Kratom

History, Uses and Effects

Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, the Philippines and New Guinea with leaflets producing psychoactive (mind-altering) properties of chemicals (Prozialeck et al.).  It is known as “kratom,” as “ketum” or “biak” (Malaysia), or as “krathom” (Thailand), and “thom” (Southern Thailand) and has been used for millennia (a) as a stimulant; (b) as a remedy in traditional medicine; and (c) in social context (NCBI). It is not considered an illicit drug and can be quickly ordered on the open market from multiple sources. Kratom is known as a medicinal extract obtained from the leaves of an evergreen tree, Mitragyna Speciosa.

There are a few ways to ingest Kratom, you can chew the leaves, brew tea or swallow it dried. Some companies offer a saturated solution that has been infused with Kratom. The solution is often advertised as a muscular pain alleviation, or to subvert cravings associated with opiate use and stop nausea and indigestion. It is also sometimes marketed as a form of heart disorder therapy. It acts as a pain reliever at low concentrations and makes users seem highly energetic similar to amphetamines. At larger concentrations it decreases pain and can bring a euphoric feeling as well as opioid like effects. It functions as an anesthetic in very high doses meaning that patients feel calm and are even able to fall asleep. Many people who follow conventional Asian medicine believe kratom is a replacement for morphine (NCBI). 

Kratom is used widely in social settings like concerts and festivals as well as other leisure environments. Those who are using it for it’s relaxing effects say it is normal and healthy since it is plant-based. The concentration of the psychoactive component in the leaves can differ considerably, however, rendering it challenging to assess the impact of a specific dosage. Kratom contains many other indole alkaloids that are structurally related to mitragynine, including mitraphylline, speciogynine, speciociliatine, pay nantheine, ajmalicine, and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Mitragynine is the major component of Mitragyna speciosa with a reported concentration as high as 6% by weight of the dried plant material and as much as 66% of the crude base (FDA)

Depending on how it’s processed it may be very risky to take kratom, based on what is in the herb and if the user is ingesting any other drugs, prescribed or illicit. Purchasing kratom from a reputable seller is paramount to safety. Salmonella outbreaks have been identified from tainted products (FDA). Here are some of the awesome benefits (WorldHealth):

Pain Relief

Pain is the most prevalent problem that can be managed with Kratom leaves. Pain is categorized according to where it stems from, and what areas of the body it impacts. Kratom leaves are effective for curing pain of all sorts, but it deals particularly well for neuropathic pain. Binding to pain stimuli found in the central cortex and anywhere else in the body, the leaves alleviate pain.

Mitigate Anxiety

Another potential health advantage is an improvement in mood. Various scientific findings have shown that Kratom helps promote a productive frame of mind and simply encourages people to take a more constructive outlook on life. Although Kratom is not an opioid, it causes symptoms somewhat close to those of opioid drugs including morphine, codeine, and other pain-relieving, tranquilizer drugs obtained from opium. If someone ingests the leaves, mitragynine attaches to opioid channels found in your body that are essential for mood control. You start becoming less depressed and more optimistic as a result. 

Enhanced Cognitive Ability

This is yet another psychological advantage you can obtain by using the leaves of Kratom. Human’s minds will only work at their best if they obtain enough energy and nutrients generated from the metabolic system in the body. The liver produces microsomal antibodies in both phases I and phase II, which digest Kratom into different alkaloids. These alkaloids are then processed in the brain and in return provide energy to the user. 

Managing Diabetes

This is probably one of the Kratom leaves’ lesser-known advantages. Research however indicates that Kratom might have beneficial impacts on body sugar rates. The alkaloids contained in the leaves could help amplify blood glucose and insulin levels. The leaves avoid the risky rises and declines correlated with diabetes by holding the level of these two chemicals in control, which helps keep diabetes at bay while still allowing those already impaired to handle the disease. Whether you have obesity or diabetes, you may take Kratom to further reduce the craving for caffeine, candy, and other things that may contribute to those diseases.

Improving Focus

Kratom leaves bring sedative properties, so you may wonder if the leaves will help you stay focused. This triggers the release of acetylcholine as you eat it. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in improving concentration as well as mitigating pain, muscle tension, and endocrine system control. Acetylcholine increases memory and concentration, by increasing the capacity of the cortical receptors to react to sensory stimulation. These results are particularly good for students who are trying to concentrate on their current lessons while still being able to recall items that have been studied months ago. Kratom also causes serotonin and dopamine activation, both of which are related to improved concentration, mental capacity, and mood. 

