Understanding the Kratom Tree
Kratom is a great painkiller and mood booster. Depending on what strains you use, kratom can also function as either a stimulant or a sedative.
The part of the kratom tree that’s used for medicine is the leaf. Kratom leaf can be chewed whole, dried and ground into powder, taken in capsules, brewed into tea, and of course, smoked or vaped.
Kratom leaf contains several active plant compounds called alkaloids. Alkaloids have different effects on the human body. Kratom contains so many different alkaloids that researchers have not had a chance to explore them all in detail. This is why so many of kratom’s traditional uses have not been fully elucidated.
Why Would You Want to Smoke Kratom?
In the world of herbal medicine, smoking is an effective method of consuming plants. It has a fast absorption rate, it’s easy to use, and it bypasses first-pass liver metabolism, which deactivates many of the active ingredients.
There’s also a lot of rituals that come along with smoking a plant medicine, which has inherent healing value in and of itself.
When you’re deciding how to use a plant, you must consider these different factors:
- How strong do you need your dose to be?
- How quickly do you need your dose to take effect?
- How long would you like the effects to last for?
- How much material are you willing to consume to reach the desired effect?
When you’re smoking something, then you’ll need to be prepared for a strong, quick onset of effects. The active ingredients are immediately and efficiently absorbed through tiny capillaries in the lungs, directly into the bloodstream. Because of this, smoking generally requires a much smaller dose.
Take marijuana, for example. It can be eaten, used topically, and even injected, but it’s most often smoked. Within a matter of seconds, the full effects of the plant’s active compounds can be felt. This would be appealing for kratom users because it would cut back the time that it takes for kratom to be digested before you can enjoy its benefits.
However, because of its quick onset, anything that you smoke tends to leave the body much quicker as well. The overall experience will come on faster and hit you harder, but it’ll also be a lot shorter overall.
Is There Any Point In Smoking Kratom?
Some people smoke kratom leaves to get its effects. However, you’ll need to smoke a fair bit of leaves which can be harsh on the throat and lungs and doesn’t necessarily offer any advantages aside from a faster onset time.
Compared to other herbal supplements, kratom is pretty strong. It’s one of the few legal herbs that produce an all-encompassing buzz with a strong rush and sustained euphoric effect. However, the dosage required to feel these effects is also comparatively large.
Even the most sensitive individuals usually require at least a gram to feel any noticeable effects. At these low doses, very little is experienced aside from some mild stimulation and mood enhancement. The average dose of kratom is between three and five grams.
Five grams of powder is a lot of plant matter to be smoking. Even once you take into account the fact that smoking tends to produce stronger effects at lower doses, you’re still going to have to smoke a significant portion of this dose.
To help you visualize this, a gram of marijuana is about two standard joints — just for one person. To a seasoned cannabis user, this isn’t crazy, but to people smoking it for the first time, this is a lot of plant matter to get through.
For someone using regular, dried kratom powder, smoking is possible, albeit extremely inconvenient and harsh. To enjoy the effects of a standard dose of kratom, they would have to figure out a way to smoke several grams of powdered plant material.
Impracticalities aside, researchers still haven’t determined whether or not kratom’s alkaloids are actually worth smoking. Many plant alkaloids are heat sensitive and can easily be destroyed when they come into contact with an open flame.
Can I Vape Kratom?
Many natural compounds have to be processed a certain way before they can be smoked. Or, as is the case with opium, they must be vaporized or smoked in a certain way to avoid damaging the alkaloids with direct flame.
Most of the alkaloids in kratom are not ideal for vaporizing. Mitragynine, the most dominant alkaloid, has a melting point of between 92-95 degrees celsius. Its boiling point — the point at which it becomes a vapor and could potentially be inhaled — is between 446–464 °F (230–240ºC) — which is pretty close to the combustion point of kratom leaves (~480ºF).
Lastly, you’ll probably want to reconsider the flavor and astringency of kratom. The plant is notorious for its extremely bitter and highly astringent flavor profile. It is not pleasant on the tongue. And, while the taste of something does not necessarily indicate how pleasant it will be to smoke, you might want to be cautious.
How To Smoke Kratom
So far, the consensus is that kratom smoke is pretty gross and doesn’t improve its effectiveness. However, that doesn’t mean it’s completely ineffective. Many people remain determined to smoke kratom, if for nothing else than the novelty factor or the ritual.
The lack of evidence means that you’ll have to rely pretty much entirely on other people’s experiences to base your decisions on. There are people out there who enjoy smoking kratom and say that it’s very effective. Others feel nothing at all.
It’s reasonable to assume that the type of kratom you’re using and the method that you’re smoking it with will play a part. Stronger kratom strains contain a higher concentration of active alkaloids. These are what you want. The rest of the kratom is just fibrous plant matter which will just get in the way.
If you’re just eating your kratom, the extra plant fiber isn’t usually a problem (although some people find it makes them nauseous). Smokers, however, will find this an additional challenge. All that green is just excess material that needs to be combusted and inhaled to ensure all the alkaloids reach the lungs.
