Featured image by ThorPorre (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons.

Kratom has never been a widely used drug in western culture, perhaps because it’s not a mediagenic substance like LSD or ayahuasca. Few had heard from it in the Western side of the world, and those who did, didn’t see a reason to alarm others about it’s profound working.

That all changed when recently the DEA announced in 2016 it wanted Kratom to be in schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act (where LSD, heroin and yes, still cannabisd is at). However, it is still legal in many states, according to the American Kratom Association.

Personally, I encountered Kratom about four years ago when the kind people of Azarius send me some to try. I made some tea from the extract (there are many sorts available) and settled for an evening on my own, contemplating the universe. I remember feeling relaxed and generally in a good mood, but didn’t think much of it. I refrained from posting an article on it, until it did appear in Andrew Arnett’s piece for us on Kava bars that had been popping up all over the United States.

Kava is derived from the kava plant which is consumed throughout the Polynesian Islands. Studies have shown that kava is effective in treating social anxiety and may serve as a natural replacement for anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals like Xanax. It has been shown to promote sleep, relax muscles and reduce convulsions.

But more interestingly, at some Kava bars you could also order Kratom. Ironically, only a few months after the piece was published, the announcement by the DEA was made.

To clear up misinformation about this very useful plant, in this article we first take a look at the history of Kratom. Followed by the various ways it can be used

The history of Kratom

Kratom (or Mitragyna speciosa in Latin) is part of the coffee family and comes from South East Asia. Which is why it often has names related to Indonesia, Malaysia,Thailand, Papua New Guinea and Myanmar where it has been used in traditional medicine since at least the 19th century.

Oddly enough, it has been declared illegal in many of the producing countries (like Thailand).

It has been used in traditional medicine since at least the 19th century

That is perhaps because Kratom has opiate and stimulant properties, due to the fact at least 25 alkaloids can be found in the plant. Two of which are psychoactive, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.

Reading this can cause immediate concern about health issues when using Kratom. Of course, caution should always be taken when taken a substance. In the case of Kratom, because of it’s opiate like alkaloids, do not use Kratom when consuming alcohol. Except for tobacco and cannabis perhaps, it is advised to not combine with other substances.

Addiction wise, Kratom isn’t that interesting that it will get you hooked and you end up taking Kratom every day. It could form a habit however. If you do, it might cause liver injury in very rare cases.

The DEA cites 15 kratom related deaths between 2014 and 2016, however, a 2016 review found in none of these cases Kratom was the sole contributor to someone’s death.

The uses of Kratom

Opioid withdrawal 

With the opioid epidemic in the United States, it only makes sense Kratom is making a comeback

First and foremost, Kratom has already been used as an opioid withdrawal in Asia since the 1800’s. But with the (prescription) opioid epidemic in the United States, it only makes sense Kratom is making a comeback. This is why Chris Bell (director, producer and writer, known for his documentaries Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Trophy Kids, and Prescription Thugs) started using Kratom and has been an advocate ever since. After the controversy surrounding Kratom hit the mainstream news, he has been on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast to talk extensively about it and announced his new documentary on Kratom.

Traditional use

Tradtionally Kratom has been used in the indigenous countries for many reasons. It’s use is similar to that of Khat and Coca, in how they use it to increase their appetite, energy and as an aphrodisiac. But it has also been used to increase endurance, as a mood enhancer and painkiller.

Recreational use

Recreational Kratom use exists, but isn’t too common. While it has been sold in headshops and smartshops for a long time already, it hasn’t catched on. Reason for this is that is relatively boring compared to other recreational drugs. A friend of mine, more experienced with opioids, compared the Kratom experience with ‘a boring codeine’ (codeine is a morphine derived cough syrup).

In our piece on Kava bars in the United States, we also asked a Kratom user why he uses Kratom:

“Kratom gets you in the zone,” Larry explains, “What I mean by that is, if you’re sitting down watching TV, it gets you into the zone. Same thing with work, if that’s what you’re doing, it gets you into the zone.”

As such, there are people who do want to experiment with Kratom. And they can. Available on the market are herbs (cut or powder) from which you can set tea, or tinctures/extracts you can mix in other foods or take directly (it is very disgusting though).

Kratom
The Fenix Black and Maeng Da Kratom Tincture, with in front of it some cut Kratom leaves.

Aside from the powdered herbs, we tried the Fenix Black (sadly not available anymore) and Maeng Da. The latter, since it’s still available, is worth explaining. It’s a full spectrum extract of alkaloids on a 3:1 ratio, meaning 5 ml of liquid contains the extract of 15 grams of leaf. It’s available for 18,95 euros at Azarius for Europeans that would like to experiment with Kratom.