Enhance Energy

Kratom leaves are renowned for their tremendous metabolic effects which enhance the levels of energy in the consumer tremendously. These leaves, according to research, stimulate some physiological activities while improving others, thereby increasing the ability of the body to produce electricity. Kratom leaves unexpectedly have an effect of enhancing blood circulation. With increased blood flow, more oxygen is carried to your essential cells in the body, which subsequently influences how quickly those cells digest food for energy production. Throughout strenuous exercises, the leaves may have a positive effect by greatly minimizing the rest period in between sets. 

Recovery from Addictive Substances

Kratom packs impact like opioids but is only a partial opioid receptor, unlike opioid drugs. The primary explanation as to why the leaves are used by doctors for managing overdoses is that it delivers comparable stimulation to opioid medication but does not include the hangovers or possible addictive qualities. The leaves can help relieve specific symptoms correlated with opioid addiction, such as nausea, fatigue, insomnia, and mood fluctuations, and as an all-natural drug, Kratom provides less and milder adverse effects. People who self-treat severe pain are recognizing Kratom as a solution for opioid withdrawal.

It is noteworthy that Kratom may trigger interactions with herbal supplements that may lead to toxic chemicals in the cerebral cortex. Buyers may encounter oxidized or tainted goods, especially if they are obtained from unofficial websites or the darknet, due to the largely uncontrolled market for Kratom products in western countries (Veltri and Grundmann).

The FDA tends to warn customers not to use Kratom. It is not currently sold as a medication or nutritional supplement in the United States and although it is necessary to collect further information, data shows that certain kratom compounds have opioid characteristics that introduce patients to the possibility of abuse, violence, and dependency (FDA). Because it is not illegal in the country but placed under the “Drugs and Chemicals Under Concern” by the FDA and has opioid-like effects, there is a possibility of an increase in its use instead of the many opioids’ drugs. However, since there are no clear instructions on the use of Kratom from the FDA and there is no proven medicinal use, it is best to research it oneself and not assume it is a replacement of Opioid abuse for everyone. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 47,000 individuals were affected in 2017 from overdoses including opioids and 36 percent of such deaths included prescribed opioids (CDC). If there was an herbal remedy that would alleviate some of these annual deaths, that would be amazing. 

In conclusion, much more exploration is needed to determine if Kratom is beneficial or detrimental. Doctors and scientists are needed to conduct blind studies that subjectively analyze the effects its. Based on the preliminary and limited research, Kratom seems to be a viable and beneficial alternative to many prescription medications. Opioid abuse is a nationwide epidemic and if there was a safe alternative, many tragedies could be avoided. 

References

Boyer, Edward W., et al. “Self-Treatment of Opioid Withdrawal Using Kratom (Mitragynia Speciosa Korth).” Addiction (Abingdon, England), vol. 103, no. 6, June 2008, pp. 1048–50. PubMed Central, DOI:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2008.02209.x.

CDC. “America’s Drug Overdose Epidemic: Data to Action.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Mar. 2020. www.cdc.gov, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/prescription-drug-overdose/index.html.

FDA. “FDA Issues Warnings to Companies Selling Illegal, Unapproved Kratom Drug Products Marketed for Opioid Cessation, Pain Treatment, and Other Medical Uses.” FDA, FDA, 24 Mar. 2020. www.fda.gov, https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-issues-warnings-companies-selling-illegal-unapproved-kratom-drug-products-marketed-opioid.

NCBI. “Following “the Roots” of Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa): The Evolution of an Enhancer from a Traditional Use to Increase Work and Productivity in Southeast Asia to a Recreational Psychoactive Drug in Western Countries.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657101/. Accessed 27 July 2020

Prozialeck, Walter C., et al. “Pharmacology of Kratom: An Emerging Botanical Agent With Stimulant, Analgesic and Opioid-Like Effects.” The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, vol. 112, no. 12, American Osteopathic Association, Dec. 2012, pp. 792–99. jaoa.org, DOI:10.7556/jaoa.2012.112.12.792. 

Veltri, Charles, and Oliver Grundmann. “Current Perspectives on the Impact of Kratom Use.” Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, vol. 10, July 2019, pp. 23–31. PubMed Central, DOI:10.2147/SAR.S164261. 

WorldHealth. “Top 7 Health Benefits of Kratom Leaves.” WorldHealth. worldhealth.net, https://worldhealth.net/news/top-7-health-benefits-kratom-leaves. Accessed 21 July 2020.