Kratom [leaves (1) finely powdered]
Usage / Preparation
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Ithang, Kakuam, Krathom and in southern regions of Thailand, Thom.
Kratom is a tree in the Coffee family that is native to Thailand where it has a long history of use. It was mainly used by workers for its stimulant effects but has also been employed for a variety of other purposes.(1) The genus was first recorded and named by the Dutch Botanist Pieter Willem Korthals who gave it its name because the stamen of the species he first discovered resembled a bishop's miter. Kratom has a rich chemistry and contains more than 25 different alkaloids. Mitragynine, the most abundant one, is structurally related to Yohimbe alkaloids and is more distantly related to tryptamine alkaloids such as psilocybin and Ibogaine. The plant also contains Epicatechin which is a powerful anti-oxidant also found in Cocoa and Green Tea. Botanically Kratom is also related to Cat's Claw. Although Kratom has recently been made illegal in Thailand, Malaysia and several other countries, some people are lobbying their governments to allow medical research into Kratom as a potential prescription substance.
Mitragynine, Mitraphylline, 7-hydroxymitragynine, 7-acetoxymitragynine, Paynanthine, Speciogynine, Speciofoline, Ajmalicine, Akuammigine, Corynanthedine, Mitraversine, Rhynchophylline, Speciociliatine, Stipulatine, Epicatechin and others. (2)
Traditional use of Kratom is usually associated with Thailand, although some use in Malaysia has also been reported. Use of Kratom dates far enough back that its beginnings can't be determined. The genus was first recorded and named by the Dutch Botanist Pieter Willem Korthals who gave it its name because the stamen of the species he first discovered resembled a bishop's miter. Traditionally users tend to be peasants, laborers, and farmers who use the plant to overcome the burdens of hard work and as a stimulant to help endure long days. (2) Female users are apparently quite rare possibly due to the association of Kratom with labor, while women tend to have more domestic roles. In some parts of the country, it was said that parents would choose to give their daughters in marriage to men who used Kratom rather than men who used Marihuana, in part due to the idea that Kratom users are hard working, while Marihuana users are lazy. (3)
As well as being used as a stimulant it has also been used for medicinal purposes and as an opium substitute. It is interesting to note that it reportedly causes stimulant effects at low dosages and more narcotic analgesic effects at higher doses. (4)
In 1943, the Thai government passed the Kratom Act 2486 that made the planting of the tree illegal and required existing trees to be cut down. This law has not been very successful, because Kratom is an indigenous species. The Thai government also made Kratom illegal and classed it in the same enforcement group as cocaine and heroin.
More recently, scientists and other specialists in the field have opted Kratom's possible use as an aid in opium withdrawal, inspired by its traditional use, or as an active placebo in research. Pennapa Sapcharoen, director of the National Institute of Thai Traditional Medicine, said krathom could be prescribed to addicts and patients suffering depression, but stressed that further research was needed. (3)
However it was recently discovered that 7-hydroxymitragynine is the most likely candidate as the chief agent of Kratom's effects and since most of the previous research was done with the assumption that Mitragynine was the most active chemical, many of the previous conclusions on Kratom may have to be revised. (2)
Side effects from long term use include anorexia and weight loss, insomnia, and a darkening of the skin, particularly on the cheeks, giving an appearance similar to a hepatic face. Among addicts, 30% report limited sexual desire and the need to use a combination of Kratom and alcohol to become sexually stimulated. One study found 5 people who had psychotic conditions which may or may not have been revealed by very heavy Kratom use. Addiction seems to be a possibility if high doses are used. Some withdrawal symptoms reported by addicts include hostility, aggression, wet nose, inability to work, flow of tears, muscle and bone aches, and jerky limb movement.
Mitragyna speciosa is an evergreen tree native to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It usually grows to a height of around 15 feet though in some cases can reach up to 50 feet depending on species and location. The plant has a branch width of over 15 feet. The leaves are smooth, ovate-acuminate, opposite and dark green in color, and can grow to more than 7 inches long and 4 inches wide. The flowers are yellow and grow in clusters. During the dry part of the year leaf is more abundant and there is more new growth during the rainy season. (1)(2)
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(1) Kratom, Wikipedia
(2) Kratom, Murple.net
(3) Role Seen For Traditional Herbal Stimulant, Ploenpote Atthakor Bangkok Post, 27 November 1999
(4) Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), Microgram Bulletin, Vol XXXIX
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Finely powdered red-vein Kratom leaves from Thailand.
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