Last updated: September 25, 2023
Kratom has been used for hundreds of years in Southeast Asia as a natural home remedy. It’s used to fight chronic pain and it doesn’t show up on a drug test.
The kratom tree is a member of the Rubiaceae family of plants. It’s been used there for hundreds of years as a natural home remedy. The leaves of the tree are dried and ground to make tea or, these days, the granules are encapsulated and sold as a diet supplement. Some people choose to smoke kratom leaves in a pipe or roll it into a cigarette.
A large number of plants in the Rubiaceae family thrive in tropical and subtropical regions heavy with humidity. While some members of this family are able to grow outside of the main region, none do well in areas that are especially cold or that are dry. Kratom and coffee may be the best-known members of the family, however, there are others.
- Breonadia Salicina—used to cure stomach illness and as a stimulant for children
- Carapicheá—the botanical source of Ipecac, also used to treat bronchitis, severe diarrhea, and cancer
- Cinchona—increases appetite, promotes the release of digestive juices, treats bloating, fullness, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, leg cramps, and is sometimes used to fight swine flu, the common cold, malaria, fever, and muscle cramps
Kratom is becoming more sought after here in the United States as word of its medicinal benefits spreads. It’s easy to find—in leaf, powder, or capsule form—and sold in some health food stores, vape shops, and online specialty stores.
It’s been around forever
Researchers found documented evidence of the Rubiaceae family of plants that places them back in the Late Cretaceous or the Paleocene age! That was around 49 million years ago!
Pieter Korthals, a Dutch botanist, recorded the first use of kratom in 1839. However, it’s quite likely that kratom had been used far longer as a “handed down from generation to generation” method of teaching about its benefits.
Today, the news is out about the medicinal benefits that kratom contains. Its popularity continues to grow here in the West.
How does kratom benefit the body?
Alkaloids are natural organic compounds that often have significant pharmacological properties. There are up to 40 of them found in kratom!
A great example of alkaloids in action is to take a look at coffee. The caffeine in coffee is an alkaloid found in the beans of the coffee plant. It acts as a mild stimulant—one that millions of people stumble toward their kitchens for each and every morning to help them kick start their day.
Even though there are up to 40 active alkaloids in kratom leaves, only two of them have been researched to any degree. They are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. The research on them hasn’t been very extensive though.
Still, it’s said that using these compounds can temporarily interact with receptors in the body and, therefore, is used to treat:
- Mood enhancer
We will reemphasize here that even though kratom has been used for centuries, there is limited medical research to support the claims that it benefits humans. You should talk to your physician before beginning any herbal supplement. An important reason for doing so is that some supplements can interact with each other or with over-the-counter or prescription medications that you’re taking.
The amount taken varies on several factors—age, weight, and overall health. Your physician can help you determine what amount is best for you.
Since we know that kratom and coffee both belong to the Mitragyna speciosa family of plants, we might expect that kratom contains a mild stimulant. Stimulants are an excellent counter when suffering from bouts of fatigue.
There are three different strains of kratom and all are effective at relieving chronic pain. The strains are white vein, green vein, and red vein. All three varieties work in the same way. Alkaloids attach themselves to opioid receptors. It’s said that one compound, 7-hydroxymitragynine, is 13 times more potent than morphine!
Kratom targets opioid receptors in the same way that morphine and codeine do. It works differently though because it contains an atypical opioid. That means kratom selectively inactivates specific signals and this is most likely the reason that the side effects are far more tolerable.
Because of its mood-enhancing effects, people use it to fight the withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid addiction. It helps alleviate the withdrawal symptoms of morphine and ethanol too.
Other studies, involving mice, are starting to produce evidence that kratom is also an antidepressant and a hunger suppressant.
Are there health risks?
Kratom has some side effects associated with it that you should be aware of—constipation and nausea, for instance.
There are others, they can include any or all of the following:
- Dry mouth
- Liver damage
In addition, long-term users report darkened facial skin, dry mouth, needing to urinate frequently, anorexia, weight loss, and frequent constipation.
Recovering addicts use kratom to reduce opioid withdrawal. Even so, users report that discontinuing the supplement, can result in the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Inability to work
- Muscle and bone pain
- Jerky movement of the limbs
Weighing the options
Using natural supplements to combat chronic pain and other issues, such as depression, without the side effects equated with prescription medications can benefit employees.
It’s not illegal to use kratom in the United States. There’s no THC in it, so people who use it, aren’t at risk of popping positive on a drug test at work. Right now, there’s still not enough known about the plant to give it a green flag in every respect, but that might be a different story one day.
We’ll let you know if it happens.