People have used herbal, aka botanical remedies for ages to treat diseases, cope with life’s stresses, and achieve altered states of awareness. Besides, even with the advent of modern pharmaceuticals and medical practices, many people still use these remedies, either as alternatives or together with mainstream medical care.
Today, at least 30% of the American population uses some form of herbal-based remedy, especially for musculoskeletal or other conditions involving chronic pain. About 5 million of those use kratom, according to the American Kratom Association.
Kratom is a herbal remedy growing in popularity by the day, even brewing a ton of controversy. The big question on people’s minds is whether kratom is a life-saving botanical or a life-threatening addictive narcotic.
We’ll explore kratom ingredients in detail, in a bid to uncover the truth, helping you make an informed decision about using this rising-star herbal remedy.
What is Kratom?
Kratom is a plant-based psychoactive substance gotten from the Mitragyna speciosa plant native to South East Asia. It has been available in Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar, and New Guinea for ages and is increasingly available universally through the internet.
Kratom is also known by other names such as:
- Ketum (Thailand, Malaysia)
- Biak (Thailand)
- Mambog (Philippines)
The kratom plant belongs to a family of plants known as Rubiaceae, similar to the coffee plant. It is a leafy plant (3 to 15 m tall) that grows in South East Asia’s warmer and tropical climates.
You can consume kratom fresh, dried (leaf or powder), or in concentrated liquid form. While its use as a narcotic isn’t new, the extraction and refinement of kratom ingredients from the plant into kratom is a relatively modern concept.
The Chemistry of Kratom Ingredients
The phytochemicals isolated from various parts of the tree comprise over 40 structurally-linked alkaloids. They also contain and several flavonoids, terpenoid saponins, polyphenols, and various glycosides.
However, the primary psychoactive compounds in the kratom leaves are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.
Molecular structure of Mitragynine
Molecular formula: C23H30N2O4
Molecular weight: 398.50 g/mol
Mitragynine is the most abundant ingredient in kratom leaves. It was initially isolated in 1921, and its chemical structure was fully explained in 1964.
Molecular structure of 7-hydroxymitragynine
Molecular formula: C23H30N2O5
Molecular weight: 414.50 g/mol
7-hydroxymitragynine was initially isolated in 1993. It is present in small amounts in kratom leaves.
The chemical synthesis of either of these two ingredients is too complicated to be considered for economic production. However, mitragynine can be used as a chemical precursor to the more potent 7-hydroxymitragynine.
Kratom Physical Form Explained
The leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa are oval-shaped and dark green. They can grow to 180 mm long and 100 mm wide. Depending on the leaf’s maturity, its veins can either be greenish-white or red. The red-veined kratom is said to be more potent, perhaps because it is riper.
The average weight of a fresh and dried kratom leaf is approximately 1.7 and 0.43 grams, respectively.
The tree’s yellow and globular flowers can bear up to 120 florets. Its fruit? A capsule containing many flat seeds.
Kratom vendors supply kratom products in various forms, including:
- Crushed leaves
- Stem and vein
- Kratom capsules
- Kratom shots
The different forms of kratom products are crucial as you can know what to anticipate in terms of reaction, potency, and mode of administration.
Notably, there’s a great deal of potency variation between the various forms of kratom. The strength is determined by the number of alkaloids present in the particular product.
Let’s check out the various forms in which you can find kratom at your favorite vendors.
a. Crushed kratom leaves
As you can tell from the name, this product is made from drying fresh leaves and crushing them into smaller bits. The crushed leaves are perfect if you like brewing kratom tea.
However, if you’re looking for potency, taking your kratom this way may not give you the desired results.
b. Kratom leaf powder
Kratom powder differs from kratom leaves in that it is more refined in texture than the latter. To get this product, kratom farmers grind crushed kratom leaves further until they are a fine powder.
