What is Kratom?
Kratom is a substance which can be extracted from leaves of the Mitragyna Speciosa tree which grows throughout Southeast Asia. The flowers of the tree resemble bishops’ mitres or hats, hence its name, which means “precious bishop’s hat-like tree”. Locals preferred to call it by their own name of Kratom.
This tall evergreen tree is mainly found in Thailand, Indonesia and Burma. Certainly no village in Malaysia was without its mitragyna speciosa tree as the leaves have been used for generations in herbal remedies. Leaves were chewed, after removing the tough central vein, or they were brewed as a tea to treat malaria, pain, fever, diarrhea, tiredness and mental problems. It also became used as a mild recreational drug, producing effects similar to opium when smoked or chewed in small amounts.
The mitragyna speciosa tree is part of the rubiaceae species, and if that sounds familiar, it is because coffee plants are part of the same botanical family. Kratom, however, is more powerful and stimulating than coffee. It is known to reduce fever, elevate mood and relieve pain and was used by natives to counter fatigue, depression and pain.
History of Kratom
Kratom was originally used to help jungle tribesmen endure long and tiring jungle trips. It replaced feelings of tiredness and exhaustion with renewed energy. It was later used by rubber tappers as they worked long shifts collecting rubber from the cups strapped to the trees to catch the oozing sap. However, in both these instances, another substance was frequently used for the same purpose of overcoming tiredness – opium!
Opium was soon found to be highly addictive, but those determined to wean themselves off their opium addiction found that by chewing the leaves of kratom, they could overcome the craving for opium and eventually cured themselves of their opiate habit. It was probably the threat to the lucrative trade of opium that brought about a new law in Thailand in 1943, which made planting the mitragyna speciosa (kratom) tree illegal. However, this proved largely ineffective as this indigenous tree could be found everywhere!
Of course, kratom leaves came to the attention of researchers and they isolated 25 different chemically complex alkaloids. Scientists found that kratom was useful for a number of complaints as a powerful stimulant and painkiller. It has been found to counter depression by making users feel strong, positive and optimistic. It can also be used as a social and professional enhancer by being a powerful motivator and an aid to communicative skills.
In small amounts, kratom leaves are said to act as a mild stimulant. Taking more may cause a sedative or analgesic effect, while more than 16-25 grams is too strong a dose for most sensitive people. Carefully controlled kratom extracts are sold in tablet, resin or powder form and are much safer and easier to control than chewing leaves. However, the product is not approved by the FDA and therefore should not be sold to treat any medical condition. It remains a banned substance in Thailand, Burma, Malaysia and Australia and as such should be consumed in small amounts and with caution elsewhere in the world.