The Origins of Kratom and Its Popularity in America

Mitragyna speciosa

Coffee, but not coffee. Could there possibly be an alternative to the world’s famous stimulant? – introducing Kratom, the Southeast Asian version of a natural energizer. 

For decades, natives of countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand prized the Mitragyna speciosa – Kratom – for its ability to soothe conditions of the mind and body. Though much clinical evidence on the plant is yet to surface in the botanical community, the history of Kratom reveals answers to some of its users’ most pressing concerns. 

There is no better way to understand the traditional uses of an herb than to trace its origins. Allow this article to take you there.

Origins of Kratom 

Rubiaceae evergreens like Kratom are deciduous plants that grow best under tropical climate conditions. Though its trees usually grow far past the canopy levels in rainforests, scientists noticed the emergence of a few Mitragyna plants in non-tropical regions in recent years. And while it may never grow to its full potential in cooler climates, the plant will still thrive so long as its roots anchor into nitrogen-rich, fertile soils. 

Not all countries grew the same kind of Kratom, though. The plant has at least four known strains ranging from green to white to red and yellow-veined leaves, each with its individual properties. Today, brands typically label their strains based on the countries of their origin. Take, for example, the Green Malay kratom, which comes from Malaysia. Or the Yellow Vein Vietnam kratom from Vietnam. Nevertheless, they all seem to have the same mood-enhancing effect in general.

Indeed, Kratom existed for thousands of years beyond history, but the earliest records of the plant date back to the 17th century during Dutch colonization. In the eastern hemisphere, particularly in Asia and perhaps some areas of Africa, Mitragyna served as an aid to lower-class workers. Journal entries from colonists prove claims of how the poor and peasant societies sought Kratom leaves to improve their states of being.

In what sense? For one, the peasants performed the highest degree of menial work on plantations or related contracts. The pay was low and hardly ever sufficient to afford the necessities of life. Painkillers were a luxury in the eyes of the unskilled. Yet, lack of painkillers did not equate to lack of pain. Fortunately, Kratom managed to do the trick with its opiate-like properties. The historic properties of Kratom are now being adopted by those looking to treat people who are opiate-dependent. With an uprising of Americans reporting an addiction to opiates, many are using kratom to quit opioids safely. 

But apart from its pain suppressing qualities, Kratom was worth much more. Those who chewed the raw leaves soon noticed boosts in their energy levels. Long working days under the sun became less challenging and less taxing on the body. Mitragyna quickly turned into a plant for the poor. 

During religious ceremonies, other natives and chiefs used Kratom leaves to induce euphoric feelings amidst their rituals. It was as if they gained a heightened sense of clarity through the stimulation of the herb. If you’re familiar with a coffee high, then imagine that sensation with merely the use of a plant. Today, research shows that the alkaloids in Kratom, mitragynine, and 7-hydroxymitragynine, deliver that same relief to the body from caffeine without the jittery after-effects. Tribes often prepared beverages with the plant to serve during these events, but the stimulation is even more significant in its dried leaves.

Just as today, Kratom leaves were usually bitter-tasting, and not every member of the community could put up with its flavor. While honey and refined sugars can easily make teas more appealing now, it is unlikely that societies in those days had any means to such condiments. 

And although intense medical studies did not exist in the past, one thing is sure: whenever people used Kratom, their moods and sociability would improve noticeably.

Kratom in the United States

As you can imagine, when the plant’s popularity increased steadily throughout the eastern continents, news reached the western world. With a sensational herb hitting the markets, more and more users able to buy kratom in the USA. Before long, Kratom arrived in the Americas as a “new” substitute for opioids. Products now come in powders, capsules, and chewable treats. The industry made it a long way.

But the international coverage did not spread so exponentially within the scientific communities. There’s still a lot of data unknown to both hemispheres about Mitragyna. Not enough publications are reaching the United States and Europe. Most Kratom sellers and distributors conduct their businesses online. And with a lack of scientific support, a few individual states and countries backed out of the Kratom craze. To be more specific, their legislature backed out. In 2013, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration decreed “no legitimate medical use for Kratom

Mitragyna is still famous for its euphoric attributes. Kratom reviews continue to boast of the plant’s gift in helping individuals cope with depression and anxiety. Only those who experience its rejuvenating effects can attest to its benefits – and side effects. Organizations are now forming to lobby for the re-legalization of Kratom use within the borders of California, Denmark, and New Zealand. 

For now, the most we can do is await new clinical results from the laboratories.

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