Kratom powder is more potent than crushed leaves, as you need more plates to make a substantial amount of powder. The surface area to volume ratio of absorption is also a factor, not to forget that you tend to ingest the powder while discarding the dried leaves.
When making kratom powder, the stem and vein are often discarded to give the powder its refined appearance.
At kratom caps, this is our specialty. This method is kratom powder wrapped in a food supplement capsule.
It is perhaps the most convenient way of taking kratom powder, especially if you’re not a fan of the herb’s bitter taste.
d. Stem and Vein
Nothing goes to waste when it comes to kratom. The stem and veins are dried and ground, like the leaves, and are often sold separately.
It is the least potent of the kratom forms, as it contains the least percentage of active ingredients.
Stem and vein kratom is an excellent choice for beginners. Experienced users also cycle with it to reduce their kratom tolerance levels.
Making kratom extracts is quite lengthy and slightly more sophisticated than the methods mentioned above.
Making a kratom extract involves boiling kratom leaves with ethanol. The heat removes the kratom ingredients, and the leaves separated from the ethanol using a strainer. What’s left is an extract that is almost five times as potent as your average dried leaf.
Before buying a kratom extract, you might want to ask your vendor for a certificate of analysis to ensure that the product doesn’t contain excess residual solvents.
f. Kratom resin
Kratom resin is a solid black block that resembles a piece of tar. It also has a glass-like consistency. Kratom resin is made by boiling fresh kratom leaves in water for long hours until the tar-like substance appears at the pan’s bottom. Subsequently, the mix is then poured into little trays or are clumped together to form a small, rock-like structure.
Kratom resins have a potency of about 6% to 8%, which is quite substantial. Given that mitragynine is insoluble in water, not much is released in the process.
To take your kratom resin, you dissolve it in hot or boiling water before drinking.
g. Kratom tincture
A tincture is a liquid made from food-grade alcohol, and kratom tinctures are no different.
Kratom powder or extract is diluted in the alcohol to form a rich essence. You’ll see users putting a couple or three drops of kratom tincture under their tongue for direct absorption.
Tinctures can be quite potent and fast-acting as well – expect to find between 75 to 100 mg of mitragynine in a 15 ml tub of kratom extract.
h. Kratom shots
This is what the cool kids are using these days. Kratom shots are quite convenient to administer, and its effects are almost immediate.
Most kratom shots contain between 65 to 100 milligrams of mitragynine in one dose.
What Do Kratom Ingredients Do in the Body?
Every batch contains varying ratios of kratom ingredients, making it difficult to give an accurate pharmacological evaluation. What’s more, human studies are scarce.
So, what does this mystery that is kratom do? Kratom users report that kratom can speed you up or wind you down, depending on the type of strain and the amount you take. But in most cases, kratom effects on humans are mostly dose-dependent.
At low doses, users have reported experiencing stimulant effects – users talk about feeling more energetic, alert, and more friendly.
On the other hand, when used at higher doses, the herb is said to have sedative properties, dulling emotions and sensations, and elevating mood to the point of feeling high.
According to experienced users, the kratom effects usually kick in within the first 10 minutes of taking the substance. The feeling could last for hours.
When taken in small amounts, users report feeling more alert, eager to work, more pleasant, and even aroused sexually, in some cases. Unlike what you see with drugs like cocaine, the pupils usually remain normal or appear slightly contracted. And blushing may occur too.
Some notable side effects for regular kratom users might include weight loss, constipation, tiredness, and constipation.
You might feel a sudden rush when you take larger amounts. Consequently, you might experience sweating, nausea, and dizziness at first, although these feelings are soon replaced by a soothing calmness, elevated mood, and a dreamlike state. One can remain in this state for up to 6 hours. You’ll notice contracted pupils as well.
The science of kratom ingredients
The two primary kratom ingredients, Mitragynine, and 7-hydroxymitragynine are partial and full agonists of MOR, the opioid receptor.
