Kratom: Things We Know and Questions We Still Need to Answer

Kratom seems to be the newest herb taking the world by storm. In reality, Kratom has been around for centuries. This little leaf has remarkable properties, but there is still much to be discovered about this Southeast Asian specimen. Here is what you need to know about Kratom.

Where it Comes From

Kratom is a tropical species that hails from the heart of Southeast Asia. Mitragyna speciosa is a close relative to the coffee plant. In Southeast Asia, Kratom is often used as a part of religious ceremonies. It has also been praised in this region for its proposed medicinal properties. Over the past few decades, Kratom has been gaining in popularity in countries outside of that region for the first time.

Three Strains

Kratom comes in three primary varieties: white, green and red. All of the strains have similar properties. About 75 to 85 percent of white and green Kratom strains start off as a red vein leaf. The leaves from the tree go through a drying process that largely determines what properties the resulting Kratom will have. The different strains of Kratom, however, are determined by the veins on the leaf itself. Red veins result in red strains of Kratom, white in white and green in green. Red strains are known to have euphoric effects on users, green strains tend to produce energetic effects, and white strains have been known to produce an effect that falls somewhere in the middle.

Kratom Varieties

The three most popular varieties of Kratom are Borneo, Bali and Maeng Da. Each strain has unique properties that are emphasized by the strain. For example, white Maeng Da and red Maeng Da are both known to cause euphoric effects that are much stronger than what you’d get from other varieties. Bali is a standard commercial variety and one that is easily found in storefronts as well as online. Borneo is considered a nice medium between the strength and intensity of a Maeng Da and the light and easygoing effects of a Bali. Why each variety has such different effects, though, has yet to be determined.

Ways to Take Kratom

There are a number of different ways individuals may ingest Kratom. Kratom comes from a leaf that has been dried, and it is edible. It can be chewed up directly, although it is not known to have a pleasant taste. Kratom can be ground into a powder and mixed into hot water or tea, which is a popular way to take it. The powder can also be weighed and measured into capsules that can be taken with a liquid just as you would take any other supplement. Some people use what is called the “toss and wash” method, which is when the powder is mixed with a very small amount of water and tossed back like you would take a shot of liquor. It is then “washed” with water like you would use a chaser. Kratom is known to be more effective when it’s taken directly and not in capsule form although capsules have been known to be more gentle on the stomach than any other ingestion method.


Kratom has been lauded for its healing properties. It has been known to cause euphoria, reduce stress and anxiety and increase productivity. It also has been said to have healing properties and the ability to reduce pain from conditions such as migraines as well as acute pain from causes such as tooth pain. Advocates and scientists have been looking into why Kratom seems to be able to reduce pain so effectively, but they have yet to pinpoint an answer.

Side Effects

The most commonly reported side effect of Kratom use is nausea and upset stomach. This side effect is often mitigated by ingesting Kratom only after eating. Kratom has also been said to cause dizziness, dry mouth, itching, constipation and loss of appetite. Some people claim to not experience any side effects from Kratom use at all, though. Researchers are still trying to determine what factors go into whether a person will experience any side effects from Kratom use.


Kratom has not been thoroughly studied, so there are a number of unknowns regarding it. In smaller studies, Kratom has been shown to reduce pain and diarrhea, depending on the dose and the strain used. No deaths have been reported that exclusively involved Kratom use. From what has been seen so far, Kratom has the potential for healing individuals, without serious long-term effects.

Legality in the United States

The United States federal government has not made the use of Kratom federally illegal as of 2019. There are, however, six states where Kratom has been outlawed. Kratom is currently illegal for purchase, possession, and use in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Proponents of Kratom use argue that its illegality in these states is due to a lack of information and the surge of misinformation. Because Kratom has not been approved by the United States government and is therefore not regulated by the FDA, advocates cannot tout any health claims regarding Kratom. As a result, there is a hot debate over the legality of Kratom.

Potential for Replacing Prescription Drugs

Kratom is currently being studied for its potential to replace opioids. In isolated studies, Kratom has been shown to ease the effects of opioid withdrawal. It has also been studied to see whether it can reduce pain in a manner similar to that of opioid prescription drugs. The studies for both have resulted in promising results, but the sample sizes were on the smaller side. Furthermore, researchers are not entirely certain as to why Kratom seems to be nearly as effective at reducing chronic pain as opioids without resulting in addiction.

While much remains unknown about Kratom, continuing research is providing answers to these unknowns every day. For now, the herb remains legal in 44 states in the US. As with any supplement, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before taking anything new.


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