Realistically, smoking standard kratom powder is probably a no-go. You might enjoy some effects, but the sheer amount of plant matter you’ll be smoking will just put your health at risk for no reason.
Extracts and concentrates, on the other hand, allow you to enjoy kratom without having to consume as much plant matter.
We will note here that, since the long-term safety of kratom — smoked or otherwise — is not well-understood, we can’t make any recommendations here. Common sense also suggests that smoking anything over a long period of time poses a health risk.
That said, kratom extracts and concentrates would probably be more effective for smoking. However, their increased potency may also create a risk. If you are planning to smoke or vaporize a kratom extract, make sure that somebody knows where you are and what you’re doing.
In the case of any adverse reactions, you will want to make sure that there is somebody to take care of you.
Here are a few examples of the most common ways that people smoke kratom.
1. Rolling Dried Leaves
This is just about the only way that people living in Southeast Asia will smoke their kratom. Even in these regions, kratom smoking is quite rare. However, those that do it will generally just roll up a few dried leaves and puff away.
Smoking a dried leaf is going to be a lot easier than trying to blitzkrieg a bowl or paper full of kratom powder. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly easy to find kratom leaves in North America or Europe.
It’s possible to import crushed kratom leaves. These are ground much less fine than powder and can be easily rolled into joints. This is probably the most pleasant and accessible way to smoke kratom — albeit a bit dry. You’ll probably want to mix in a few other herbs, like tobacco or cannabis, to smooth out the harshness of the smoke.
2. In a Pipe or Bong
Smoking kratom in a pipe or a bong is definitely the best way to get a big hit. If you’re going to try smoking regular kratom powder, then using a pipe or a bong is probably the only reasonable way to smoke a large enough dose to feel anything.
But I warn you, this isn’t going to feel very nice in your throat, and the effects will hit you like a freight train before you have a chance to put the bong down again.
So, in terms of harm reduction and safety, smoking kratom out of a bong probably isn’t a great idea. In addition to being excessive, the harsh astringent nature of kratom may further irritate the lungs.
3. Adding to a Joint
If you’re already a smoker, you might be able to improve your experience by sprinkling some kratom on top of your joints. You could potentially do this with cigarettes or rolling tobacco as well.
If you’re using a highly potent strain of kratom or an extract, then this might be enough for you to experience some of its effects.
You can also add crushed kratom leaf to a joint. It will mix very nicely with cannabis and may even help moist cannabis burn more effectively.
Most sensitive plant alkaloids are easier and more effectively consumed by vaporizing them. Vaporizing involves the use of indirect heat.
Direct heat (like the flame from a lighter) often destroys alkaloids, making them ineffective. However, it’s pretty hard to vaporize raw plant material, especially if the alkaloids are locked inside the cell wall of the plant.
Kratom is not like cannabis, a plant whose active alkaloids sparkle and glitter on the exterior of the bud. The alkaloids in kratom lie deep behind the cell membrane and must be coaxed out to take effect.
As such, vaporizing pure kratom powder often just results in a burnt mass of a black powder. The plant itself combusts before the alkaloids can be effectively vaporized.
However, many people find success in vaporizing kratom extracts. Extracts are often saturated with additional alkaloids that may not be locked within the cell walls. At a low temperature, it may be possible to vaporize some of these compounds.
It may also be possible to smoke homemade kratom extracts. Making a kratom decoction (tea) allows you to extract the alkaloids into the water, and then letting all the water evaporate will leave behind a thick, sticky resin that can be added to a vape pen.
Many plant chemicals occur naturally in their hydrochloric (HCl) salt state. Hydrochloric salts are generally not easy to vaporize or smoke. Mitragynine HCl melts at 469 °F (243 ºC).
Mitragynine picrate, another form of the molecule, melts at 469 °F (243 ºC) as well, whereas mitragynine acetate melts at 289 °F (143 ºC).
For the sake of harm reduction, we can’t recommend that you try vaporizing kratom — though it is technically possible.
Final Thoughts: Smoking Kratom
Kratom is a very useful herb with several benefits. It can be taken in many different ways and forms. Many have wondered whether or not it’s worthwhile to smoke kratom.
Because of the large amount of kratom required to feel any effects, it’s generally not recommended to smoke pure kratom powder. However, some people may experience results by vaporizing potent kratom extracts. Even in these cases, however, the alkaloids in kratom do not have the ideal melting and boiling temperatures for anyone hoping to vaporize them. The effects of vaporizing kratom and kratom extract are going to differ from what you’re used to with edible kratom.
This method hits the body much quicker, but they also wear off faster. They’re going to be less sedating and analgesic and more stimulating — like a shot of caffeine.
Vaping or smoking could be a good option for people using the plant for its energizing effects, rather than for the painkilling, sedative, or anti-anxiety qualities.
The bottom line is that unless you’re extremely adventurous, you’re probably best off eating or drinking your kratom.