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What Is Kratom?

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What Is Kratom?

Kratom is a plain-looking evergreen tree originating from Southeast Asia. It’s used as a stimulant in lower doses and a sedative and analgesic in higher doses.

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a member of the Rubiaceae family of plants — which makes it a close relative of the coffee plant (Coffea spp.).

Much like its cousin, kratom is a powerful central nervous system stimulant. It’s used to boost both physical and mental energy.

Kratom has been a popular herb among laborers in Asian countries as a way to prevent burnout since the early 19th century — but its traditional medical use likely extends much further than that. 

The effects of kratom are unique — it has some qualities that are stimulating, others that are sedative or anxiolytic. The dose of kratom determines its effects.

In lower doses, the kratom plant only offers mild analgesic effect but activates the central nervous system to make users feel more alert and energized.

How is Kratom Used?

The Mitragyna speciosa leaves are chewed fresh, smoked, or powdered and brewed as a strong tea.

Ambedo Naturals offer kratom extracts — which are made by removing everything but the active ingredients of the kratom resin.

Outside Southeast Asia, the most common way of consuming the plant is to mix the dried, powdered leaves with a glass of water. This produces a strong and bitter drink. It’s unusual for someone to enjoy the flavor of kratom, but this isn’t why it’s used.

Most users will flavor the beverage with honey or sweetener to help mask some of the disagreeable flavors and wash the rest back as quickly as possible.  

Dried powdered Kratom in a bowl.

What’s The Dose of Kratom?

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the best dose of kratom. There are a lot of variables that affect the dose — including strain selection, the freshness of the leaves, your individual weight, and the desired effects.

We can split the dose of kratom into two different camps:

  • Low-Dose Kratom (2–6 grams of dried powder)
  • High-Dose Kratom (6–12 grams of dried powder)

If it’s your first time using kratom, it’s best to start at the lowest dosage range and increase gradually over several sessions once you know how your body responds.

If you want a more precise estimate on the ideal dose of kratom for your body — aim to take around 0.03 grams per pound of bodyweight for the stimulating effects or a dose of 0.06 grams per pound for the sedative and painkilling effects.

For reference, a teaspoon of dried kratom powder is around 2.5 grams of powder, and a tablespoon is roughly 7 grams.

What Does Kratom Feel Like?

Kratom is a complex plant — there are 16 key ingredients in the leaves, each with its own set of effects. The ratios of these compounds can change from one strain to another, giving each one a unique effect profile.

The dose also affects how kratom feels.

Low doses are stimulating. It feels similar to coffee but less likely to result in negative side effects like anxiety or jitteriness. It also has a mild euphoric action at this dose — helping to uplift the mood and promote more clarity of thought. These doses are used as a nootropic or stimulant to boost physical and mental energy and stamina.

Around the 7-gram dosage mark — the effects of the herb do a complete flip. At higher doses, kratom has a sedative action. Users feel relaxed, carefree, and lazy. These doses are most useful for supporting sleep, easing anxiety, and alleviating chronic pain or muscle tension.

Other effects of kratom at all doses include mild visual effects, increased empathy, and a warming sensation in the body.

It’s a popular aphrodisiac — increasing sexual arousal and improving erectile function. Some people find the sexual stimulant effects of kratom begin to taper off with higher doses.

How Long Does Kratom Last?

In total, the effects of kratom last around 3 or 4 hours.

The effects of kratom take about 30 minutes to take effect and peak around the 1-hour mark. People who use kratom on an empty stomach report an even faster onset of effects — but this also increases the chances of experiencing side effects.

What Are The Side Effects of Kratom?

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Insomnia
  • Itchiness in the skin
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low libido
  • Nausea
  • Poor appetite
  • Seizures
  • Tremors or muscle contractions

Kratom Active Constituents

There are literally dozens of active ingredients in the kratom plant, each one producing a different set of effects. Most of the active ingredients are classified as either indole or oxindole alkaloids. They exert their painkilling, anxiolytic, stimulating, and nootropic benefits by binding and interacting with various neurotransmitters in the brain.

Each kratom strain has a different ratio of active ingredients — this gives each plant a unique set of effects. Some are more stimulating, others more sedative or painkiller. The difference in effects is the result of different concentrations of the active ingredients.

Roughly 90% of the active alkaloid content consists of just four compounds, but there are many others as well:

  1. Mitragynine — This is the most abundant constituent in most kratom strains, accounting for up to 66% of the total alkaloid content of the plant. It acts as a 5-HT2A receptor agonist, which is a similar mechanism of action used by psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin. It also targets the mu-opioid and kappa-opioid receptors.
  2. Paynantheine — The second most abundant alkaloid in kratom. Paynantheine acts as a smooth muscle-relaxant and opioid receptor agonist with relaxing effects.
  3. Speciogynine — The third most abundant alkaloid in kratom. It provides a great deal of the plant’s muscle-relaxant and anti-anxiety benefits.
  4. 7-hydroxymitragynine — Abundant in varying concentrations for different kratom strains but is most common in red-veined kratom strains. Acts through the mu-opioid receptors.

What Are The Different Types of Kratom?

As with most plants, there are many different strains of kratom — each with different characteristics.

What is a strain?

Whereas a species is a genetically unique plant with its own species name, a strain refers to the offspring of a plant that shares the same genetic makeup but differences in physical or chemical profiles. All kratom is the same species (Mitragyna speciosa), but there are many different strains within that species — such as Red Kali, Green Hulu, White Dragon, and many more.

There are three main categories for the different kratom strains based on the color of the leaf veins — red, white, and green.

While there’s a lot of variability within each category, it serves as a fairly reliable way of cataloging the different effects we can expect from each leaf type.

Red Vein Kratom Strains

Red vein kratom is generally more relaxing and sedating than the other types. It’s usually the best option for pain relief and sleep support. The red color is thought to be the result of the higher 7-hydroxymitragynine concentrations.

These strains are also some of the most fast-acting. You can start to feel the effects of most red-veined leaves within about 20 minutes.

White Vein Kratom Strains

White vein kratom is generally thought to be the most stimulating option (with some exceptions).

It’s more popular among people who tend to take their kratom first thing in the morning, similar to a coffee. They’re rich in euphoric alkaloids, which make them a great option for boosting mood and motivation.

Green Vein Kratom Strains

Green-vein kratom is stimulating similar to white-vein — but with longer-lasting effects. They’re also much more abundant and therefore cheaper overall. These strains are usually quite balanced, offering a good array of sleep-supportive, anti-anxiety, and stimulating benefits.

Because of the high variability within the green-veined group, these strains are much more unpredictable. Some are more stimulating, others much more sedative.

Is Kratom Legal?

Yes, kratom is legal in most (but not all) parts of the world.

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