Mitragyna speciosa is a tree that comes from Southeast Asia and is commonly known as Kratom. It has recently been gaining popularity in the West, with some people claiming its leaves have important health benefits.
Although scientific research is lacking, there appears to be some evidence to support these claims, as well as numerous risks that come with the consumption of Kratom tea.
Keep reading to learn more about Kratom, including its benefits and risks, as well as some alternatives.
As one studyTrusted Source explains, Kratom is an evergreen tree from the coffee family. It is native to Southeast Asia, and is cultivated in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Kratom goes by a variety of other names, such as ketum, biak-biak, and Maeng Da.
People have used Kratom in Southeast Asia for at least 150 years. Traditionally, workers would chew on the leaves for its stimulant effect. People would also brew kratom leaves into a tea, in order to relax and relieve pain.
To this day, Southeast Asian people still use Kratom for its stimulant and pain-relieving effects. Southeast Asian people also use Kratom:
- to suppress muscle spasms
- to treat diarrhea
- as a muscle relaxant
Recently, people in the West have started consuming Kratom, with Kratom concumption growing steadily. Some people do so for medicinal reasons, whereas others use Kratom recreationally.
Although some health bloggers have suggested that Kratom tea carries health benefits, there is very little reliable scientific evidence to support such claims.
However, surveys are based on self-reporting. This makes them inaccurate and more easily prone to bias.
Others have claimed that Kratom tea might help with symptoms of opioid withdrawal. This is because Kratom leaves contains mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, chemicals that interact with the opioid receptors in a person’s brain.
Animal studiesTrusted Source have shown that Kratom may improve opioid tolerance in mice. However, this does not necessarily mean that similar effects would occur in humans.
A good deal of scientific evidence suggests that Kratom use carries significant health risks.
For example, researchTrusted Source from Southeast Asia has shown that Kratom’s stimulant and opioid-like effects can lead to addiction and dependency issues in some people. Indeed, Kratom abuse comes with a host of withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- muscle spasms
- appetite loss
- runny eyes and nose
- mood swings
- disturbed sleep
Kratom is also toxic in higher doses. ScientistsTrusted Source have reported a wide variety of serious symptoms of Kratom abuse, including:
- acute liver failure
- acute kidney injury
- damage to the heart muscle
- acute lung injury
- acute respiratory distress syndrome
- cognitive impairment
- acute brain injury
In some cases, Kratom use has been fatal. However, it is likely that most Kratom-related fatalities were caused by Kratom use alongside other drug use.
There is also some evidenceTrusted Source that Kratom dependence does not negatively impact social functioning. This makes it different from other addictive drugs, such as alcohol and opioids, which can seriously hinder a person’s ability to function socially.
Because Kratom use can be dangerous, it is a criminalized substance in Ireland, Poland, Romania, and in the Nordic and Baltic States. Kratom is legal in many other parts of Europe, and in most of the United States.
Anyone who has taken Kratom and who experiences some of its side effects should immediately contact a doctor.
This is especially important for people who are new to Kratom, as they may not realize that they have taken a potentially harmful dose.
The kratom tree belongs to the coffee family. Like Kratom leaves, many people use coffee beans as a stimulant.
Drinking coffee, however, is likely to be a much safer stimulant choice than Kratom tea. Scientists have done a lot of research on coffee, with one recent reviewTrusted Source describing coffee consumption as mostly harmless.
In fact, the review even suggests that high coffee consumption can be beneficial to people’s health. It may lower peoples’ risk of developing certain cancers, neurological conditions, liver conditions, and metabolic conditions.
As for opioid withdrawal, many over-the-counter medications are effective in helping with its effects. Unlike Kratom tea, these medications are well understood by doctors and scientists alike.
Kratom has been used and consumed by Southeast Asian people for a long time. However, the health benefits of Kratom are unknown.
Meanwhile scientists have plenty of evidence that Kratom carries health risks, especially in higher doses.
Although some health gurus profit from creating excitement around natural remedies, it is important to follow the science when thinking about alternative medicines.