Kratom is a substance that often gets a bad rap in the media, but is it something that can be of use, specifically pertaining to combat athletes? Also, is kratom something that is perhaps being overlooked as a training tool by those in the MMA space?
What is it?
Kratom, officially called mitragyna speciosa, is a plant in the coffee family that is grown in South East Asia where it has a long history of use, at least until recently as it has been made illegal in many of those countries and several US states have recently done the same.
What does it do?
Kratom has numerous alkaloids which have different effects but its most potent alkaloids affect the brain in similar ways to morphine so its main benefit, particularly when it comes to combat athletes, is as a pain relief agent. Due to the effects of its different alkaloids, though, kratom can be used in a few different ways such as to increase energy in low doses and it can also be used to help combat diarrhea. One of the most interesting uses of kratom, though, outside of athletics, is in its potential to help addicts wean themselves off of harder drugs like heroin and other opiates.
How can it help fighters?
Let’s face it, MMA fighters are almost always beat up. Making it through the rigors of a hard training camp without having some sort of nagging injury or aches and pain is almost unheard of. That’s where kratom can perhaps be of some assistance. While taking it prior to a fight is most certainly not recommended (and probably not allowed under USADA), during training camp to help deal with soreness and mild injuries, kratom can most certainly be beneficial.
Listening to your body and resting is important too sometimes but at least when it comes to minor injuries, taking a little kratom prior to training too can maybe help you work around those injuries and still get some work in. Many in the bodybuilding community use kratom as a pre-workout for energy and pain-relief so, at least anecdotally, it doesn’t appear too risky to train while using it.
Is it safe?
Although more research is certainly needed, compared to many other pharmaceutical analgesics, kratom appears to be safer. According to this article from Psychology Today, “it was not found to cause the potentially fatal respiratory depression normally seen in the opioids morphine, codeine, and fentanyl.”
The article also states that kratom doesn’t appear to be nearly as addictive as any of those substances either, at least anecdotally.
As previously stated, more research is definitely needed on kratom and it does need to be respected and approached with some caution, but compared to many pharmaceutical drugs used for pain relief, kratom appears to be the safer alternative, at least as of right now.