Everything You Need To Know About Kratom
4 min

Everything You Need To Know About Kratom

4 min

Kratom offers a range of effects, from stimulation to deep relaxation. This unusual plant is very popular in Southeast Asia but is relatively unknown in Europe. Follow along to find out all about kratom, including its history, main alkaloids, different strains, side effects, and more!

Kratom has been used for generations in Southeast Asia. Despite its popularity in some parts of the world, it remains fairly mysterious and unknown in Europe. In this article, we explore what kratom is, the effects it produces, and delve a little into some of the different varieties available.

If you have questions about kratom, then this is the first place you should look.

What is kratom?

What Is Kratom

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) belongs to the same family as coffee—Rubiaceae. And much like its caffeinated cousin, kratom too offers potentially desirable effects. Unlike caffeine, though, which acts very much as a stimulant, kratom acts as a stimulant at lower doses and a soporific/analgesic at higher doses. This strange dose-dependent profile gives this plant an unusual variety of contrasting uses.

There are many subspecies of kratom, all of which are native to Southeast Asia and appear as fairly unremarkable-looking evergreen trees. Dive a little deeper into their chemical structure, though, and you'll find that they’re really quite fascinating.

Unlike many of the evergreen trees of Europe and North America, kratom trees are broadleaf. Generally, the leaves are green, but the veins and edges can be different colours—which is key to identifying different types of kratom (more on this later).

It is the leaves of the kratom tree that are consumed in order to experience the plant’s effect. The leaves can be taken in many ways: chewed, brewed into tea, dried, and smoked, or they can be taken in the form of an extract. There are thought to be around 16 different alkaloids in kratom leaves that determine the effect. And, depending on the ratio of these alkaloids, the quality of the experience can be quite different.

Generally, it is thought that only four compounds make up around 90% of kratom’s alkaloid content—and are thus responsible for most of the effects. These four compounds are:

  • Mitragynine: This compound accounts for around 66% of kratom’s alkaloid content, making it the most abundant psychoactive chemical in the plant. It is thought to exert its effects mostly on the 5-HT2A receptors, but it also affects opioid and kappa-opioid receptors.
  • Paynantheine: This is the second-most commonly occurring compound in kratom. It is thought to be a smooth muscle relaxant, and is an opioid receptor agonist.
  • Speciogynine: The plant’s third-most abundant alkaloid, speciogynine, is thought to have muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety potential.
  • 7-hydroxymitragynine: This alkaloid occurs in relative abundance depending on the strain of kratom. It is most common in red-veined strains, and is thought to act on mu-opioid receptors.

History of kratom

History Of Kratom

Kratom has a very long history of use in Malaysia, Thailand, and other parts of Southeast Asia, which has continued all the way up to today. While it has been used for holistic purposes in these countries, such as to address symptoms related to pain and anxiety, it is mainly used for its energising and/or relaxing effects.

Labourers, traditionally men, use kratom from the early morning, and chew lower doses throughout the day. This gives them more energy and allows them to work harder—much in the same way that many people use coffee. However, what kratom offers that coffee cannot is the ability to “reverse” its own effects.

Once the day’s work is complete, people will take larger doses of kratom in order to relax for the evening.

Aside from helping people to work, kratom is also sometimes given to guests, meaning it has recreational uses as well.

Effects of kratom

Effects Of Kratom

Kratom produces two major effects, which, as mentioned, are dose-dependent.

At lower doses (2–6 grams of dried powder), kratom has stimulating effects, similar to coffee. This can help to increase both physical and mental energy, boosting a person’s ability to exert themselves physically or concentrate on mental tasks.

At higher doses (6–12 grams of dried powder), kratom does a full reversal, and exhibits relaxing, potentially sleep-inducing effects. Traditionally, this side of kratom has been put to fairly diverse use. As mentioned, it can be used in the evenings just to help people relax.

