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What Is Kratom?

kratom leaves and green capsules

Table of contents

  1. What Is Kratom?
  2. How to Use
  3. How Does Kratom Make You Feel?
  4. Potential Health Benefits and Uses
  5. Potential Risks and Side Effects
  6. The Bottom Line: Should You Use Kratom?
  7. Frequently Asked Questions

Kratom is an herbal substance that produces opioid and stimulant effects. The dietary supplement is not FDA-approved, but some people use it to manage health issues and drug withdrawal symptoms. As with cannabis, there is a lot of interest in kratom’s ability to help reduce or replace the need for opioids. However, kratom is an addictive substance and any therapeutic or medical claims have not been approved by the FDA. Kratom is a different species to cannabis with a completely different pharmacology.

Learn more about how to use kratom, how the herbal substance makes you feel and the potential health benefits and risks.

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What Is Kratom?

Derived from the Mitragyna speciosa tree native to southeast Asia, kratom leaves are sometimes used to treat withdrawal following opioid addiction. Kratom is a tropical evergreen plant in the coffee family.

The active chemical compounds of kratom include mitragynine, 7-hydroxymitragynine and mitragynine pseudoindoxyl, which bind to opioid, dopamine and serotonin receptors. This binding action may explain the reported stimulating effects of kratom in lower doses. Mitragynine also binds to opioid receptors in the brain, which would explain its sedative and potential helpful effects on opioid withdrawal in higher doses.

Kratom products are not approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but some people use the herbal substance to treat a variety of ailments. Traditional uses for kratom in Thailand and other southeast Asian countries include fighting fatigue, diarrhea, pain and other common issues.

How to Use

First, be aware that there is no kratom product on the market with FDA approval. Of course, most vitamins are also unregulated, so to use any dietary supplement is generally to do so at your own risk. Kratom is an addictive substance that contains several compounds that bind to opioid receptors. This means that kratom has several of the same adverse side effects as opioid use, including liver toxicity, respiratory depression and death.

In Asian cultures, people have chewed kratom leaves or brewed them into tea. Today, kratom supplements are available in tablet, capsule and powder form. Vitamin and nutrition shops, as well as major online retailers, sometimes carry kratom supplements.

There is no designated way to use kratom, and you should speak with a medical professional before starting any herbal supplement regimen.

How Does Kratom Make You Feel?

Some kratom users report feeling “up” and energized, much like the effects of drinking a large cup of coffee. Other people who have used kratom claim that the herbal supplement made them feel pleasurable sensations and reduced feelings of stress. Kratom’s effects seem to be dose-dependent, with lower doses reported as having stimulating effects and higher doses sedative effects.

Effects are also said to differ based on the color and type of kratom you are using. These include:

  1. White Vein Kratom – energetic
  2. Red Vein Kratom – calming and sedative
  3. Green Vein Kratom – energetic, but less so compared to white vein kratom
  4. Yellow Vein Kratom – enhances mood and is thought to be another version of white vein kratom

It is unpredictable how kratom will make you feel and, again, you should talk to your doctor before consuming any kratom products.

Potential Health Benefits and Uses

The American Kratom Association cites many potential health benefits of the herbal substance. Classifying kratom as a food, the American Kratom Association goes on to describe the following possible benefits based on a user survey of 2,798 people in the United States:

  • Pain relief (most popular reported use for kratom)
  • Anxiety reduction
  • Supplemental depression treatment
  • Treatment for opioid dependence

According to the survey, 87% of kratom users reported relief from opioid withdrawal symptoms, and 35% were opioid-free within a year.

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Potential Risks and Side Effects

There are numerous risks and side effects associated with kratom. First, since the kratom industry is unregulated, kratom products may contain heavy metals, bacteria and other harmful contaminants. Furthermore, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported the following potential safety risks:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • High blood pressure and heart problems
  • Confusion
  • Addiction
  • Liver damage
  • Potential dangers to unborn babies
  • Respiratory depression
  • Death in cases of overdose

These side effects may range from mild to severe. In addition, there were 11 reported deaths in the United States between 2011 and 2017 linked to kratom use. In contrast, there has never been a documented death due to cannabis use. Finally, kratom addiction is possible, but more research is needed on this topic.  

Tips for Using Kratom Safely

Avoid higher doses of kratom and start with low, incremental doses to see how your system reacts. However, even low doses of kratom have stimulant effects, and people with cardiovascular issues should exercise caution.

Refrain from using kratom if you are withdrawing from prescription opioids unless your trusted healthcare provider has told you otherwise. Medical use of kratom is not standardized, and using kratom products involves a measure of personal risk.

The Bottom Line: Should You Use Kratom?

Kratom is not FDA-approved and much more research is needed on the controversial herbal substance. While kratom is legal in the United States, little is known about the potential long-term adverse effects of the dietary supplement. However, some kratom users claim that kratom products have helped them achieve pain relief and other beneficial health effects. Consult with your doctor before using kratom or any other herbal supplement.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the positive effects of kratom?

Kratom use may help combat chronic pain and assist people who are going through the adverse effects of opioid withdrawal. Some people also enjoy the stimulating effects of kratom that raise energy levels and ward off fatigue.

What does kratom do to the heart?

Some case reports have shown that kratom is associated with high blood pressure. As kratom is a stimulant, it can also cause an accelerated heart rate. People with heart conditions should use kratom with caution or avoid using it due to potential cardiovascular damage.

While the effects of kratom are uncertain, there is more available research about the potential benefits of cannabis. Speak with one of Leafwell’s qualified physicians and apply for your medical marijuana card online in minutes.

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