In animal studies, kratom has demonstrated similar pain-blocking and cough-suppressant properties to codeine, a prescription drug. One study involving mice showed that 7-hydroxymitragynine had more pain-numbing potential than morphine, even when administered orally.
Using kratom regularly could lead to dependence. One might experience mild withdrawal symptoms, although they typically diminish within a week. The signs include restlessness, craving, insomnia, weakness, sweating, and nausea.
It isn’t advisable to take kratom with other drugs as it might cause adverse effects. Several fatalities have been reported in the US after users mixed kratom with several other recreational drugs.
Why Do People Take Kratom?
People worldwide use kratom for various applications, with recreational use, opiate withdrawal, and pain management at the top of the list.
Regardless, the United States DEA asserts that there isn’t a legitimate medical use for kratom in the country. Besides, the FDA echoes that there isn’t sufficient evidence to support kratom’s efficacy for curing any ailments.
Check out the three main ways people use kratom ingredients in their day-to-day.
a. Traditional use
In Southeast Asia, kratom has been widely used as a homeopathic remedy. The aboriginal people chewed kratom relieves to get similar effects to those of khat and coca.
The leaves were ground and the extract applied to wounds, serving as a poor man’s anesthetic while also disinfecting the wound. Besides, locals used kratom leaves and extracts to fight coughs, diarrhea, and intestinal infections. They also use it as a deworming agent.
What’s more, workers in laborious positions use kratom as they claim it staves off exhaustion, lifts mood, and alleviates muscle aches following strenuous work.
b. Opioid withdrawal
Kratom users speak highly of kratom as a useful substance for helping with opioid withdrawal. The science behind their argument seems valid, although some research suggests that it could cause some problems.
Anyway, the predominant kratom ingredient, mitragynine, has other receptor affinities that might enhance its usefulness at helping soothe the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
Although people may use kratom to help with opioid addiction, kratom could be addictive. Long-term use could lead to kratom tolerance, where you need higher doses to realize the same effect, not to mention withdrawal symptoms when you cease using it.
c. Recreational uses
While some people are using kratom to fight pain and wean-off addictive opioids, others want to get high. Can you blame them? For starters, altering your consciousness is fun. Again, this substance is cheap, legal, and won’t show up on a drug test!
Studies show that kratom hits the same brain receptors as potent opioids. As such, recreational drug users desiring an opioid-like high, minus the legal consequences of oxycodone, heroin, fentanyl, or have found a darling in kratom.
Which is the Best Way to Take Kratom Ingredients?
Not smoking. This one had to be up here. Smoking kratom is merely wasting it, and might not get you the desired effects, if any at all.
a. You can chew kratom leaves, as they do it back in Thailand
Word on the street is that locals chew one to three fresh kratom leaves to amp-up their bedroom intensity and elevate mood. Before chewing the leaves, the natives usually remove the leaves’ veins and sometimes add salt to prevent constipation.
Subsequently, you can swallow the masticated leaves, and follow it up by taking a cup of warm water, coffee, tea, or palm sugar syrup.
b. Use the dried leaves or powder to brew kratom tea
This is probably the most enjoyable, effective, and convenient way to enjoy kratom ingredients. When preparing kratom tea, it is best to add some lemon juice – it facilitates the extraction of the plant alkaloids and enhances the taste.
Speaking of the taste, you might want to add a sweetener, honey, preferably to mask kratom’s bitter taste.
As opposed to boiling your kratom in a kettle, add boiled water to your kratom powder in a cup, and let the mixture seep for around 10 minutes.
c. Toss and wash the kratom powder down your throat
If you’re in a hurry or want to get it over with, ‘toss and wash’ is perhaps the fastest way for you to take your kratom.
With this method, you want to measure your desired amount of kratom powder and place it on your tongue. Then, swirling the powder around with some warm water before swallowing. It is not advisable to swallow your powder before swirling as the powder might stick behind your throat, which you won’t enjoy.
