Kratom or Mitragyna speciosa is a native plant to Southeast Asia regions such as Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Malaysia. This tree is characterized by the ovate-acuminate-shaped dark green leaves and globular yellow-clustered flowers. A kratom tree can grow to 12-30 ft of height and 15 ft of width. There are two different types of the plant: the White Vein and Red Vein varieties. In different parts of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, the plant is also known with the name thom, krathom, ketum, kakuam, ithang, or biak biak. Natives of Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia have long been using the plant traditionally even before the Western discovered its properties in 19th century. Kratom products can be found in the form of the plant extract, fresh leaves, dried leaves, powdered, paste, or small pellets.
Besides used as painkiller and for curing diarrhea, similar to other alkaloid-containing plants, kratom is often used for therapeutic and recreational purposes. Taken at low to medium dose (around 2 to 20 grams of kratom leaves), the herb can reduce fatigue as well as elicit euphoria and stimulant-like effects. The stimulating effects of the herb include increased sexual and physical energy, more alert mind, improved ability to do hard monotonous physical works, and improved personality such as more talkative, sociable, and friendly. Meanwhile, higher dose of 21 to 50 grams the plant’s leaves bring sedative-like effects; making its user resistant to emotional and physical pain, be in pleasurable feeling, feel and look calm, and have pleasant daydreaming. However, a kratom user can also get unpleasant side effects such as constricted pupils, sweating, itching, nausea, and vomiting.
Kratom is also found to have properties in treating opiate addiction. As the plant has cross-tolerance with opiates, it is often used for opiate detox treatment especially in New Zealand. For about 6 weeks, patients are let to smoke kratom when opiate withdrawal symptoms occur. Within the time range, the kratom dosage will be gradually reduced. Therapeutic use of the plant should be controlled by authorized party as regular use of kratom alone can cause addiction although not as severe as opium or heroin addictions. In fact, in some countries such as Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, New Zealand, Denmark, and Myanmar the use of kratom is controlled and illegal possession of the herb can result in strict penalty.
More studies on kratom also revealed that the herb contains antioxidants and therefore is considered to have essential benefits similar to those found in Green Tea. The herb is also found to contain fiber which is helpful in relieving constipation.