Like many holistic products that you see on the shelf, often in capsule or liquid format, it is hard to gauge their origins. Many people are often unaware of the actual plant used to make the product. Kratom is one of these substances.
The Kratom you see at specialized stores or online vendors results from careful cultivation and harvesting techniques. The plant in question is the mitragyna speciosa, an evergreen that grows in tropical rainforests throughout Southeast Asia. The process involved from planting to selling is often lengthy and crosses various continents.
Mitragyna Speciosa: Traits
The hot and humid rainforests of Southeast Asia create the perfect conditions for the mitragyna speciosa to thrive. The tree can reach up 80 ft, but depending on the conditions, their height will vary. The most treasured part of the plant is the leaves, which are the base of all Kratom products. For centuries locals of these areas have praised the plant and its medicinal properties, using it for various healing purposes.
As the mitragyna speciosa is a tropical evergreen, the leaves are present throughout the year. Mature leaves will fall to the ground, and new ones will take their place, making the supply of leaves ample. As the leaves have such powerful properties, farmers worldwide have attempted to emulate the conditions in Southeast Asia so that they can produce the plant on their land; however, doing this can often be very challenging.
While many people attempt to home-grow Kratom, the best product is derived from the plant that grows in Southeast Asia. Cultivation on a large-scale is often near impossible or inconsistent when tried elsewhere. Currently, the majority of the Kratom you see available comes from Indonesia and Thailand.
The leaves of the mitragyna speciosa tree often vary in color and size. The plant’s varying characteristics are what create the multiple strains you see available in stores and online. The most common strains of Kratom that you will see available are white, green, and red.
Many people believe that Kratom growers purposefully grow various strain colors, but this is not the case. The colors are a result of careful harvesting and curing techniques. Depending on when the leaves are taken from the tree, how long they are left to dry, and the nuances of other refinement techniques used, the color of Kratom produced will vary.
Another factor that affects the strain of Kratom is the stem or vein. Over time these veins can change in color, cycling through red, green, yellow, and brown.
When the growers determine the leaves are at an ideal level of maturity, they will harvest them. When they harvest leaves, the time will directly correlate to the composition of alkaloids and the concentration of the final product. These alkaloids occur naturally and are what give Kratom its unique qualities.
Refining, Drying, Grinding
After the farmers have determined the right time to harvest the leaves, they are pulled from the tree and thoroughly washed, removing dirt, debris, or biological compounds that could be harmful. This washing phase is critical, as after the leaves have been ground, lab testing can be more challenging.
Once all the leaves have been thoroughly cleaned, large racks are used to hang them for drying. Depending on the grower’s style, they may do this with sunlight or without as each one produces different alkaloid compositions. Some farmers have opted for other curing methods like fermentation, creating a unique composition of alkaloids. One strain, Indo White Vein, has high amounts of mitragynine and less 7-Hydroxymitragynine. These are the two alkaloids primarily present in Kratom.
Once the leaves have been processed according to the grower’s discretion, they are ground into a fine powder. Industrial sized grinders are used to process large quantities at once.
Getting Kratom Consumer-Ready
Once the leaves have been ground into a powder, the Kratom is ready for post-processing. This stage involves getting the product ready for consumers, which includes further processing into various formats. Depending on the vendor, they may want their products put into capsules, made into an extract, or packaged into tea bags.
Capsules are by far one of the most popular ways to use Kratom as they are easy to transport and store. More experienced Kratom enthusiasts often favor extracts because they are much more potent, created through boiling techniques.
Many sellers also have bags of the bulk powder available, created for consumers who want more control over how they use Kratom. They can take this powder and make teas, use it for baking, or encapsulate it themselves.
One of the things to be extra cautious about when purchasing Kratom is the reputation of the dealer. You want to ensure that they are ethical and practicing fair-trade operations. Lab-testing should also be done to ensure that the product you are enjoying is contamination free.