Which Alkaloids Are Contained In Kratom For Sale?
Kratom’s chemical composition in commercial products is unspecified. Usually, it depends on several factors;
- Age of the plant
- The region’s climatic conditions
- Time of harvest
The total alkaloid concentration in dried leaves ranges from 0.5%-1.5%.
In Thai varieties, mitragynine is the most abundant ingredient, making up 66% of all the alkaloids. On the other hand, 7-hydroxymitragynine is a minor constituent, making up 2% of the entire alkaloid content.
When it comes to Malaysian kratom, mitragynine is available in lower concentrations, constituting 12% of the total alkaloids.
In Japan Kratom, the standard mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine concentrations in powder kratom were 12-21 mg/g and 0.11-0.39 mg/g.
What are Alkaloids?
Kratom alkaloids are the natural phytochemicals responsible for kratom’s unique effects.
Plants are made up of natural chemical compounds, like all living things. These plant chemicals are the ones we’re referring to as phytochemicals.
Alkaloids represent a unique class of phytochemicals found in a wide variety of plants such as poppy, ergot, and Mitragyna speciosa.
Alkaloids often have strong physiological effects when consumed, even in small doses. Depending on a plant’s alkaloid composition, the effects can vary significantly – from anti-inflammatory to mood-elevating effects, and so forth.
The diversity and potency of alkaloids have led scientists to conduct extensive clinical research and even develop alkaloid-based drugs.
For instance, two of the best-known alkaloids have contrasting effects when ingested. Caffeine, an alkaloid commonly found in tea leaves and coffee beans, is widely used for its mild stimulant effects. By contrast, morphine, an alkaloid found in opium poppies, causes a strong sedative and pain-numbing effect.
The Most Known Kratom Alkaloids
When it comes to kratom, researchers have managed to unveil close to 28 kratom alkaloid varieties. Of these, Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine have the most significant effects when taken orally.
While most of these alkaloids are unique to kratom, some are naturally produced in various plant species.
Here’s a list of the most common kratom ingredients.
Mitragynine is the primary alkaloid in kratom and is touted to cause the majority of kratom effects. It accounts for roughly 66% of total alkaloid content found in a kratom leaf.
This kratom ingredient is an indole alkaloid. Besides, it soothes pain, relieves cough, is an adrenergic, antimalarial, and relieves diarrhea. It is also a possible psychedelic antagonist.
Along with mitragynine, 7-hydroxymitragynine causes the majority of kratom effects. It represents approximately 2% of the total alkaloid content on a leaf, although this varies. What’s more, some kratom leaves have undetectable levels of this ingredient.
7-hydroxymitragynine has pain-soothing properties, relieves cough and diarrhea, and is a potent mu-opioid agonist.
3. Ajmalicine (Raubasine)
This ingredient is structurally related to Yohimbine alkaloids. Ajmalicine can help lower blood pressure, thanks to its adrenergic properties. What’s more, it can lead to depletion of serotonin and catecholamine reserves in the heart and brain, among other organs.
4. Corynantheidine (Rauhimbine)
This alkaloid represents less than 1% of the total alkaloid content contained in a kratom leaf. It is a mu-opioid receptor antagonist and is related to ajmalicine. Finally, Rauhimbine is yohimbine’s diastereomer.
Again, you’ll not find much of this ingredient on a kratom leaf as it accounts for less than 1% of its entire alkaloid content. Corynoxeine is a calcium channel blocker, meaning that it prevents calcium from entering your heart’s and arteries’ cells. This action causes the blood vessels to relax, thus lowering your blood pressure.
6. Corynoxine A and B
These alkaloids are dopamine mediating anti-locomotives – they act somewhat of a sedative. You can also find Corynoxine A and B in Chinese Cat’s claw. According to some research, these alkaloids might help with Parkinson’s.
