Kratom is an herbal supplement that has gained widespread popularity and acquired a huge following across the globe. In the United States alone, there are approximately 15 million users, according to the American Kratom Association (AKA). This number is just expected to rise as more and more people become interested in the effects of kratom. But what exactly is it and where did it come from?
What is Kratom?
Kratom, or also known as Mitragyna Speciosa, is a tropical evergreen tree that is indigenous to Southeast Asia. Its leaves are harvested, processed, and turned into powder, which is what people usually see. But it is also available in capsule and extract form.
Using kratom depends on the individual. For many, they turn to it to help manage pain or as a treatment for their opioid withdrawal symptoms. Others use it as a recreational drug and some use it to improve certain areas of their lives.
Kratom leaves are known to contain two compounds: Mitragynine and 7-a-hydroxy mitragynine. Mitragynine affects the other receptor systems of your brain. So when the plant is taken in small amounts, it produces stimulant effects. Kratom can have slightly varying affects for every individual.
History of Kratom: Where Did it Come From?
It has been at least 150 years since the first use of kratom was recorded in Southeast Asia. Specifically, it was documented in scientific writing dating back to 1836. In these writings, it was said that Malays used the leaves of the plant as an opium substitute. There were also reports of natives using the plant for socio-religious ceremonies.
In Thailand and Malaysia, kratom was used primarily by manual laborers and field workers to endure the harsh and often hot and humid climate conditions of these regions. Thai locals used kratom leaves as part of their ritual in worshiping their ancestors. The locals would combine them with something sweet and give it out as a snack before the ritual.
History of Kratom as an Opium Alternative
It was mentioned in early literature that from the 1830s to the 1920s, opium was extremely popular in Thailand and Malaysia. The governments of these countries even taxed kratom as it was seen as an opportunity to increase their sources for tax revenue. However, since it was too expensive for the poorer population in Southeast Asia, kratom became an instant hit with many natives observed to be chewing it all day.
Regulations on Kratom Over the Years
When understanding the history of kratom, it’s also important to note some of the restrictions and prohibitions passed by local governments to control this evergreen tree. Here are some of the most notable ones from some of the countries where it is grown:
- Poisons Act 1952 in Malaysia: Using and consuming kratom is prohibited in Malaysia. However, since the plant naturally grows in the area, its use is still very much prevalent. Tea concoctions remain readily available in their local communities.
- Kratom Act 2486 in Thailand: This act made it illegal to plant kratom trees and it requires all existing trees to be cut down. But in 2010, the Thai Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) recognized the tree as part of their culture and it saw the restriction unnecessary and faulty. It was also observed that decades of kratom use did not have any social impact.
- 2019 announcement to farmers in Indonesia: While domestic use is banned in their country, Indonesia is still the world’s largest exporter and grower of kratom. However, this could end in 2024 since the country’s Ministry of Health issued a ban on kratom farming in 2019. This may even come earlier as the country moved the ban from 2024 to 2022. Their new regulation also calls for a 5-year transition period that will provide kratom farmers time to shift to other crops.
In the United States, kratom is mostly legal except for Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. It’s also illegal in San Diego, California, Sarasota County of Florida, and many counties and cities in Mississippi. Furthermore, it is regulated in Utah by the state’s Kratom Consumer Protection Act.
Kratom naturally grows in some countries in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea. However, 95% of today’s supply comes from Indonesia. But with the latest regulation coming from the country, this may change very soon. If the ban on exporting kratom takes full effect, users can expect higher prices in the future.
However, since there are still people in the Indonesian government who are fighting to keep kratom legal, there’s nothing definite yet. So in the meantime, vendors and users can still freely purchase kratom products. Just make sure that you use kratom responsibly and that you purchase only from reputable and reliable sources such as Kratom USA.