The Medicinal Chemistry of Kratom Leaves

Kratom, also known as mitragyna speciosa, is a large, evergreen tree only found in marshy areas of Southeast Asia. It is very abundant in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It also goes by the names of ketum, thom, kakuam, biak, and thang. This tree can grow as high as 60 feet. It has a clustered flower with a distinct yellow color and oval-shaped leaves that go from light to dark green.

While kratom has been introduced in the West only in recent years, it had been popular in Southeast Asian traditional medicine for many centuries. Its leaves are either chewed or brewed as a tea to cure a variety of conditions and maladies like cough, fever, anxiety, pain, and depression.

Its first recorded mention in western literature was in 1839 by the Dutch botanist, Pieter Korthals. He was also the one who gave it its scientific name.

Aside from medicinal purposes, it was popular in Southeast Asian culture as an energy booster and alcohol alternative in social gatherings. Manual laborers — farmers, fishermen, etc. — take it several times a day to relieve their pain and discomfort from arduous labor. In areas where Islam is practiced, they drank it instead of alcohol, which is prohibited in the Muslim faith.

In 1943, Thailand passed the Kratom Act 2486, which prohibited the use and cultivation of the plant. Anyone caught breaking this law is subject to prison or worse, a crime punishable by death. All that changed on December 2018 when the Thai government made it legal again for medical purposes.

In Indonesia, local use of the substance is illegal. However, its production and cultivation for export are very much legal. Many Indonesian farmers have even abandoned growing other traditional crops like rubber because kratom farming proves more lucrative and more in demand. Exporting the product is bringing an annual revenue of more than US$130 million to the country.

In the United States, it is legal in some states; thus, it is very important that you be aware of your state’s regulation before you decide to buy it. A lot of online stores like Big Bear Kratom sell the product in different forms. A word of caution: only buy from a reputable vendor who has a proven track record.

How Does It Work?

Kratom leaves have two compounds — mitragynine and 7-a hydroxy mitragynine — which latch to opioid receptors in the brain and produce opioid-like effects. The effect depends on the dosage you consume. Using0 it in a low dosage has stimulating effects while a high dosage produces sedation or drowsiness.

Medicinal Use of Kratom

For many centuries, kratom is known for its medicinal and recreational uses. Over the years, studies show that there is a promise in using it to treat other diseases, such as diabetes. Below are some of its medicinal uses:

Recovery from Opioid Addiction

Since ancient times, opium addiction is prevalent in many cultures. Chewing the leaves of the plants has made opium withdrawal more tolerable because it produces opioid-like effects. The only difference is that it is milder and safer than opium. Nowadays, it is used in many countries to lessen the adverse effect caused by the withdrawal from the much stronger substance.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Studies have shown that kratom affects both adrenergic and opioid receptors in the brain. Adrenergic works on certain receptors that release adrenaline in your body. When your adrenaline is high, your heart rate and breathing increase. It also causes your blood pressure to show up as your body becomes excited. On the other hand, opioid calms the nerves and relaxes the muscles. When your body is sedated, your blood pressure decreases.

Kratom produces adrenergic effects when taken at a high dosage; thus, increasing your blood pressure. Meanwhile, a lower dosage creates opioid-like effects, which calms your nerves and decreases blood pressure. Therefore, you have to be careful about how much kratom you’re consuming.

Pain Reliever

Its two main alkaloids — mitragynine and 7-a hydroxy mitragynine — contains strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties which quickly relieve the body from pain. Because of this, kratom holds a lot of promise in treating fibromyalgia but more research is needed to establish this fact.

Depression and anxiety

Kratom leaves also contain anxiolytic properties that help balance the hormones in the body. Studies on depression and anxiety show that low levels of serotonin and dopamine in the body greatly affects mood changes and a person’s outlook in general. The plant stimulates the receptors that are responsible for the production of these hormones eliminating any medical imbalance in the body. Despite this, there is a need for further studies so exact recommendations can be given.

Diabetes management

There’s still limited research on the effect of kratom on the body’s blood sugar levels. However, it presents a lot of opportunities in treating and preventing diabetes. Research has shown that kratom balances the amount of glucose and insulin in the body.

What Does a Kratom High Feel Like?

When used in moderation, kratom has positive effects. It could stimulate your mind, boost your energy, or relax your mind and muscles. But like similar substances, abusing its use can have negative results.

It is also highly advised not to take it with alcohol and other psychoactive drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that out of the 91 kratom-related deaths, 84 of them have other drugs involved in their system at the time of death.

Its concentrated form also proves more potent and has unpleasant effects. Some of the most common side effects are:

♦ Nausea

♦ Itching

♦ Sweating

♦ Dry mouth

♦ Constipation

♦ Abnormally fast heartbeat

♦ Loss of muscle coordination in the arms or legs

In Conclusion

Kratom is still unregulated so anyone can potentially abuse it, and become addicted to it. And because there are no clear regulations in place yet, there’s no clear specification on what is considered safe dosage. There is also a possibility that not everything that is listed on the label is included in the product. Therefore, you need to take the necessary caution when using kratom and only purchase from sellers who have a proven track record.