Kratom Alkaloids 101: What Are They and What Do They Do?

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Alkaloids Definition

Kratom is seeing a surge in popularity around the globe. While many people use this herbal supplement to treat a variety of mental and physical ailments, relatively few people understand how it works.

To give you a better understanding of how this impressive yet enigmatic substance interacts with the body, let’s take a closer look at Kratom alkaloids.

What is Kratom?

Kratom is a herbal substance derived from a tropical tree found in marshy regions of Southeast Asia. More specifically, it is often grown in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, and other nations surrounding the Pacific Rim. Every place where Kratom grows, it has been harvested and used by locals for its medicinal and recreational properties.

The plant itself is a tropical evergreen tree that is recognizable by its bright green leaves. It is these leaves that contain the compounds that make Kratom so practical for traditional and modern-day medicine.

Kratom leaves contain over 40 compounds and more than 25 alkaloids. The main active alkaloids found in Kratom leaves are mitragynine and 7-hydroxy mitragynine. It is these two alkaloids that make Kratom leaves unique and give the substance its stimulating and depressant effects.

While these alkaloids may not have been fully understood in the past, the Kratom leaf has a long history of use for medicinal purposes. With modern-day studies, we are now gaining an understanding of how Kratom works on the human brain and body.

What Are Alkaloids?

Kratom Under the Microscope

Like all living things, plants are made up of natural chemical compounds. In plants, these compounds are referred to as phytochemicals or plant chemicals.

Alkaloids are a unique class of chemical compounds. They are present in a wide variety of plants, including the Mitragyna Speciosa plant we commonly refer to as the Kratom tree.

How do Alkaloids Influence People?

Unlike other types of phytochemicals, the consumption of alkaloids has noticeable physiological effects on humans. The effects of these alkaloids vary depending on the type of alkaloid and its concentration. They can cause everything from anti-inflammatory effects on the body to mood-elevating influences on the brain.

It may sound complicated, but humans all over the world use alkaloids for a variety of reasons. For example, you are probably familiar with caffeine, which is an alkaloid commonly found in coffee beans and tea leaves.

We use caffeine as a mild stimulant to help us feel more alert in the morning. Medical practitioners use another common alkaloid for an entirely different purpose; Morphine is a powerful sedative and numbing agent but it is also an alkaloid derived from opium poppies.

Alkaloids Found in Kratom

While recent research has discovered the presence of over 25 different types of alkaloids in Kratom, some have a significantly stronger impact on the human body than others.

As mentioned, mitragynine and 7-hydroxy mitragynine have the most significant effects on the human body and mind when ingested.

  • Mitragynine – Makes up nearly 66% of the total alkaloid concentration in Kratom; however, this percentage varies depending on many factors, such as growing conditions and the specific Kratom strain. 
  • 7-hydroxy mitragynine – Makes up much less of the total alkaloid content – roughly 2%. But this percentage increases as the plant grows.

What Effects do Kratom Alkaloids Have on Humans?

Woman Feeling the Alkaloid Effects

When ingested, Kratom alkaloids interact with opioid receptors in the brain. These interactions produce sedation and pleasure, decrease the sensation of pain, and much more. Mitragynine also interacts with other receptor systems in the brain to produce a stimulant effect. These seemingly contradicting effects explain how Kratom can soothe users by reducing sensations of pain and anxiety while also being useful as an energy booster.

These effects have made Kratom a popular medicinal and recreational substance for as long as humans have known about the plant. The level of interaction depends not only on the volume of Kratom ingested but also on the Kratom strain and the individual’s own body.

More often than not, low doses of Kratom result in a mild sensation of increased energy, sociability, and alertness rather than sedation.  On the other hand, higher doses are commonly used as a muscle relaxer to treat physical pain and to help an individual feel more sleepy.

Higher doses of Kratom alkaloids help treat psychological ailments, such as an elevated sense of anxiety. But it is important to note that high quantities of Kratom alkaloids can produce uncomfortable side effects which is why it is so important to understand consumption limits.

How Do Kratom Alkaloids Help People?

There are countless reasons why a person might choose to consume Kratom, but the following are just some of the reasons why people today rely on the powerful alkaloids in Kratom:

  • Treating chronic and recurring anxiety
  • Reducing feelings of depression
  • Suppressing physical pain
  • Treating fibromyalgia
  • Reducing pain associated with gout
  • Reducing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms
  • Reducing fatigue and increasing wakefulness
  • Preventing insomnia
  • Treating some effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Increasing endurance during physical activity
  • Aiding with weight loss by suppressing appetite
  • Increasing concentration
  • Reducing overall inflammation throughout the body
  • Preventing and reducing the severity of anxiety attacks
  • Aiding with opioid and other withdrawal symptoms

As you can see, the alkaloids found in Kratom have beneficial medicinal and therapeutic applications for humans. While the number of health claims might make Kratom seem a little too good to be true, there is a growing amount of scientific and anecdotal evidence to support them.

What Else Should You Know?

The most important thing for you to understand about Kratom alkaloids is that their concentration varies to a significant degree based on a variety of factors such as the growing conditions and age of the plant. One strain of Kratom can have a significantly different alkaloid concentration than another, for example Maeng Da and red veins are known for their higher alkaloid content and thus stronger effects, compared to something like Bali (review) or Super Green Malaysian (review).

Alkaloid concentration can also diminish over time, which is part of the reason why it is so important to store your Kratom properly and ensure its freshness.

Written by Daniel Recardo

Founder of Kratom IQ; a self-improvement junkie and Kratom enthusiast. I started this website in 2015 to help people avoid the common pitfalls and mistakes with Mitragyna Speciosa, and ultimately get the most out of this amazing plant. Learn More...

Further Reading

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