How can the leaves from a tropical Southeastern Asian tree (Mitragyna speciose) be cause for so much concern? The reason for the concern is not about the tree, but rather the herbal product produced by said tree – kratom. Kratom is designed to act as a stimulant when taken in small doses, and when taken in larger doses, it acts as a sedative. It’s available in multiple forms: pill, capsule, extract, tea leaves or powder. Although there is no national regulation of the herbal supplement, several states have banned its usage, and it is not regulated by the FDA.

The Effects of Kratom Use

Users of it report opioid-like effects similar to morphine or codeine, making the supplement desirable to those wanting to use it to curb opiate withdrawal and manage chronic pain. That is because matragynine, the active ingredient in kratom, binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, resulting in pain relief. While this sounds like an appealing option to those seeking relief from opioid dependence, depression, anxiety, inflammation, pain, lack of energy (just to name a few symptoms that kratom claims to alleviate) we recommend you speak with a physician prior to experimenting with this substance.

That’s exactly what kratom is, a dietary supplement zero regulation with respect to safety and its effectiveness for the treatment of any medical conditions. In fact, those who have tried kratom have reported adverse side effects including nausea, sweating, loss of appetite, constipation and hallucinations; just to name a few. In severe cases, kratom has been linked to death (overdose), while it is important to note that in most cases other substances such as alcohol, caffeine, benzodiazepines, fentanyl and cocaine were involved. Just like opioids, kratom has been linked to addictive behavior, with users experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms include muscle aches, insomnia, emotional changes, high blood pressure and psychosis.

The Bottom Line

Supporters claim the substance has allowed them to effectively manage their pain without the need of using opioids. While it may be tempting to try kratom given some of the positive effects on the brain and body that have been reported, it’s important to emphasize that scientific research is extremely limited. There is no specific medical treatment to treat kratom addiction. Behavioral therapy has been reported to be helpful, but more research needs to be conducted to identify an effective treatment protocol. Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence showing if it is either safe or effective for the purposes that people are using it for. While the jury is still out on the idea of using kratom to control withdrawal cravings and other medical conditions, the scientific community agrees that further research is warranted to determine its safety in both the short and long-term.