Let’s Get to Know the Kratom Plant/Tree A Little Better
Thank you to everyone who commented on and shared the last post – this one is certain to contain even more information on the plant itself, and when and where it is grown. Methods of ingestion and a detailed discussion of the effects Kratom users experience will be contained in Vol. 3.
Naturally, Kratom is very a controversial plant or tree containing several botanical agents at the moment. Even publishing background information on the current regulatory situation as I did recently generates a lot of conflicting commentary across social media – discussion of this post and the topics presented herein is always welcome below.
Where does this stuff Come From?
Indigenous to Thailand, Mitragyna speciosa (aka, “Kratom”) is grown mainly in Southeast Asia. It is now native to several countries in the region, including Malaysia, Borneo, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Although cultivated as a crop, it certainly grows naturally in the wild throughout the region. It can grow fine outdoors year-round in several of the United States including California, Florida and Hawaii. It is reportedly a hearty enough organism that it can be grown elsewhere in pots, spending winter indoors and summer outdoors – although I’m sure my green thumb can kill it since it can do that with practically any known plant. It does great as a houseplant, surviving fine in a “human” environment, but one article I reviewed indicated it needs frequent clippings as it grows somewhat prolifically.
Most of the vendors I have seen online are based in Southeast Asia, so presumably are close to the source of the leaves themselves. I have seen many companies in the US advertising Kratom, but do not remember encountering any claiming that what they are distributing was grown in the USA. It certainly could grow and be grown here – whether indoors as a houseplant or aero/hydroponically, or of course outdoors in selected areas. It likes high humidity, something I’m honestly not a really big fan of. It is described as being very sensitive to the environment within which is is grown.
I found at least one vendor that is actually selling the plants themselves online. I must report that I’ve still never bought a houseplant online though…lol.
Does it have any “Relatives” that I’m Familiar With?
As briefly discussed in the previous article, Kratom is classified as being in the same “family” as coffee (Coffea
arabica). Unsurpisingly, it is often ingested in a similar manner to coffee – ground and mixed with hot water and then the “grounds” are removed and the resultant beverage is consumed. Also like coffee, it can also be eaten – I may have to try to make a cheesecake with this stuff like I do with one of my favorite coffee brands, Cafe Cubano.
Another member of the Rubiceae family is the Gardenia, a flower cherished for its very heavy and sweet aroma. Wikipedia has a nice description of this family of flowering plants (Source):
The Rubiaceae are a family of flowering plants, commonly known as the coffee, madder, or bedstraw family. It consists of terrestrial trees, shrubs, lianas, or herbs that are recognizable by simple, opposite leaves with interpetiolar stipules. The family contains about 13,500 species in 611 genera, which makes it the fourth-largest angiosperm family. Rubiaceae has a cosmopolitan distribution, however, the largest species diversity is concentrated in the (sub)tropics. Economic importance includes Coffea, the source of coffee, Cinchona, the source of the antimalarial alkaloidquinine, some dye plants (e.g. Rubia), and ornamental cultivars (e.g. Gardenia, Ixora, Pentas).
Coffee, quinine, red dye and Gardenias. All in all, that’s really not a bad family tree. It’s the fourth largest family of angiosperms, after all (whatever they are).
Are there Different Tastes like with Coffee?
One of the things that has been reasonably consistent within all of my research on Kratom is one simple fact. Kratom itself – and trust me, this is nearly universal – Kratom tastes like shit. Personally, I also think anchovies taste like shit, but I know there are people out there that love their taste. It doesn’t really seem to be the same with Kratom. Nobody I’ve encountered is going to screw you out of your half of the pizza by ordering Kratom over the entire pie. This has happened to me with anchovies.
To put this feeling in some level of perspective, “How to make kratom taste better” has well over 1.1 million search results on Google. “How to make kratom tea” (this being the most common ingestion method) only has 2.3 million search results. “Where do i buy kratom” only returns 750,000 search results. It evidently tastes just that badly.
That being said, I have not seen any real taste differentiation between the strains, just an unnaturally common reference to tasting like shit. If you have a preferred method of consumption, please comment below. I’ve seen everything from tinctures to milkshakes – and am still laughing at the “toss and wash” preferred consumption method. Kratom seems to be quite hydrophobic but perhaps not quite as bad as cinnamon.
Maeng Da, Red Bali, Primo Indo – Why Even Bother if it all Tastes That Bad?
Aha. The primary differences between strains of Kratom are in their effect, not so much their taste.
Many Kratom strains are partially identified by the region within which they are grown. The main and of course most common exception to this is the most common “strain” of Kratom, known as Maeng Da. This actually means “pimp” in the Thai language. I’m not sure what the connection is there…lol. I also encountered location-named strains from Borneo, Bali, Indonesia (“Indo”), Malaysia (“Malay”), Thailand (“Thai”), and Sumatra.
From this point, there are several varieties – some of which are grown here and some of which are grown there. A few are ubiquitous and seem to be grown everywhere (green and red), with the others (yellow and white) grown in most but not all locales. You end up with White Maeng Da, Red Borneo, Super Green Malay and many others (Source).
