What Is Kratom Oil And Why Is It Causing Such Issues ?

Mitragyna speciosa or kratom leaves with medicinal products in capsules and powder in white ceramic bowl and wooden table, top view
Photo by Yanawut Suntornkij. c/o www.123rf.com

Kratom is a plant (Mitragyna speciosa) that regularly finds its way into the news and usually for all the wrong reasons. The plant grows in South-East Asia where its leaves have been used for centuries as a psychotropic with significant pain relieving effects. These effects are likened to opioids but these properties have also led to health and safety issues.

The main active compounds of the plant are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.

There are a number of users who say that it not only alleviates chronic pain but also counters opioid addiction. As we often read in the press, addiction to these particular drugs is a major health issue in the USA particularly and there is a lot of effort being expended to counter the problem. Something like 2 million US citizens have opioid addiction issues !

The plant extract is used traditionally to treat various pains, cough, diarrhoea and tiredness/fatigue.

The drug is sold in the USA as a ‘natural’ supplement. It is illegal to describe it as a medical drug or dietary supplement which has been the case for many years. The rules are regularly flouted. Kratom is often found in powder form, as a tea or in capsules and is offered for sale by both online and retailers. The FDA have no approved uses for the kratom but they are evaluating it based on current research.

As many as five million Americans use the drug and that number is growing, according to the American Kratom Association.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) treat it as a ‘drug of concern’ because of its numerous safety issues and it is actually banned in a federal sense. The FDA is pushing for greater restrictions and has put an import alert on it, which means shipments entering the US can be confiscated. Clearly there is still plenty of confusion as to what is legal or not.

Kratom is banned for consumption in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, though Indonesia allows its export in an unprocessed form.

Alternative names For Kratom

thang, thom, ketum, biak, kakuam

Health And Safety Issues

Sources of kratom regularly turn up containing far too high levels of heavy metals such as lead and nickel. It’s a common issue with unregulated extracts brought in from countries illegally. Not only are heavy metals an issue, many extracts are contaminated with the deadly food poisoning microorganism Salmonella. A few outbreaks of salmonellosis in 2018 were traced to contaminated batches of kratom.

The FDA often have to send out warning letters to businesses who make claims for products whee no proof is provided. Already in June 2019, the FDA sent warning letters to two businesses – Cali Botanicals in Folsom, California and Kratom NC of Wilmington in North Carolina. These business were claiming to treat and cure opioid addiction and its withdrawal symptoms without providing any proof that kratom did so. The lack of proof means the two businesses were selling unapproved and misbranded drugs. The warning letters were explained to the public in an FDA news release. The companies have also made claims on the treatment of various medical conditions as well as pain such as cancer, depression and anxiety.

The type of claims being made were:-

  • “Kratom acts as a μ-opioid receptor-like morphine.”
  • “In fact many people use kratom to overcome opiate addiction.”
  • “Of course, people who are using kratom to overcome a preexisting opiate addiction may need to use kratom daily to avoid opiate withdrawal.”
  • “Usage: It is for the management of chronic pain, as well as recreationally.”
  • “Kratom is frequently used as a natural alternative to treat depression, anxiety, addiction, diabetes, chronic pain and fatigue…Kratom has been reported to have taken the place of brand name drugs like Hydrocodone or Oxycodone for individuals, all the way to weaning people off of Heroin.”
  • “Some researchers have even claimed that kratom can protect you against cancer!”
  • “Kratom is used for energy, to increase attention/focus, to relax, and also to treat pain and addiction. Here is just some of what our customers have used kratom to treat . . . Chronic Pain, Migraines, Opiate Addiction, ADHD/ADD, Anxiety, Depression, Arthritis, Insomnia and much more!”


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