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Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD

Scientific Name:

Mitragyna speciosa

Botanical Family:


Other Common Names:

Biak-biak, giam, gra-tom, kadamba. ketum, akuam, kraton, ithang, lugub, thom, mambog, puri (Pantano et al, 2016; Quattrocchi, 2012).

Common names in Spanish:


Parts of the plant used:

Principally the leaves.

Where is it found?

Kratom is a medium-sized tree that is native to Southeast Asia, but related species can be found in tropical Africa.

How is it used?

  • The leaves are steeped in hot water to make a tea (with honey or other sweeteners in order to reduce its bitter taste), as well as heated and pounded to be applied externally as poultices, or pulverized and taken as capsules.
  • The leaves are smoked and can also be chewed fresh or dried.
  • Some botanical supplements may contain kratom alone or in combination with other plants.

What is it used for?

  • The leaves contain various active ingredients (mainly alkaloids) that are hallucinogenic, and can cause psychosis, stimulation (euphoria), and sedation as well.
  • Additionally, the active ingredients contained in the plant have analgesic, astringent, stimulant, and tonic actions.
  • The plant has been popularly used as a substitute for opium, but has been banned in various countries across the globe due to the potentially addictive nature of some of its components
  • Kratom contains chemical substances that possess analgesic or sedative effects.
  • The chemical compounds contained in kratom could potentially be a promising new generation of novel pain relievers.
  • Kratom preparations are also used in Asia as local anesthetics, as well as to treat various health problems such as hypertension, diabetes, dysentery, gastrointestinal parasites, and stomachaches.
  • The leaves are also applied externally as poultices, alone to treat wounds or in combination with other medicinal plants for the abnormal enlargement of the spleen.
  • Natives in various Asian countries consume the leaves for their stimulant ability, as well as to combat fatigue and as a substitute for opium.
  • The plant chemicals exert a morphine-like effect at high doses.
  • Kratom has also been used as a treatment against opium addiction.
  • Products made from this plant are used in Thailand and Malaysia to treat various health problems, including intestinal worms, cough, diabetes, hypertension, chronic musculoskeletal pain, and gastroenteritis.
  • The leaves are also used to reduce fever, and for its anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects.
  • Even though the plant has been proven to possess important medicinal applications, the irresponsible “recreational” use of kratom, alone or in combination with other substances (including caffeine, alcohol, and certain pharmaceutical drugs), has spread to various countries around the world, including the United States.
  • Reports from Thailand mention that a combination (“cocktail”) of kratom with various other chemical substances, including certain pharmaceuticals, has caused various deaths.
  • Additionally, in Sweden, a product purportedly containing kratom as well as caffeine, and a pharmaceutical analgesic, caused the death of nine people.

Mitragyna speciosa leaf and flowers
Photo: images
Mitragyna speciosa leaf and flowers


Safety / Precautions


  • The irresponsible use of kratom can lead to severe adverse health effects, especially when the plant is consumed along with alcohol and / or other drugs for “recreational purposes”.
  • Various researchers mention that due to the increasing concern in various countries regarding the plant’s abuse potential, it is necessary to undertake a judicious assessment of its possible benefits and hazards (Warner et al., 2016; Brown et al., 2017).
  • Kratom’s potential side effects could offset its benefits, since it can cause serious physiological and psychological health hazards that could potentially be fatal.
  • Fatal intoxications usually do not involve ingesting kratom alone, but in combination with various other products, including certain adulterants and medications.

Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with your health care professional first. Avoid self-diagnosis and self-medication: Always be on the safe side!



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