement. Consider the following before taking kratom:
Kratom use commonly causes nausea and constipation, but some users may experience the following side effects:
- Dry mouth
- Liver damage
One study examined the effects of prolonged kratom use. Participants reported darkened facial skin, dry mouth, frequent urination, anorexia, weight loss, and frequent constipation.
After regular and prolonged Kratom use, reports have included the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Inability to work
- Muscle and bone pain
- Jerky movements of the limbs
Amount and Dosage
The amount of kratom to take depends on a range of factors including a user’s age, overall health, and more. According to one study, the effects of this herb also depend on the dosage levels, with a low dose ranging from 1-5 grams and a moderate dose ranging from 5-15 grams. However, more research is needed to determine the effects of these dosage variations on the body short and long-term. Because of kratom’s noted potency and lack of research to conclude safe consumption amounts, be sure to consult with your pharmacist or physician before adding this supplement to your diet.