It’s important that people understand the history of Kratom, so we’d like to provide a brief history on where it comes from…
Mitragyna Speciosa (Kratom), is an indigenous tree native to Southeast asia, typically found in Thailand and Indonesia. The plant grows naturally and can grow to over 30 feet. It’s preferred environment is hot and humid, with rich soil, in areas that do not have cold winters. When Kratom was discovered by Dutch botanist Peter Willem Korthals, he identified and classified the plant. His journal ‘Observasions de Nauclais Indicis’ is the first written official documentation of Mitragyna Speciosa. Later a British surgeon known as George Darby Haviland, confirmed Peter Willem’s documents about the plant. Of course those are only the formal discoveries made by the west, the plant was known in the east for hundreds of years previously. The exact date that it was discovered by modern man, remains a mystery.
The unique properties that Kratom has are contained within it’s leaves and are the heart of the ongoing research. Due due to wide variety of alkaloids, there is high potential for the discovery of useful medical compounds.
Kratom’s original home is Thailand and had been used by workers in the field for hundreds of years. It was used similarly to the way modern office workers enjoy Coffee and Tea, especially in the mornings. Farmers have to be up early in the mornings, and they found Kratom to be a beneficial tool to help them through the long 12-16 hour work days. It grows naturally all over southeast asia, so it was abundant, cheap and effective. Kratom tea quickly became one of the most popular beverages throughout South East Asia’s working class. For a long time it was a part of the culture of laborers, and was deeply embedded in their traditions and customs.
In the early 1900’s Opium use in Asia, particularly China, was in full swing. Addiction was rampant and it became a cash cow for local governments, who filled their coffers taxing opium sales. The late 1930’s was a tumultuous time for Siam (Modern Day Thailand). Political dissidents were being arrested in mass, newspapers and media were censored and a growing blackmarket of trade was burgeoning under the oppressive military government. The Thai government was seeking more and more funds to fight both domestic revolutionists and international wars. Opium sales were on the decline as the local populace was weaning themselves off by substituting with Kratom. Seeing a decline in tax revenue the decision was made to make Kratom illegal as it was not being taxed at all and directly competing with the lucrative Opium market. So in 1943 “The Kratom Act” was passed, effectively making Kratom illegal, and has lasted until today. However, there is currently legislation under review in Thailand that effectively legalizes Kratom again.
Modern research on Kratom has been slow due to it’s lack of popularity in the west. However, in recent years as more people are discovering Kratom, research has begun to pick up at a much faster pace. Currently there are more than 25 alkaloids that have been identified within the Kratom plant, which gives researchers hope of finding new compounds for fighting disease. The specific indole alkaloids that are of most interest are mitragynine and its analogues, speciogynine, paynantheine and speciociliatine. While there is many other alkaloids present mitragynine represents 66% of the total alkaloid compounds.
There is currently a battle between governments and the Kratom community, to find a legal middle ground. Governments are afraid that Kratom is too similar to opiates and will lead to addiction, while it’s users see it as a natural remedy that often replaces the need for addictive, side-effect ridden opiates. A few countries have outright banned Kratom, including Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Australia and Malaysia. However, it’s legal in most countries and is generally regarded as a kind of tea and not regulated in any form, like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, India and China. As research becomes more readily available, the Kratom community is hopeful that governments will see that it’s a benefits far outweigh and downsides and provides a much needed alternative to pharmaceuticals. Currently it’s gaining a lot of popularity in the US as a tool in the fight against the opioid crisis that is currently endemic in the US.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Kratom, one of the better resources is the r/kratom community on Reddit. There are over 30,000 users, who share their stories and experiences with Kratom and it really has it’s finger on the beating pulse of the community.