South East Asian Wonder: Kratom

Kratom’s botanical name is Mitragyna speciosa. It is a tree that is classified under the Rubiaceae family (coffee). These trees are native to Southeast Asia; especially the Malesia and Indochina regions. Kratom is particularly indigenous to Thailand although for the past 7 decades it has been banned in the country as the government aims to increase tax revenue generated from opium distribution. Kratom has been in existence since time immemorial. Due to the psychoactive features of its leaves, it was popular among the Thai traditional societies as a medicine. It only gained global popularity starting from the year 2004. The Kratom tree grows under very strict biological conditions (for instance seeds must be fresh, the soil must be rich in humus, the area should be protected and the climate must be moist). It grows from seeds and can develop up to heights of 50 feet (or 15 meters) and a spread of up to 15 feet (or 4.5 meters). Its erect nature makes it suitable for other uses such as production of soft timber. It has a tendency to shed leaves during dry seasons and thus remains evergreen.

kratom leaves

Variation in Strains

There are a number of Kratom strains available. The variations are caused by genetic differences that lead to differences in alkaloid and indole formation. Although there is very little research about the features of each strain, it is generally accepted that the main strains are Bali, Thai, Malaysia and Maeng Da.

Active Constituents

Regardless of the type of strain, all Kratoms contain active constituents that make them to be classified as Mitragyna speciosa in the first place. They include a variety of tryptamine alkaloids. The most primary ones are 7-hydroxymitragynine and mitragynine. The alkaloids have similar structures as yohimbine but the two (yohimbine and kratom alkaloids) have different micro-biological features that in turn make them different in functionality.

Forms of Kratom

There are several forms of kratom. The differences are mainly caused by differences in packaging. The main forms are powder, leaves and extract. Leaves are the most common type. As a matter of fact, kratom powder is composed of powdered leaves. Nowadays, there is the option of packaging the powder into capsules. Kratom extract is prepared by boiling the leaves for a very long time and then straining the sticky substance that results.

Chemical and Medical Features

Kratom leaves contain at least 40 chemical compounds. Most of them are alkaloids and mitragynine pseudoindoxyl. The alkaloids include mitragynine, mitraphylline and 7-hydroxymitragynine which is the primary active chemical in the plant. Other active chemicals that can be found include specific yohimbe alkaloids (like corynantheidine) and raubasine. It has also been found to contain rhynchophylline. This is an alkaloid that is a calcium channel blocker. It has the ability to reduce NMDA-induced current. The amount of each component is dependent on many factors such as the location of the tree and the nutrients that it receives. The chemical features of kratom (as described above) are responsible for its medicinal characteristics. As it has been mentioned already, for a long time it was used for medicinal purposes by the traditional Thai people. This is because of the presence of mitragynine which is an opioid agonist and thus has an affinity for the opiod receptor in a human brain. The receptors have an influence on a person’s psychology (such as mood and anxiety). Although many opiates operate in the same manner, kratom is different in that whereas opiates typically bind to mu opioid receptors, mitragynine prefers delta opioid receptors. Other medical uses of kratom include treatment of diarrhea and erectile dysfunction. There is also ongoing research that suggests that it can also be used to treat symptoms of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.


When kratom alkaloids bind to opiate receptors, they cannot be detected using the normal opiate tests. This is because such tests lack the technically capability of making the detection in body fluids. For this reason, more expensive and sophisticated methods of detection have been developed; especially in countries where kratom is banned.

Legal Status

Kratom is illegal and controlled in a number of countries, but where legal those interested can click here to buy kratom online at retailers such as and many others. It has been out rightly banned in including Thailand (its country of origin) Australia, Myanmar (Burma), Malaysia, Sweden, Lithuania, Poland and Vietnam. In other countries, it is considered as a controlled substance. The countries include Denmark, Finland, Romania, Germany and New Zealand. Although it is legal in the US, some states have banned it. They include Indiana, Florida, Lousiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Vermont. Otherwise, it is legal in every other country and state.