Kratom is known for its versatile properties. Some users use it as an energizing alternative to caffeine. Others use the plant to manage pain. As a result, it can be difficult to describe what kratom does, because the plant seems to do different things for different people.
But what should new kratom users expect from kratom, and how can they get the effects they’re looking for? Let’s take a look!
Kratom’s Effects are Strain-Dependent
Whether in the form of powdered leaf or extract, kratom seems to have various psychoactive effects.
But the plant’s effects are far from being random. As researchers have noted, kratom’s effects are “dose-dependent.” At lower doses, kratom acts more like a stimulant, while higher doses produce “opioid-like effects.” (Prozialeck et al., 2012, pg796)
But kratom strains are rarely one-note. Most strains offer a blend of effects and demonstrate effectiveness in multiple categories. At Kratomaton, this led us to begin scoring kratom strains based on four major effects categories:
We like to think of these effects as the “big four” effects of kratom. You may have heard or seen kratom’s effects described using different terminology. But overall, we believe these four categories accurately and thoroughly encompass kratom’s properties.
Read on to learn more about kratom’s four effects and the science behind them!
Relaxation and Stress Relief (Sedation)
Although kratom has stimulating properties, the plant is arguably best known for promoting relaxation.
Strangely, a minority of kratom users don’t experience any sedation from kratom. For these users, all kratom is stimulating. In these cases, it’s important to note that kratom can affect everyone differently.
If you’re looking to relax with kratom, be sure to evaluate your dosage size. Moderate-to-high kratom doses (2.5-5g+) tend to be more sedating than lower amounts.
In the last section, we established that kratom is primarily known for being sedating. However, the plant is also known for its energizing effects — despite the obvious paradox.
Kratom’s stimulating properties don’t seem to rival the potency of other drugs like caffeine. Nonetheless, some kratom users swear by the plant as a “pick-me-up.” (Prozialeck et al., 2012, pg793) The explanation for this could lie in kratom’s pain-relieving properties: reducing pain and discomfort could promote feelings of wellness and renewed energy.
However, the exact mechanisms behind kratom’s energetic properties remain a mystery. Neither of kratom’s primary alkaloids, 7-hydroxymitragynine and mitragynine, appear to have energizing effects.
That said, researchers have observed similarities between mitragynine and another alkaloid, yohimbine, which is often marketed for energy and focus. (Prozialeck et al., 2012, pg795) But the truth behind kratom’s energizing effects may lie in one of kratom’s other 40 other alkaloids. (Cinosi et al., 2015, pg2) At present, many of these alkaloids are underresearched or poorly understood.
Overall, kratom does seem to have energizing properties. Small doses (0.5-2.5g) seem to be the “sweet spot” for energy. But at higher doses (2.5g+), kratom’s energizing properties may fade.
Kratom’s euphoric properties can be explained by the plant’s interaction with μ-opioid receptors. (Hassan et al., 2012, pg144) Other agonists of this receptor — such as morphine — can also produce euphoria.
If you’re looking to use kratom for mood elevation, you’re in luck! Most of the strains we’ve researched seem to have euphoric properties, regardless of colour.
Kratom is often described as a “plant-based opioid” or opiate alternative. And although kratom isn’t technically an opioid or opiate, the plant does help some users manage “various types of pain.” (Prozialeck et al., 2012, pg793)
Kratom’s pain-relieving properties seem to stem from mitragynine, the plant’s primary alkaloid. However, another kratom alkaloid, 7-hydroxymitragynine (7-HMG), also appears to have analgesic effects. In one animal study, 7-HMG was “13 times more potent than morphine.” (Ramachandram et al., 2019, pg2)
Generally, kratom leaves contain less 7-HMG than mitragynine. But researchers believe that 7-HMG’s higher bioavailability and blood-brain-barrier penetration make the alkaloid extra potent. For these reasons, 7-HMG is supposedly the “predominant mediator of
analgesic effects of kratom in the body.” (Prozialeck et al., 2012, pg796)
Looking to get the most pain relief from your kratom? User reports suggest that red and gold kratom strains offer the best pain relief.
When discussing the effects of a drug like kratom, it’s important to point out the good and the bad. Even in moderation, kratom consumption isn’t consequence-free. Short-term kratom users can encounter several unpleasant side effects, while heavy, chronic use can lead to adverse health effects.
Short-term side effects: Nausea, constipation, sleep problems, temporary erectile dysfunction, itching, sweating (Cinosi et al., 2015, pg8)
(PDF) Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of mitragynine, the principle alkaloid of Mitragyna speciosa: present knowledge and future directions in perspective of pain. (n.d.). ResearchGate. https://doi.org/10.1515/jbcpp-2019-0138 Download
Warner, M. L., Kaufman, N. C., & Grundmann, O. (2016). The pharmacology and toxicology of kratom: from traditional herb to drug of abuse. International Journal of Legal Medicine, 130(1), 127–138. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-015-1279-y
Matsumoto, K., Hatori, Y., Murayama, T., Tashima, K., Wongseripipatana, S., Misawa, K., Kitajima, M., Takayama, H., & Horie, S. (2006). Involvement of mu-opioid receptors in antinociception and inhibition of gastrointestinal transit induced by 7-hydroxymitragynine, isolated from Thai herbal medicine Mitragyna speciosa. European Journal of Pharmacology, 549(1–3), 63–70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejphar.2006.08.013
Hassan, Z., Muzaimi, M., Navaratnam, V., Mohammad Yusoff, N., Suhaimi, F., Vadivelu, R., Vicknasingam, B., Amato, D., von Hörsten, S., Ismail, N. I. W., Jayabalan, N., Hazim, A., Mansor, S., & Müller, C. (2013). From Kratom to mitragynine and its derivatives: Physiological and behavioural effects related to use, abuse, and addiction. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 37, 138–151. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.11.012Download
Cinosi, E., Martinotti, G., Simonato, P., Singh, D., Demetrovics, Z., Roman-Urrestarazu, A., Bersani, F. S., Vicknasingam, B., Piazzon, G., Li, J.-H., Yu, W.-J., Kapitány-Fövény, M., Farkas, J., Di Giannantonio, M., & Corazza, O. (2015). Following “the Roots” of Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa): The Evolution of an Enhancer from a Traditional Use to Increase Work and Productivity in Southeast Asia to a Recreational Psychoactive Drug in Western Countries [Research Article]. BioMed Research International. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/968786 Download