Kratom is rapidly gaining popularity in the western world due to its countless beneficial properties. Have you ever wondered how kratom is made and what happens before it reaches you? We’ve broken the process down. So, read on to find out.
The Origins and Cultivation
Kratom is a natural botanical specimen. It comes from a tree – Mitragyna speciosa from the Rubiaceae plant family. Mitragyna speciosa trees grow across Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Papua New Guinea.
Other locations like India and the Philippines may claim that they also have kratom. However, that’s not Mitragyna speciosa that we know as kratom.
There are a few different varieties of the Mitragyna tree. But, only one of them contains the alkaloids that make kratom the beneficial plant that we love. Other varieties of the Mitragyna tree such as Mitragyna hirsuta and Mitragyna javanica contain other alkaloids. They do not have the same properties as mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.
Mitragyna speciosa trees love heat and humidity and grow best in a tropical, hot, and humid climate.
Kratom trees mainly grow in the wild. However, in Indonesia, the primary exporter of kratom to the west, you can also come across farms where local growers cultivate kratom for production. This allows them to ensure steady and reliable production rates rather than compete with other harvesters for the same wild trees.
Many farmers and harvesters such as the ones we source our kratom from have been in the kratom trade for generations. However, there are also many newcomers. They’ve abandoned their usual crops and switched to kratom because it’s a more lucrative industry.
On the surface, it may seem like a positive thing. Nonetheless, many of the new farmers lack the experience and knowledge to work with kratom.
How Is Kratom Harvested?
Experienced farmers know when the best time to harvest kratom is to ensure that it’s rich in beneficial alkaloids.
Usually, farmers allow the trees to mature before starting to pick leaves from them. This ensures an optimal amount of beneficial alkaloids in the leaves, and it’s normally when the tree is about 2-5 years old. However, some strains may be picked earlier.
Some kratom strains are made from primarily wild trees whereas others may come from cultivated trees. Other strains may contain a combination of both. If, however, the trees have received plenty of humidity and heat, it doesn’t matter whether your kratom powder is made from wild or cultivated trees.
Farmers usually learn to detect when leaves are ready to be harvested. They then trim these leaves. Since kratom is an evergreen tree, it regrows new leaves, continuing the cycle.
Drying, Fermentation, and Grinding
Having picked the leaves, farmers thoroughly wash them to remove any dust, dirt, or debris that may have accumulated on them. This is a rather tedious yet essential step. After the leaves are dried and ground and the kratom powder is made, it is impossible to remove this contamination.
Next, the leaves undergo a closely monitored drying process. Each vein type requires a slightly different drying process that involves drying leaves in either direct sunlight or indoors or the combination of the two.
The process applied to each vein type varies as it promotes the development of different alkaloids. Certain alkaloids like 7-hydroxymitragnine continue to develop during the drying process.
Red vein strains usually get the most exposure to UV light, making them the richest in 7-hydroxymitragynine. Usually, the drying occurs in direct sunlight. Nonetheless, farmers can also use UV lamps for this process. Green vein strains dry outdoors under direct sunlight or indoors under potent UV lamps, followed by an indoor drying stage away from both heat and light.
White kratom strains are typically made by drying them indoors, without exposure to any UV light. To produce yellow kratom, farmers may also involve a fermentation process.
Each stage can take anywhere from a few hours to several days. Farmers usually keep the exact process of how each kratom strain and vein type is made secret, especially if they apply a method perfected throughout generations.
Grinding, Packing, and Shipping
Once the leaves are dry, farmers grind or crush them. Most kratom is available in a fine powder form. However, the original method involved crushing, and some buyers still prefer their kratom this way.
Finally, farmers packed kratom powder into large vacuum-sealed bags that they export to vendors like us. Usually, the process is relatively quick. Yet, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are delays in kratom production and shipping.
Despite being the largest kratom exporter to the rest of the world, Indonesia does not have regulations on kratom quality. It also does not require lab testing to verify that the exported kratom is free of contaminants and pathogens.
Therefore, lab testing is an essential step that kratom vendors within the US must take to ensure that what they import and offer for sale is pure and does not expose buyers to potential risks.
For accurate and objective results, vendors should use the services of independent third-party laboratories. They should send a sample of each batch and each strain that they receive.
Laboratories verify the content of the product such as the concentration of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine as well as the presence of mold yeast, salmonella, E.coli, heavy metals, and other pathogens.
After testing, the lab issues a document, usually called the Certificate of Analysis. Most vendors display those on their website so that customers can read lab test results and verify the quality and purity of the products before making a purchase.
When the vendor knows that their product has passed testing, they can then repackage their powder into their branded packaging and offer it for sale.