Other than kratom, you can find epicatechin in green tea, grapes, and dark chocolate. This flavonoid has been widely studied and endorsed for its vast and remarkable potential. According to one preliminary study, this ingredient can reduce myostatin, resulting in muscle growth and increased strength.
Additionally, epicatechin is an antibacterial, antiaggregant, antidiabetic, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-leukemic, anti-inflammatory, and antimutagenic. It is also being researched for cancer-fighting properties.
It is a partial opioid agonist, although its inhibition is not as potent as that of mitragynine. An opioid agonist acts on opioid receptors in the brain and can help soothe withdrawal symptoms of opioid addiction.
Speciociliatine is another weak opioid agonist found in kratom. It is also mitragynine’s diastereomer. Studies show that this ingredient can inhibit acetylcholine release from the presynaptic nerve.
Interestingly, this ingredient is unique to kratom and accounts for 0.8 to 1% of the total alkaloid content in a kratom leaf.
Mitraphylline makes up about 1% of the total alkaloid composition in a kratom leaf. It is an oxindole alkaloid with a laundry list of potential uses. It is said to be a vasodilator, muscle relaxer, antihypertensive, diuretic, anti-leukemic, anti-amnesia, and a possible immunostimulant.
Rhynchophylline represents less than 1% of the total alkaloid content and has a similar chemical structure to mitragynine. You can also find it in Chinese Cat’s claw.
This ingredient can help reduce fever and kill parasitic worms. It is also a calcium channel blocker, vasodilator, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, antiarrhythmic, and antiaggregant.
Scientists posit that it can affect dopamine and 5-HT receptors. Besides, it is also a non-competitive NMDA receptor antagonist, meaning that it has anesthetic properties.
Speciofoline is a potential analgesic; it can help numb pain. It is also an antitussive; prevent or relieve cough. In 1964, Smith Kline patented this ingredient, and in 2009, the University of Massachusetts also patented it to treat opioid withdrawal.
Paynantheine is an indole alkaloid. Although it appears to be a smooth muscle relaxer, there isn’t enough research on this. It is the second most abundant kratom alkaloid, accounting for 8.6% to 9% of alkaloids in a kratom leaf.
Speciogynine is the third most abundant kratom ingredient making up to 7% of total kratom alkaloids. It is mitragynine’s diastereomer and a possible muscle relaxer as well.
Other kratom alkaloids
Due to insufficient research concerning the other kratom alkaloids, we’ll list them, although the list will be updated as more findings are available.
Other kratom ingredients include:
- Mitragynine oxindole B
As a kratom plant’s alkaloid balance shifts as it continues maturing, for example, mitragynine levels are at their peak during the plant’s early life. Levels of 7-hydroxymitragynine, on the other hand, gradually spike as the plant matures.
The steady change in kratom alkaloid levels also causes a visible effect on the kratom plant. The leaves change in color as the levels of the different alkaloids change. During the early stages, when mitragynine is in plenty, the leaf’s veins appear whitish. Later, the vein color turns green, and finally, during maturity, when 7-hydroxymitragynine is in plenty, the veins take on a reddish hue.
In this sense, the kratom alkaloid balance directly contributes to the different effects kratom users experience when taking White, Green, or Red vein kratom.
Here’s a bummer. All kratom strains are the same. The only distinguishing factor is a leaf’s total alkaloid content as it determines both the leaf’s appearance and effects.
What Are The Effects Of Kratom Ingredients?
The total alkaloid content of your favorite kratom variety determines the range of effects you’ll experience. As mentioned earlier, kratom alkaloids can have a significant physiological effect.
Kratom users report having various experiences with each kratom variety. For that reason, they take kratom for different reasons. And as a user continues taking kratom, they find a ‘strain’ that works for their needs.
So far, not much research has been done on these kratom ingredients. However, as more attention is being dedicated to kratom’s host of applications, we’ll probably reach a better understanding of how kratom alkaloids affect the body.