It’s almost as hard as picking out weed is in the 21st Century…lol Gone are the “you’ll have what the guy brings and you’ll like it” dark ages of the 20th Century. I remember the first time I was in Amsterdam around 2000 and was presented with a “menu”. I immediately tried to steal said menu, the folks laughed at the dumb American and gave me a copy to take home (I guess this was a pretty frequent occurrence). With cannabis, there are two or three main strains (sativa, indica, ruderalis, etc.) and now a bazillion different hybrids combining the different psychoactive ingredients of this plant, allowing folks to customize their cannabis experiences.
So there are different effects? Hmmm…
As a broad generalization, when I look at cannabis, the two main strains (sativa and indica) have two distinctly different effects – cannabis sativa is consumed primarily “to get high” (a spacey or “heady” and energized feeling), while cannabis indica is generally consumed “to get stoned” (a calm, whole-body, somewhat dissociative, couch-locking buzz) (Source). In addition to the psychoative THC (and many other compounds) in cannabis, of course there is also another cannabinoid known as CBD which also has many beneficial effects as an anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antiemetic, and antipsychotic (Source).
It is evidently quite similar with Kratom – some strains produce a mild euphoric and energized feeling, other strains produce the analgesic, opioid-like pain relieving effects. I found at least one vendor who attributed this all to potency of the various alkaloids and not to do with the variations at all once they adjusted dosages for alkaloid concentration (Source). Most vendors describe an effect spectrum starting with mild stimulation/euphoria and ending with “opioid-like analgesia”, with some strains having virtually all euphoria and others virtually all opioid-like pain relief.
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, when reviewing the pharmacology of Kratom (to be discussed in detail in the next article), made no distinctions between strains and instead focused on the five compounds they isolated.
Kratom leaves are used for their complex, dose-dependent pharmacologic effects.4,6,9–12Low to moderate doses (1-5 g) of the leaves reportedly produce mild stimulant effects that enable workers to stave off fatigue.6,9–11,13 Moderate to high doses (5-15 g) are reported to have opioid-like effects.6,9–11,13 At these doses, kratom has been used for the management of pain, diarrhea, and opioid withdrawal symptoms, as well as for its properties as a euphoriant.5,6,9–11,14 Very high doses (>15 g) of kratom tend to be quite sedating and can induce stupor, mimicking opioid effects.4,5,9
They also have a very similar spectrum, from mild stimulation/euphoria to and through “inducing stupor” – and again, this is primarily a function of dosage in their study. According to KratomFacts.Com, “There are many names popping up everywhere, but remember that they are all either Thai, Indo or Malay or combinations of such.”
Growing This Stuff
It is very difficult to obtain viable Kratom seeds since they stay viable outside of the host plant for a very short time. Germination rates are between 20 and 30%. Most folks that grow these in this part of the world (Western hemisphere) do so from clones and/or cuttings. It is all a very complicated and less than highly recommended process. Temperatures under 60 degrees Fahrenheit have reportedly killed plants left outdoors. (Sources: Vegetable Gardener and Discover Kratom). Fungus really, really loves Kratom, and of course it really only survives in a very moist environment.
If your seeds do germinate, or your cuttings actually root – your new friend can grow as high as 15 to 19 feet tall. You’re probably going to want to keep those pruning shears handy. It will be one of those “continuous harvest” type situations. I saw it reported in a few places that blowing a fan on your happy healthy Kratom plant will produce more of the alkaloids responsible for the effects.
Wrapping it all up…
This is definitely not a low maintenance plant – but if you’re in Florida, you may be golden…lol
And wow, I certainly know how many folks are hooked on opioid medications in Florida. Having lived there, I know it is far easier to obtain pain management in Florida than it is to get the right antihistamines here in Missouri (thanks, Meth…sigh). That sounds like it makes way too much sense to work I guess.
Upcoming Event – September 13, 2016
We’re less than a week away from the “STOP THE DEA” March on DC. If you are in or near the Capital Region, these folks will be marching to The White House to deliver a petition to hopefully aid in efforts to get the DEA to reconsider this tragic decision.
Help us make a stand against the DEA
We the people are leading the charge to march in front of The White House to support Kratom and prevent the DEA from labeling Kratom as a Schedule I Substance. Meet us at The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Sept. 13th @ 12:00 Noon.
Come join us to show your support for Kratom and its positive uses. For more information please contact us @ info@KratomMarchDC.com.
Find more information here: Kratom March DC
And if you haven’t signed the petition yet…
As of this writing, 93,000+ folks have signed the petition. 100,000 are required to generate some sort of response from the Administration.
Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
This is not true for Kratom, it has been shown numerous times in reports from users to help recovering Opiate addicts, treat pain, combat depression and anxiety, and much more. Deaths that involve Kratom being a persons’ system have always been from the result of mixing Kratom with other drugs, rather than Kratom alone. In states that banned Kratom, Alabama specifically, opiate usage and deaths went up after Kratom was banned in the state. Please stop the DEA from scheduling Kratom as Schedule I, there are many people who will suffer from this.
Here’s a link to get you right to where you need to be: White House Kratom Petition.
Talk to you soon!