Those people that have never heard of Mitragyna Speciosa have probably encountered the name kratum, this evergreen tree that is native to Southeast Asia. The exposure that Kratom enjoys emanates from the medical properties of its leaves, specifically the psychoactive effects they impart when chewed, known for uplifting moods and treating various health issues (typically pain related maladies).
Kratom has been outlawed by Thailand for over seven decades now, this despite the fact that this tree from the coffee family is actually indigenous to the country, with most theories regarding this ban revolving around the negative impact Mitragyna Speciosa had on the government’s tax revenue from Opium distribution.
Considering all the effort that has gone into exploring Kratom, there is a scarcity of research investigating the comprehensive impact of the substance on humans, not only with regards to how it might impact health but issues of safety as well.
With the myriads of rumors surrounding Kratom, especially talk of potential positive and negative effects, it is hardly surprising that so many countries have reacted rather adversely to the utilization of kratom in even the most mild forms.
The formal exploration and description of kratom can be imputed to Pieter Korthals, a Dutch Colonial botanist whose observation of the plant’s stigmas (whose shape resembled the mitre of a bishop) lead him to term Krotam’s genus as Mitragyna. Over the years similarities to Uncaria (as well as genera Corynanthe) have been detected, especially with regards to their biochemistry.
Krotam trees can achieve impressive heights of up to 40 feet (with some species reaching 70 feet). And despite what some people have said, Kratom trees are not always evergreen. They can be deciduous. It all comes down to the climate (though the environment where they are grown is a contributing factor).
With dark green leaves (described as being ovate acuminate in shape) typically seven inches long and four inches wide, the stem is erect and often branches, with the normally round flowers taking on a yellow color. They tend to manifest at the end of branches in clusters.
Mitragyna Speciosa plays host to an alkaloid called Rhynchophylline (a calcium channel blocker), this along with Mitragynine. Mitragynine is an essential component of kratom. The quantity of the alkaloid is primarily dependent upon the location where the tree grew.
Research suggests that the quantities of mitragynine, which are high in trees from Southeast Asia, are so low as to be non-existent in Kratom trees grown in most other parts of the world.
Along with the majority of the Kratom leaf’s constitution, the scarcity of research in the area has meant that the impact of mitragynine on human health, positive or negative, remains largely unexplored.
Krotam leafs are typically chewed and are utilized by workers in many parts of the world to keep exhaustion at bay, especially those individuals that partake in laborious activities. Krotam leaves are most commonly utilized as painkillers and energy boosters in areas within and around Southeast Asia, where the traditional use of the leaves has seen them labeled as something other than a drug.
Despite the prevalent use of Kratom leaves for therapeutic purposes, the pharmacological impact of the substance on people remains largely unknown, with common presumptions about kratom making mention of its protein binding capabilities and its prevailing role as a substitute for opiates in many Asian nations.
Kratom is considered an illegal substance in many parts of the world; in Thailand, the planting of kratom trees was deemed illegal as early as 1943 (though these particular laws proved ineffective because kratom trees are indigenous to Thailand). Despite the government’s determination to cut and burn any kratom trees within Thailand’s borders, a considerable portion of Thai culture has a favorable perspective on Kratom, this resulting in calls for the decriminalization of the substance in 2010 because of its crucial role in Thai society and largely unproblematic use.
Thailand’s attempts at changing opinions on Kratom have stalled, even as the Malaysian government’s grip on kratom has tightened, with policies that avail sentences of up to 4 years in prison for kratom use only continuing to grow stronger yet many still buy kratom on the internet for hundreds of vendors. The United States on the other hand has little to no policies regulating the use of Kratom; precluding Indiana (the only state to ban kratom use) most attempts to stifle kratom in the United States have failed, largely resulting from the fact that there is no evidence to support assumptions that the use of kratom attracts any noteworthy health risks.