Introductory Guide to Kratom
Useful information on Mitragyna speciosa, more commonly known as Kratom
There is much confusion and misinformation about kratom, both in public understanding and in news articles circulating across the Web. The goal of this introductory user’s guide is to provide a basic educational resource, helping to correct some of the incorrect information available on this natural substance. This is not meant to be an exhaustive guide; rather, it will introduce what kratom is, what it does, and how it can be used.
What is Kratom?
Kratom is a substance produced from the leaves of Mitragyna speciosa, a tree closely related to the coffee plant. M. speciosa is a native of Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam, Borneo, and Papua New Guinea. The leaves have been used as a folk remedy for many hundreds of years. Differing amounts may be used for different purposes. At lower doses, Southeast Asians use it as a stimulant. Higher doses tend to produce sedative effects. It may be used recreationally or to combat a number of health conditions, including relieving the symptoms of opioid drug withdrawal.
What Are the Effects of Kratom?
Kratom holds a unique place among natural plant substances, according to the Founder of several online kratom businesses. It offers differing effects at differing doses, acting as a stimulant in smaller dosages and as a sedative when larger doses are taken. The active chemical compounds in M. speciosa are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, both powerful alkaloids. There are other compounds present in kratom, but it is these two that produce the effects favored by herbal enthusiasts.
The exact pharmacological nature of these compounds is poorly understood by the medical community, but it is known that the compounds bind to a type of opioid receptor in the human body. The active compounds and metabolites from the breakdown of kratom are not detected by ordinary drug screening protocols, but specialized testing, particularly by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, can detect the presence of the compounds.
How is Kratom Used?
Kratom is a versatile natural botanical and lends itself to many uses. Commonly, the leaves are made into a tea, mixed into beverages, and even smoked. In its native Southeast Asia, users often chew the fresh leaves. The leaves are tough and hard to break down through chewing, however, so a preferred preparation is to grind the leaves into a fine powder.
The powdered kratom can be added to beverages like chocolate milk, lemonade, yogurt drinks, and fruit juices. The plant material is bitter, so sweet beverages are preferred to mask the potentially unpleasant flavor. Powdered kratom can also be used in capsule form, or may be smoked. Typically, smoking the leaves and powder is impractical for dosage reasons; the amount needed to be smoked to produce the desired effects may be excessive.
Perhaps the most popular kratom preparation is by steeping the leaves or powder in hot water to make tea. Coarsely-ground or crushed leaves are preferred. A common ratio of ingredients for tea is 2 oz. of leaf material for every quart of water. The tea is steeped for 15–20 minutes, the leaves are removed and the liquid is strained through a fine filter, then returned to the pot for reduction. Reduce the volume of the liquid by boiling until about a cup of liquid remains. This helps to concentrate the kratom into small, easily-ingested doses. This liquid can be added to black or herbal teas and mixed with honey, lemon, or sugar to help mask any unpleasant bitterness.