Pharmacology: What is Kratom and How Does It Affect People?

Kratom has gained a foothold in the United States, and with its rise in popularity, more attention has been brought to the plant. Those who are interested in taking kratom, and those who are currently taking kratom, are interested to know more about the plant and its properties. Despite the popularity, though, there has not been much research done into the plant. This has made it difficult to determine the classification of kratom by the government. At this point, there are no regulations regarding kratom and it has not been classified.

Those researchers who are now delving into kratom are interested in the pharmacology of the substance. They want to know more about the plant and the effects it provides to those who take it. By better understanding the plant, they believe they can better determine the way it can be used and whether there are any risks associated with it.

Despite the fact that research has been slow when it comes to this plant, some information is available. For example, researchers have a good idea of what makes kratom work.

What’s in Kratom?

Before getting into the details of what is in kratom, it is important to get a basic overview of the plant and where it comes from. Kratom, or mitragyna speciosa, is an evergreen tree that grows well in hot and humid environments. It is native to countries throughout Southeast Asia because those countries have ideal growing conditions. Much of the kratom that is available today comes from Indonesia, for example.

The trees can grow to heights of 80’ and up, although many of the farmed kratom trees are smaller. One of the benefits of the plant is that it is evergreen. This means that once the leaves are collected, they will grow back in a relatively short time. Harvests can happen throughout the year.

It is the leaves of this plant that are important to understand, as that is where the alkaloids that produce the effects are located. These shiny, dark green leaves are up to eight inches long and five inches wide. Although all kratom made comes from these trees, there are variations available based on the age of the leaves at the time of the harvest, which will become easier to understand later.

Now, though, it is important to understand what makes the leaves important in the first place. They contain a range of alkaloids in them, and it is believed that the alkaloids produce the effects of kratom. The two most important of these alkaloids are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine (7-HMG).

The mitragynine is thought to produce the stimulant-like effects that are often described by those who take certain types of kratom. Manual laborers who live in the area where the trees grow have used the leaves by chewing them or making tea with them for centuries. They like the energizing effect and believe it helps them to be more productive. When there are high concentrations of this alkaloid, it produces this effect.

However, when the concentrations of 7-HMG are higher, the effects are different. In those cases, people report sedative and analgesic effects. Some of the other alkaloids in the plant, such as mitraphylline and ajmalicine produce other effects and can help to relax the muscles.

Many people wonder why the effects of kratom can be so different, and the composition of the alkaloids seems to answer this question. Now, we can go back to why the harvesting of the leaves and the production process make a difference.

When the leaves are young, they have white veins. These white veins are used when making white kratom, which products the stimulant effect that is reported. As the leaves age, the veins take on a green appearance. The green kratom can take on characteristics of both white and red kratom. When the leaves are fully mature, the veins are red. Red kratom produces the sedative effect people report.

The harvest at different times ensures that the right types of leaves are collected for the kratom being made. The different colors are believed to indicate the alkaloid composition. White-veined leaves are believed to have higher levels of mitragynine that produce the stimulant effect. When the leaves are red, they have a higher concentration of 7-HMG, producing the sedative effect.

Even the harvest and curing methods can affect the kratom. For example, there are fermented options, which produces a darker appearance, and is said to be more effective.

More Research is Needed

To make matters even more complex, people who are taking kratom do not always agree on the difference between the strains. Some experience vast differences with different colors, while others say that they do not notice a difference, or that the difference is minor.

Given all of the variables that go into kratom from the age of the leaves and the color of the veins to the curing process, it is easy to see why there is not much research in the field yet. It will likely take years of further research to get a better understanding of kratom.

Everyone Agrees on the Importance of Quality

Regardless of where anyone stands when it comes to their favorite strain of kratom, all believe that the quality of the kratom chosen is important. Given that there are no regulations for kratom in the United States, some manufacturers are making and selling subpar products. They may have additives and fillers in them, for example. Others might even be contaminated since companies are not required to follow any good manufacturing practice protocols when they are making the kratom.

Those who are interested in trying kratom, whether they want to buy powder or capsules, should always buy from a reputable company. Take the time to learn more about how the company manufactures and packages the kratom to ensure it has been lab-tested and that it does not have any additives or contaminants. Pure, fresh kratom should always be the goal when making a purchase.

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