Traditional and folk medicine often use mildly psychoactive herbs to treat different conditions. But, only in small/diluted doses. Kratom is one such example.
Kratom is a plant common to Thailand, Malaysia, and pockets of Southeast Asia. Though the supplements are known for their analgesic, antidepressant, and stimulant properties, the herb’s safety graph is only trending down. Selling and possessing kratom may also be illegal in a few countries of the West (1), (2).
What exactly is the problem? What does kratom do to your body? Is it safe to be consumed? The answers are in this read. Scroll down to find out!
Table Of Contents
What Is Kratom?
In Southeast Asia, people chew the leaves of this tree or drink its tea. In small doses, it is considered to boost alertness, energy levels, and productivity (1). It is also a part of religious ceremonies and local rituals (1).
What Does Kratom Do To Your Body?
Traditional medicine uses kratom to treat diarrhea and rheumatism (pain). It is also used as a substitute for opium in managing opioid withdrawal (3).
These compounds interact with opioid receptors in the brain. One may experience dizziness, pleasure, and decreased pain only when kratom is taken in high doses (1). It is, therefore, illegal to possess or consume kratom in several countries (1).
Before getting to the side effects of this plant, here is a brief on its benefits.
What Are The Benefits Of Kratom?
- Increases alertness
- Boosts endurance
- Reduces pain (analgesic)
- Relieves muscle spasms
- Controls diarrhea
- Reduces fever (antipyretic)
- May manage diabetes
- Works as an aphrodisiac
- Fights fatigue, anxiety, PTSD, depression
- Suppresses hunger (may be beneficial for obese individuals)
- Evokes the feeling of euphoria
All these effects could be only when you stick to the intake limit. Within this limit, an optimal amount was what was used in traditional and folk medicine.
Kratom may also give you a natural high. But if you start using it in higher doses, you’ll experience an entirely different set of effects. Studies say that rather than treating withdrawal and addiction, this plant may lead to them (5).
Find out more in the following section.
What Are The Side Effects Of Using Kratom?
According to research, kratom may cause more harm than good. Whether you chew, smoke, or swallow it, high doses of this plant might be life-threatening. Here are a few case studies for your reference (2), (4):
- Animal studies with a prolonged dose of 200 mg/kg of kratom showed signs like dry mouth, anorexia, weight loss, skin darkening, and constipation. Aggression, hostility, inertia, and muscle and bone pain were also reported as withdrawal symptoms.
- A few cases of psychosis have also been recorded. A 55-year-old subject reported hallucinations, delusion, and cloudiness of consciousness while weaning off kratom.
- Liver injury is another side effect. Trials report an increase in triglycerides, cholesterol, and liver enzymes. Lab tests also show corresponding damage (hemorrhages) in healthy liver cells.
- After using kratom powder for 8 days, a patient developed intense abdominal pain, with brown discoloration of urine. This ultimately lead to jaundice and pruritus.
- Seizures, impaired retrieval of memory phases, and coma were also seen in subjects using kratom for opioid withdrawal.
- Overdose of kratom may also affect the kidneys and lungs and cause urine retention, edema, congestion, and toxicity.
- The psychoactive compounds of this plant can induce arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
- If used during pregnancy, the infant may experience symptoms of withdrawal after birth.
- High concentrations of kratom also caused accidental poisoning and death when it was taken with other drugs. This could be a possible case of herb-drug interaction.
Can There Be Drug Interactions With Kratom?
The active compounds of kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, are known to react with multiple drugs.
Synergistic effects are observed if kratom is used with benzodiazepines, alcohol, opioids, anxiolytics, and other drugs for the central nervous system (CNS) (6).
Above all, a safe dose range or a toxic threshold for the intake of kratom has not been established yet (4).
This is because there are sections in the society that are benefited with the use of kratom. Also, there needs to be further in-depth research and data to cement its status as a substance of abuse (2), (4).
However, the DEA issued a warning that Kratom “should not be used to treat medical conditions, nor should it be used as an alternative to prescription opioids.”
What’s The Verdict?
Its extract/tea/smoke is used to treat pain, fatigue, anxiety, etc. But many cases of overdose/abuse have been recorded too.
As the FDA does not find kratom safe, it is best to not self-medicate. Consult your healthcare provider to know more about kratom.
Unless prescribed, do not consume kratom or its supplements. If prescribed, adhere to the dosage.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Is it safe to mix alcohol and kratom?
Kratom and alcohol are similar. Both have psychoactive and stimulant effects on your CNS. Having them together will only worsen your condition. You should not be mixing kratom with alcohol.
- Kratom, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- 2Biochemical Benefits, Diagnosis, and Clinical Risks Evaluation of Kratom, Frontiers in Psychiatry, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Is kratom, the popular herbal supplement, dangerous? Vitals, TMC News, Texas Medical Center.
- Current perspectives on the impact of Kratom use, Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Kratom for opioid withdrawal: Does it work? Patient Care & Info, Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
- Kratom Fact Sheet for Healthcare Professionals, Arizona State Board of Nursing.
- Fatal combination of mitragynine and quetiapine – a case report with discussion of a potential herb-drug interaction. Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Mitragyna speciosa: Clinical, Toxicological Aspects and Analysis in Biological and Non-Biological Samples, Medicines, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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