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What Is Kratom: Strains, Properties, and Interesting Facts

What Is Kratom

A frequent news buzz, kratom is not short of attention. You may come across lots of conflicting information about it and wondering what it is and what’s the big deal about it.

Passionate about the herb, we’re here to break down kratom details for you.

So, What Exactly Is Kratom?

Kratom, scientifically known as Mitragina speciosa, is a tropical plant from the coffee, Rubiaceae, family. It is indigenous to Southeast Asia and thrives in countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea.

Mitragyna speciosa is an evergreen tree that grows up to 82 feet in height. Its leaves are dark green and have a glossy surface. Mature leaves are approximately 5-8 in long and 3-5 in wide. These trees also flower. Flowers are bright yellow and have the shape of a mace.

Kratom History

In Southeast Asia, people have known about the beneficial properties of Mitragyna speciosa for centuries. The working class used it as a natural remedy to boost energy during a hard workday as well as to relieve colds, soreness, and help with other issues and conditions.

Some sources also indicate the possible use of this beneficial plant in socio-religious ceremonies, as well.

Despite its long history in Southeast Asia, the word about Mitragyna speciosa reached the west only in the mid-19th century. That was when a Dutch colonial botanist first described it. After that, scientists changed its scientific name a few times until they settled on its current name a couple of decades later.

The kratom name in Latin is Mitragyna speciosa. There is no certain data on where the name “Mitragyna” originated from. Yet, there are a few speculations. Some believe that the Dutch scientists named it after the bishop’s miter because the shape of kratom leaves and flower stigmas resemble it.

Others suggest that it’s a reference to Mithraism. It was a mystery religion and cult in the Roman Empire that worshipped the god Mithras and rivaled Christianity.

“Speciosa”, on the other hand, is a much simpler term. Translated from Latin it means “brilliant,” “splendid”, “spectacular”, or “impressive.”

There are seven different tree species in the Mitragyna family. Mitragyna speciosa is just one of them. Yet none of them has quite the same properties as the speciosa species does.

Why is it so?

Kratom Alkaloids

Most of the herb’s properties are due to its two primary alkaloids. They are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Mitragynine is the most abundant in Mitragyna speciosa whereas 7-hydroxymitragynine has the highest potency.

Nonetheless, there’s a lot more to Mitragyna speciosa than these two alkaloids. At the moment, scientists have identified that there are more than 40 active components and 25 of them are alkaloids.

Mitragyna speciosa alkaloid content and composition can vary depending on various factors such as:

  • vein and strain type,
  • the geographic location,
  • time of year,
  • humidity,
  • amount of sunshine,
  • harvest times,
  • maturity of leaves
  • whether chemicals or pesticides were applied,
  • and more.

Mitragynine makes up to approximately 60% of the total alkaloid content. Some Malaysian strains can have as little as 12% while Thai varieties can have up to 66%. On the other hand, 7-hydroxymitragynine is only about 2% and its concentration remains relatively the same regardless of the external factors.

With a few exceptions, most of the remaining 23 alkaloids make up less than 1% of the total alkaloid content. Each of these alkaloids has its unique attributes, though scientists know a lot less about them than they do about mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, the two primary kratom alkaloids.

Kratom Studies

Up until now, studies on Mitragyna speciosa have been very limited. So, there may be more beneficial compounds and properties that we aren’t aware of now. Some of the alkaloids that have been identified also need to be studied in greater detail.

Since the University of Florida College of Pharmacy has received a $3.5 million two-year grant to study kratom, followed by another $3.4 million five-year grant, we may hear of more discoveries soon.

Awarded by NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), these grants focus on Mitragyna speciosa alkaloids and their properties. The research is performed by Christopher McCurdy, the person who pioneered kratom research, and his team.

Kratom Veins and Strains

Not all Mitragyna speciosa leaves are the same. While all leaves are green, their veins and stems come in three different colors. That’s the reason behind the types of kratom: red vein kratom, white vein kratom, and green vein kratom.

The color of the veins depends on how these leaves grew and developed. Typically, younger leaves will have higher mitragynine and lower 7-hydroxymitragynine content, whereas the opposite is true for mature leaves. Other factors such as weather conditions and sunlight amount can influence alkaloid development, too.

Strains, however, refer primarily to the origin of the trees, for instance, Thai, Borneo, Sumatra, and similar. There are exceptions. Maeng Da kratom actually means “pimp grade” from Thai, and Horn varieties are named after the shape of the leaves. Bali Kratom also has slightly different reasoning behind its name.

Each strain comes in different vein colors which give each variety a unique alkaloid profile and properties.

Red Vein

Red vein leaves are the most mature and have the greatest exposure to the sun and thus develop red veins and stems, lower mitragynine content, and higher levels of 7-hydroxymitragynine. As a result, the red vein variety has potent analgesic and soothing properties.

Red strains are also known as slow strains. That’s because their properties make one feel relaxed and at ease.

Some of the red vein kratom strains are:

White Vein

White Vein speciosa leaves have veins and stems which are a little paler than the rest of the leaf tissue. These leaves also have higher levels of mitragynine and lower levels of 7-hydroxymitragynine. Yet, that doesn’t mean they are not potent. Quite the contrary. White strains are considered fast and are primarily known for their energizing properties.

Some of write vein strains are:

Green Vein

Green Vein Mitragyna speciosa leaves have veins and stems that are the same color as the leaf tissue. Strains of this vein type are known as moderate as they combine the properties of greens and reds yet at a moderate potency.

They are great for those who are looking for a mix of soothing and energizing properties rather than one that is more prevalent. Due to their moderate properties, they are also some of the best kratom strains for beginners.

Some of the green vein strains are:

Yellow Kratom

You may be wondering whether we have a math problem at Kraoma and can’t count the types of veins properly. Don’t worry we don’t. While Mitragyna speciosa leaves come in three colors, there is a fourth variety. And that’s yellow kratom.

Yellow is not a natural vein color. Farmers apply a different drying process which results in leaves that have a yellowish tone.

Yellow Mitragyna speciosa is a moderate type as well. But, because of the processing method applied, its alkaloid content is different, and, therefore, it has unique properties.

Yellow Bali Kratom is one of the most popular yellow vein varieties because of the wide availability of Bali speciosa trees.

Is Kratom Legal Where I Live?

In the United States, kratom is legal in most states. However, six states and a number of cities and counties have banned it. Currently, several states are reviewing Kratom Consumer Protection Act, a bill to regulate kratom.

Interested in finding out whether Mitrgyna speciosa is legal in your state? We’ve covered kratom legality in much greater detail. Feel free to check that out.

Are there any strains that you’ve never tried, but would like to? Take a look at our free kratom samples. We offer two 10-gram samples of any strain you wish.

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