Whether it’s riding a bike or driving a car, doing anything for the first time can be exciting or equally nerve-wracking.
The same is true for kratom. Although the plant has a long history of use and appears to be relatively safe, kratom is relatively new to the western world. Unlike mainstream drugs like caffeine and nicotine, you can’t buy kratom on most store shelves. In addition, your friends or family members might not understand what kratom is, and they might dissuade you from using it.
For these reasons — and many more — taking kratom for the first time can be daunting. Fortunately, we’re here to help! Consider this post “kratom 101:” a comprehensive guide on everything you should know before you take kratom, and what to expect.
Is Kratom Safe?
Safety is one of the most common concerns of first-time kratom users — and rightfully so.
While other drugs like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine are widely available in the western world, some US states have illegalized kratom and kratom products. Naturally, if a substance is prohibited, it begs the question — is that substance safe?
Although scientists are still studying kratom, current evidence suggests that raw, natural kratom powder is well-tolerated. In a 2016 review of kratom’s effects and safety, one team of researchers wrote that “at low to moderate doses, the adverse effects [of kratom] vary markedly from one person to another, but they generally appear to be mild.” The same researchers also noted that “several scientists who have studied kratom indicate that in its pure herbal form, it appears to be relatively benign.”
However, the same cannot be said for unnatural and enhanced kratom. These highly-potent products are often adulterated with kratom concentrates or other substances, which enhances their effects far beyond the limitations of natural kratom leaves. Although “enhanced” kratom might seem like an exciting prospect, studies suggest that these products can put consumers at risk.
In a 2016 study, researchers evaluated the potency of several enhanced kratom products purchased online. Their results were staggering: some of the enhanced products contained up to 500% times the amount of 7-hydroxymitragynine, a psychoactive compound that’s naturally present in kratom leaves. The researchers concluded that the “adulteration of commercial Kratom products with 7-hydroxymitragynine … increases [their] abuse liability and addictive potential.”
So, although natural kratom products appear to be relatively safe, current research suggests that you should steer clear of enhanced kratom products. Unlike raw kratom leaves, which can only contain so many alkaloids, enhanced kratom products are deliberately adulterated and could put your health at risk.
Where Can I Buy Kratom? — Choosing a Vendor
Unless you’re growing your own kratom, the first step of your kratom journey will likely involve finding a supplier or a kratom vendor. And although it might be tempting to purchase your kratom from the most convenient source, it’s worth exploring your options. Product quality and overall customer experience can vary from vendor to vendor, and in that sense, you often get what you pay for.
Like coffee and tea, many factors determine the quality of kratom. Growing expertise and harvesting, drying, and storage techniques can all affect the potency and properties of kratom leaves — for better or for worse.
That said, most kratom vendors in the western world don’t grow their own products. Instead, they import their kratom directly from Indonesia. As a result, a vendor’s product quality is largely dependent on where they source their kratom — but that’s not all. Once they’ve chosen a supplier, a vendor can take additional steps to increase the quality and safety of their products.
Generally, it’s a good sign if a kratom vendor:
Offers all-natural and organic kratom (no additives, filler ingredients, or adulterants)
Processes their kratom products in a professional manufacturing environment
Tests their kratom products in a laboratory and publishes their test results online (bonus points if the lab test results are available for all products and product batches)
Marks their kratom products with expiry and best-before dates
Sells their kratom products in sealed, airtight bags (can prevent spoilage and contamination)
Returns and Refunds
As a botanical product, kratom’s quality and effects can be fickle. One kratom product might work well for you once, but poorly the second time. In other cases, a batch of kratom might be “bad” due to weak alkaloid concentrations.
Some kratom vendors address the natural variation of kratom by allowing their customers to return kratom products for a full refund, even if the product in question has been opened.
If you’re trying kratom for the first time, you might be unsure of how your body will react to the products you’ve ordered and if your purchase will be worthwhile. Thankfully, by choosing a vendor with a full refund policy, you can protect yourself from these uncertainties.
Aside from entrusting a third party with your health and wellbeing, choosing a kratom vendor also typically involves the exchange of personal information, such as your address and financial details.
With this in mind, it’s crucial to take precautions when shopping for kratom online. Some kratom vendor websites may not be secure or process their payments securely, which can put your sensitive information — such as credit card details and shipping address — at risk.
Aside from checking a vendor’s page on Kratomaton, one way to confirm the security of a vendor’s website is to check their HTTPS status in your web browser. If you’re visiting a vendor’s site that transmits data securely, your web browser may display a “lock” icon next to the vendor’s URL in your address bar.