However, kratom and its extracts have also been studied for their potential to impact pain, inflammation, depression, and more (Suhaimi, 2016), which is one of the reasons the plant has long been popular in Southeast Asian cultures.

Though it is capable of exhibiting stimulating and relaxing effects, kratom doesn’t alter sensory perception very much. But there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that higher doses might cause a slight change in vision and increased feelings of warmth and empathy toward others.

Related article

Top 8 Effects Of Kratom

Different types and colours of kratom

Different Types And Colours Of Kratom

There are myriad different strains of kratom—far too many to explore individually here. However, below we will list a few of the most common and popular ones.

Each strain of kratom is categorised according to the colour of its veins (the veins can be red, white, or green) as well as where the strain comes from, or some other designation (e.g. red Bali kratom or white Borneo kratom).

Red kratom

Red Kratom

Red vein strains are thought to be the most relaxing of all kratom varieties. Their red colouration is suspected to be the result of high levels of 7-hydroxymitragynine. As well as being very relaxing, red kratom strains are thought to be the fastest-acting, taking effect within around 20 minutes of consumption.

Popular red strains include:

White kratom

White Kratom

With some exceptions, white strains are generally thought to be the most stimulating. Traditionally, these varieties are used in the morning, similarly to a cup of coffee. They give energy to both the body and mind, helping with physical labour and concentration.

Popular white kratom strains include:

  • White Borneo kratom
  • White horn kratom
  • White maeng da kratom

Green kratom

Green Kratom

Green kratom is the most varied, offering both stimulating and relaxing effects, depending on the particular strain and the dose. Moreover, green strains are the most widely available and the cheapest, which also makes them the most commonly used.

Popular green kratom strains include:

  • Green Malay kratom
  • Green maeng da kratom
  • Green Vietnam kratom

How is kratom consumed?

How Is Kratom Consumed?

Kratom can be consumed in a number of ways. Traditionally, the fresh or dried leaves are chewed, which results in a gradual onset of effects. Kratom leaves can also be:

  • Dried and powdered (powder can be added to capsules or brewed into tea)
  • Dried and smoked
  • Brewed into a tea from fresh leaves
  • Extracted into a tincture

Related article

How To Make The Ultimate Kratom Tea

What are the side effects of kratom?

There are some notable side effects to consider with kratom. Whether you experience them, and how bad they are, can depend on dose, how often you use kratom, and your general constitution.

Side effects include:

  • Queasiness and nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhoea

Is kratom addictive?

Users can develop a kratom addiction (Eastlack, 2020). However, research into this plant is fairly scarce, and as such, it’s unclear how addictive this plant is, and what an addiction might look like. But it’s worth being very careful if you choose to use kratom, as it works on opioid receptors; opioid addictions are among some of the strongest, making them difficult to overcome.

Kratom: Is it worth trying?

Kratom: Is It Worth Trying?

Kratom is an interesting plant that offers an unusual and varied set of effects. This means that it has the potential to be used in a range of different situations. In Southeast Asia, it has been used for many generations, and is generally accepted in societies even when other narcotic substances are not.

That being said, it also has the potential to cause side effects and even addiction. Currently, the implications of this are unclear, but anyone looking to take an addictive drug should exercise extreme caution before doing so.

Max Sargent
Max Sargent
Max has been writing for over a decade, and has come into cannabis and psychedelic journalism in the last few years. Writing for companies such as Zamnesia, Royal Queen Seeds, Cannaconnection, Gorilla Seeds, MushMagic and more, he has experience in a broad spectrum of the industry.
  • Eastlack, Steven C., Cornett, Elyse M., Kaye, & Alan D. (2020, June). Kratom—Pharmacology, Clinical Implications, and Outlook: A Comprehensive Review -
  • Suhaimi FW, Yusoff NH, Hassan R, Mansor SM, Navaratnam V, Müller CP, & Hassan Z. (2016 Sep). Neurobiology of Kratom and its main alkaloid mitragynine -
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