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Sensi Magazine

Kray-Kray: This Plant Heals

Jan 02, 2019 03:31PM

Bloom* found a young man selling kratom tea and powder at a farmers’ market and bought some to try during his nightly sunset walk on the beach. He washed down a teaspoon of the powder with grapefruit juice, as he’d been instructed to do, and sat down in the white sand to watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. After about 45 minutes, euphoria and tranquility settled over him. His shoulders relaxed, and his mental acuity sharpened as a warm sense of well being washed through his mind and body. He enjoyed the kratom’s effects for several hours, and when he returned home immediately embarked on an extensive research project to better understand this plant.

“Kratom seems like one of the safest botanicals I have run across,” Bloom concluded, but he had to wade through a lot of scare-mongering headlines and propaganda about the plant before he got there. A member of the coffee family, kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) has been used in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand for centuries to manage pain and boost energy, but is under siege in the United States and other countries. The Drug Enforcement Administration considered making it a Schedule 1 drug in 2017, though it backtracked after a passionate campaign by kratom users (who call themselves kratomites) to keep it legal.

Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, Denver, San Diego, and Sarasota, Florida, have banned kratom. It’s available at head shops in most other states and is readily available online, though it is not to be sold for human consumption because it has not been through the Food and Drug Administration’s extensive testing to ensure it’s safe.

Bloom believes authorities are vilifying kratom because of “ignorance and fear of the unknown and a general knee-jerk reaction to any natural product that people take a keen interest in because it may have euphoric effects.” Most kratomites agree that, like cannabis, kratom is misunderstood and misrepresented in the media. Some also take the cynical view that pharmaceutical companies oppose it because it has the potential to replace opiates with a less expensive, safer, and cheaper alternative that is too easily accessible to develop into a high-profit medicine.

Kratom was blamed in a string of overdose deaths a few years ago, and those headlines are what prompted the DEA’s move to outlaw it. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that most of the victims had other substances, including synthetic opioids,in their systems when they died and there were other underlying causes.

As Murray A. Holcomb, MD, an acute care surgeon at Seton Healthcare Family Center in Round Rock, Texas, explained in Clinical Psychiatry News: “Kratom is a partial agonist. It doesn’t make you euphorically high, it doesn’t make you quit breathing, and you don’t really have any withdrawal symptoms, and no one is going to overdose on a natural plant because it will make them sick to their stomach.”

“Remarkably Low Risk of Serious Adverse Effects”
Kratom leaves contain alkaloids, including mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, that scientists believe act as agonists at the human opioid receptor. Studies have found it can be helpful in treating analgesia, inflammation, depression, anxiety, and opioid withdrawal.

Like synthetic opioids, kratom also slows food’s movement through the digestive tract, which is why it’s been used in Thailand and Indonesia as a traditional remedy for stomach aches and diarrhea. (I can attest to this. Since I started drinking a protein shake made with kratom powder every day, gastrointestinal issues that had plagued me for years have cleared up. It feels like a miracle.) On the flip side of that, overuse or overdose can cause stomach upset and vomiting in some people.

According to a 127-page analysis by the drug policy consulting group Pinney Associates, kratom’s effects are generally mild and caffeine stimulant-like at lower dosages. “Consumption does not typically interfere with work or social activities and commitments,” the group observed in recommending kratom be regulated as a natural supplement like St. John’s wort or valerian under the Food and Drug Administration’s Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. “There appears to be remarkably low risk of serious adverse effects from kratom consumption as compared to opioids and other common drugs of abuse,” the group stated.

Green, red, and white strains of the plant are available, and each offers slightly different effects. Those effects are also dose-dependent. In limited doses (1 to 3 grams), kratom boosts energy, clarity, and focus much like coffee. At larger doses (10 to 25 grams), it is much more opiate-like, bringing on sedation and psychoactive effects, even hallucinations are reported, though rarely. A typical dose is 1 to 8 grams. When you start to approach 10 grams, Joe Rogan explained in a recent podcast: “This will fuck you up, this stuff.”

For Bloom, who has come to the conclusion that less is more with kratom, 1.5 to 2.5 grams swallowed in capsules in the evening is just right. He doesn’t enjoy the taste of kratom and citrus juice in the “toss and wash” method many people use to ingest it, and he also finds dosing more accurate and predictable with capsules.

“I think it’s important for everyone to do their own research and draw their own conclusions,” Bloom says. “A good place for people to start is on Reddit. People should spend a bunch of time on the message boards there, where they will learn from the best source of data the people who actually use it.”

I N   L I M I T E   D D O S E S ,   K R A TO M   B O O S T S   E N E R G Y,   C L A R I T Y,   A N D   F O C U S .   A T L A R G E R   D O S E S ,   I T ’ S   M U C H   M O R E   O P I A T E - L I K E ,   W I T H   S E D AT I V E   A N D   P S Y C H O A C T I V E   E F F E C T S ,   E V E N   H A L L U C I N A T I O N S.


R E D - V E I N strains—the most popular and widely available are calming and sedating.
W H I T E - V E I N strains are more stimulating and energizing.
G R E E N - V E I N strains enhance focus and energy, but are a bit more subtle.
P U R P L E usually refers to a blend of several strains, usually with all three colors.

Most strains also indicate the name of the country or region where the strain originated. Some popular names are Bali, Malaysia, Indo, Thai, Sumatra, Borneo, and Maeng da. Much like cannabis, kratom’s many different strains have different effects on every individual, so experimenting is the best way to find the right one for you. Some generalities do apply.

Extractions for Potency and Tripping
Kratom can also be blended into other food or brewed into tea. For more psychoactive effects, kratomites extract the alkaloids and partial mu opioid agonists using alcohol and/or heat, just like cannabis users extract cannabinoids. Extracts are much more potent than pure raw powder, which generally delivers few if any psychoactive effects, and should be taken in much smaller doses.

Many experts believe extracts are more addictive and suggest avoiding them, as Bloom does, because he prefers the natural product, literally ground leaves from the trees, usually harvested by small family businesses deep in the rainforests of southeast Asian countries.

Although rare in the United States, some users in Thailand looking to get high make a kratom cocktail called a 4x100, a mixture of dried kratom leaves, cough syrup, Coca-Cola, and ice that’s popular there, where kratom has been illegal since 1943 (which has more to do with boosting opium taxes than anything else). Because these are often adulterated with things like tranquilizers, methamphetamine, opiates, benzodiazepines, and even DEET mosquito repellent (a required ingredient in many recipes), these cocktails have done a lot to contribute to kratom’s bad name, even though most users in the United States consume it in simple, natural, and safe powder and tea form.

It’s up to everyone who benefits from kratom to fight back when the government and media make inaccurate statements and vilify the plant, Bloom says. “After doing your own research and getting comfortable that it is a good thing for you and society at large write your Congress members, spread the word, and correct misinformation out there whenever you can.”