You can also protect your sensitive information by shopping with kratom vendors that:
Support at least one third-party e-payment service that doesn’t exchange payment details directly with the seller (such as PayPal or CoinPayments.net)
Offer cash-on-delivery payment options
Which Kratom Strain is Best? — Choosing a Strain
If you’ve already been shopping around, you may have noticed that most kratom vendors sell different kinds of kratom. From Red Bali to Green Maeng Da, there many different varieties of kratom on the market, and each is rarely one-size-fits-all. This is because, like green tea, kratom’s color and properties can vary from leaf to leaf.
Generally, the kratom community refers to these unique kratom variants as “strains.” Each kratom strain is the product of selection, cultivation, and post-harvest process techniques. For instance, Maeng Da strains are known for their potency, while strains like Red Bentuangie are supposedly fermented.
Given the differences between kratom strains, some kratom users prefer certain strains or strain colors over others. Users desiring an increase in energy and focus tend to gravitate towards white strains, while those looking to relax and unwind favour red kratom strains instead.
Some kratom enthusiasts insist that the effects of kratom strains are unpredictable and purely subjective. However, upon collecting and examining user reports, we noticed some patterns:
White kratom strains are generally somewhat stimulating and slightly pain-relieving
Yellow kratom strains are generally somewhat stimulating and moderately pain-relieving
Green kratom strains are generally moderately sedating and adequately pain-relieving
Gold kratom strains are generally moderately sedating and moderately pain-relieving
Red kratom strains are generally very sedating and strongly pain-relieving
Ultimately, these strain descriptions aren’t definitive, and you’ll probably have to experiment to discover which kratom strains work best for you. But, if you’re looking for a little more guidance, our other blog posts might be able to steer you in the right direction!
How Much Kratom is Too Much — Choosing a Dosage
Like caffeine or nicotine, kratom use can become unpleasant at higher amounts. According to a scientific review published in 2015, the short-term side effects of kratom use can include “nausea, constipation, sleep problems, temporary erectile dysfunction, itching, and sweating.”
However, unlike other substances, kratom’s effects can also be paradoxical: at low doses, its effects are often energizing, while higher doses can be more relaxing (Cinosi et al., 2015).
For these reasons — and the sake of your wellbeing— it’s essential to find the correct kratom dosage.
At Kratomaton, we categorize kratom doses as follows:
Low dose: 0-2.5 grams
Moderate dose: 2.5-5 grams
High dose: 5+ grams
If it’s your first time taking kratom, start with a low dose of 1-2 grams (roughly ½ or ⅔ of a teaspoon). By using a low dose, you’ll be able to identify how your body reacts without risking the unpleasant side effects that are common at higher doses. From here, you can get comfortable with kratom’s properties and gradually experiment with raising your dosage.
What Does Kratom Feel Like?
Kratom’s properties are versatile, and users often describe their experiences with kratom differently.
In a 2015 review, researchers wrote that at low doses, kratom users reported an increase in physical energy, empathy, and euphoria. At higher doses, users described the plant’s effects as “more sedative and able to relieve physical pain (link to Wikipedia) … a general feeling of comfortable pleasure.”
Kratom’s pain-relieving effects are also frequently compared to opioids and opiates by users and researchers alike. One team of researchers concluded that kratom “possesses both opioid- and psychostimulant-like drug effects.” In another study, a different group of researchers found that kratom’s effects were similar to opioids, but that the plant was structurally different from morphine.
While these comparisons to opiates and opioids might seem alarming or exaggerated, current science supports them. Scientists have found that kratom leaves contain two compounds, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, that interact with the brain’s mu-opioid receptors — the same receptors targeted by opiates like morphine.
All in all, it’s safe to say that you’ll likely experience some relaxation, stimulation, euphoria, and/or pain relief when trying kratom for the first time. While words can often fail us when we try to describe sensations, these four adjectives are commonly used by users and researchers to describe what kratom feels like. They’re also the basis of our kratom strain effects scoring system!
Note: Kratom use isn’t side-effect free, especially at higher doses. However, If your kratom experience is overwhelmingly unpleasant, be sure to assess your dosage amount and the quality of the kratom in question.
Kratom can be a fickle plant, and your experiences with it can vary. However, by purchasing your kratom products from a trusted vendor, finding an ideal kratom strain, and choosing an appropriate dosage, you can increase your chances of enjoying your first steps into the exciting and wide world of kratom.
To learn more about kratom, be sure to check out our other blog posts!