Providing straightforward information pertaining to drugs, drug use & drug policy. The Grey Pages promotes drug-related literacy and advocates a system of viable and tolerant drug policies. This is my personal collection of commentaries, essays, tid-bits, and other such writings on everything ranging from drug use, drug policy and drug-myths, to drug-science, addiction, human behavior, and the workings of the human brain. I started this blog with a particular focus on opioids, and over the past year have found my interest gravitate toward the intriguing, ever-changing world of designer intoxicants (i.e. "research chemicals" or "designer drugs").

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kratom Pt 1 - What is Kratom?

(Also known as mitragyna speciosa, ketum, and korth)

Kratom is a plant of the rubiaceae species. The Rubiaceae family is a large species of flowering plants which include the coffea plant - the shrub or small tree from which coffee beans and coffee originate - and of course, kratom.

Rubiaceae plants, like kratom, thrive in the warm, tropical climates of southeast asia, and are a major world export product in many of these countries. Kratom occurs naturally in the lush jungle and rainforests, and is cultivated by peasant farmers. Major sources include Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, & Bali; all in Tropical Southeast Asia


Kratom is a medicinal leaf of the the plant known botanically as Mitragyna Speciosa, a tree of the Rubiaceae family (which includes the coffee bean plant). It was originally discovered by the Dutch botanist Pieter Korthals.

The trees may grow as high as 12 to 30 feet, and occasionally higher (some have been known to grow two to three times higher). The plant produces unique looking flowers; which grow in clusters and appear as globular bright yellow heads composed of dozens of florets. The leaves are very large, typically growing up to 7 inches long and 4 inches wide. The leaves are alkaloid rich and are the source of the plant's psychotherapeutic properties.

Kratom is used for its stimulating, relaxing, and painkilling properties. The kratom leaf contains several alkaloids of the indole variety, some of which share properties similar to tryptamine compounds such as yohimbine as well as the opiate compounds such as codeine or morphine. Though not related to the opium poppy, a number of kratom's alkaloids are pharmacologically active as opioid agonists, sharing some pharmacology similar to morphine.


Though there are dozens of active alkaloids which contribute to kratom's pharmacological effect, a small handful have been shown to play a significant role in its subjective effects. Kratom's active alkaloids include 7-Hydroxymitragynine, a potent opoid agonist; Mitragynine, a mild opiate agonist and a2-adrenergic agonist; and Mitragynine Psuedoindoxyl, delta agonist. It was believed at one time that kratom's opiate effects were produced primarily by mitragynine, but more recently it was discovered that the much more potent alkaloid 7-hydroxymitragynine is likely the main source of these effects.

Kratom's alkaloids contribute to its pharmacology in the following ways: The major opioid compound 7-Hydroxymitragynine, occurs in small quantities, and acts as a strong opioid agonist binding fairly selectively to mu receptors. Mitragynine is present in the greatest concentration, it exhibits pronounced adrenergic and delta receptor activity in lower doses, but acts more heavily at the mu receptor as doses progress. Mitragynine Psuedoindoxyl is a fairly selective delta receptor agonist and occurs as a degradation product of mintragynine.

7-HydroxyMitragynine is believed to be responsible
for the opiate-like effects of the kratom leaf
Receptor binding assays have shown 7-hydroxymitragynine to act mainly at mu receptors, with a relatively weak affinity for delta and kappa receptors (kratom's delta receptor effects are believed to come from mitragynine and perhaps other alkaloids) Though 7-HM is present in kratom leaf in very small quantities, it has higher affinity than morphine at mu receptors and as an analgesic is 17x more potent by weight.

More information on the pharmacology of these alkaloids can be found here.

Leaf, Powder, Resin, Etc

Kratom is most commonly, and least expensively, sold in leaf form; available as the whole leaf, crushed leaf, or powdered leaf. The more finely ground and concentrated the form, the more potent and less bulky the product, which allows more convenient consumption and eliminates the need to consume many large leaves. Manufacturers now produce various varieties of plant matter, available under different names such as "premium" or "super" grade leaf powder - these can be confusing to consumers, however the fancy terms are simply marketing tactics for different grades of powder consistency; some rough, some fine, some super fine. Manufacturers and vendors sift some of these powders once or more to produce fine consistency. A popular leaf powder known as "premium commercial" is simply a mixture of commercial grade powder and a fine "premium" grade powder. As with most other substances, refining the consistency of kratom powder improves the GI tract's absorbtion of the product.

15X Kratom Extract
More recently, kratom extracts have been produced, increasing potency and price, while decreasing bulk. Extracts do not contain plant material, but are simply an 'extracted' resinous material (powder or tar-like) containing numerous alkaloids. The "full spectrum" extract is a traditional powderized extract which contains the whole spectrum of kratom's active alkaloids, rather than a more specific or concentrated extract which might contain only certain major alkaloids. Another popular extract is the "15x" extract. This does not mean that the product is "15 times stronger" than the leaf, but that it is 15x more refined, meaning 15 times higher of a concentration. A 15x powder represents in simple terms - "the potency of kratom leaf in 1/15th the bulk" - Therefore, 1 kilogram of the 15x powder represents 15 kilos of the whole leaf powder.

Again, extracts do not include plant material, but are water or alcohol extracted resins available in powders, infused powders, and solid-sticky tars.

More recently, a pure liquid solution of 7-Hydroxymitragynine (the potent opioid compound), has become available for purchase, and is sold through a few reputable internet vendors as a research chem.

I am short on time at the moment; I will continue once I return, with the various strains of kratom leaf, and the effects of kratom its various strains and forms.


  1. This sounds like a very interesting plant. Here in the northern U.S. we have an indigenous water lily that contains Apomorphine, which is to the best of my knowledge a powerful opiod agonist. It is also from what limited source material I have apparently many times more potent than morphine sulfate. Have you heard of this species?

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