What is Kratom? What are its benefits and side effects?

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is traditionally used as a medicinal plant in Kalimantan and other mainland Southeast Asia such as Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar. A scientific study reveals that kratom has become a plant consumed by the people of southern Thailand and northern Malaysia. Kratom is believed to help reduce pain, relax, prevent fatigue, and help opium addicts to quit. Its benefits have been heard around the world until it is very popular in the United States. 

However, the legality of kratom is currently being questioned by many countries, and Indonesia through the National Narcotics Agency is processing kratom into Group I drugs. So, what are the benefits, side effects, and risks of consuming kratom based on studies? We will discuss them in this post. Just keep reading!

Before discussing the benefits and risks, it’s good to know what kratom is. Kratom is still in the same family as coffee (Rubiaceae). This tropical plant can grow up to 4 to 16 meters tall. Kratom farmers usually take advantage of its leaves that have a width exceeding the palm of an adult’s hand. So far, there are around 300,000 farmers in Kalimantan who rely on kratom for their livelihoods. In one day, three farmers can pick 200 kilograms of kratom leaves which, if dry, will shrink to a tenth. The dried leaves are then formed into crumbs to resemble dried green tea leaves. 

Benefits and side effects of kratom based on studies 

Many scientific journals have researched and studied the benefits and side effects of kratom-based products especially kratom capsules. In the journal entitled Biochemical Benefits, Diagnosis, and Clinical Risk Evaluation of Kratom, published in the National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI), April 2017 edition, experts from the US found that kratom side effects depend on the dose of use. The study, conducted by Dimy Fluyau of Emory University of Atlanta, and Neelambika Revadigar of Columbia University of New York, reviewed 195 research articles on kratom from 2007 to 2017 to analyze the benefits, risks, and evaluation of kratom diagnosis. Data analysis shows that kratom has several benefits, such as stimulant and sedative effects, and reduces pain. 

“However, kratom can cause intrahepatic cholestasis (a condition that affects liver bile flow), seizures, arrhythmias, impaired memory function, coma, and death,” wrote the experts in their report. In addition, kratom also has a psychological and medical impact. Psychologically, kratom triggers euphoria and feelings of relaxation towards severe symptoms such as aggression, hostility, and psychosis. While the medical manifestations described are polyuria, convulsions, dry mouth, and vomiting. Polyuria is a condition in which the amount of urine produced is too much, causing the sufferer to urinate frequently. 

“Individuals who consume kratom in large doses are at risk of poisoning and receiving adverse effects from kratom, especially for those who also consume excess alcohol. And serious toxicity is rare, usually after consuming high doses,” wrote the experts in their report.

Meanwhile, another study found that the use of kratom routinely or in a period can cause addiction and dependence. Symptoms of withdrawal include anorexia, muscle pain and spasms, pain in bones and joints, runny eyes / nose, burning sensation, fever, decreased appetite, diarrhea, hallucinations, delusions, mental confusion, emotional disturbances, and insomnia. The researchers wrote, kratom has effects like narcotics and can cause addiction.

However, most experts argue that as long as the level of kratom consumption is limited to a safe level, the benefits will outweigh the risks. This sounds classic. Any substance, not just kratom, if consumed in excess will carry a number of health risks.

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