Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tropical tree that’s native to Southeast Asia, where kratom leaves have been used for hundreds of years in traditional medicine. Traditionally, the leaves were chewed whole- now, it’s more common to find kratom leaves ground into a powder, sold either as a raw powder or put into capsules.
Kratom trees are part of the coffee family. The alkaloids within kratom leaves allow kratom to have a range of effects on the body, from relaxing to energizing, depending on the type of kratom used. The two alkaloids that seem to be most important in giving kratom its effects are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.
How Does Kratom Work?
Kratom is able to have an effect on the body because of alkaloids present in kratom leaves. The active alkaloids are believed to interact with mu-opioid receptors in the brain, receptors that are responsible for sensing pain. Opiates, a class of drugs that includes pain relievers like Oxycontin, also interact with mu-opioid receptors, but much more intensely. Because kratom has a more mild interaction with the same receptors, it is able to have a similar- but much less powerful- effect to an opiate. To be clear, kratom is not an opiate nor does it contain opiates. It is merely known for providing similar effects.
There haven’t been very many studies on kratom and how it works and until further research is completed, there is a distinct lack of information on the exact mechanics by which kratom works.