What Is Kratom & How Is It Grown?
Kratom comes from a tree with the scientific name, Mitragyna speciosa. The kratom tree grows naturally in Southeast Asia, where the dense rainforests and hot, humid climate provide the optimal growing conditions. Much like coffee trees — which come from the same family as the kratom tree — kratom cannot thrive in most areas throughout the world.
Once the kratom tree is fully mature, leaves are plucked from the canopy, dried or fermented in the open air under the sun, and then crushed or ground into a powder for consumption.
What Is Deforestation?
Deforestation is the destruction of natural forests, usually for commercial purposes. Some companies destroy natural forest areas to use the land for farming certain products, while others remove the trees to use the natural resources for production, as is the case with paper and lumber.
Many industries are guilty of deforestation. Products like palm oil, almond milk, and even coffee have led to widespread deforestation that has a severely negative impact on the environment.
What Are the Negative Effects of Deforestation?
Deforestation is detrimental for several reasons.
First, and perhaps most importantly, is climate change. Trees naturally take in carbon dioxide produced by animals and humans and convert it to oxygen via photosynthesis, although the actual process is more complicated than a simple conversion.
Ripping down forests means lower production of oxygen and a higher volume of CO2 produced from that area. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, so it traps sunlight in the atmosphere, leading to an increase in temperature on the earth. Since the Industrial Revolution, average temperatures have jumped more than 2 degrees, which means many problems for plant and animal life.
A more immediate problem with deforestation is destroying the natural habitat of insects, plants, and animals. Rainforests are highly complex ecosystems where all life forms depend on each other for support. Deforestation destroys the balance, gradually reducing the likelihood of survival of the indigenous animals and plants.
Trees help maintain water levels of the soil and moisture content in the air. When trees are destroyed for commercial purposes, the soil and air can dry up, slowly turning the space into desert-like terrain. Unnatural arid conditions further strain plants and animals in the nearby area.
Erosion & Flooding
Without the complex root systems of trees to keep the ground intact and soak up rainwater, the soil can more quickly and easily erode or get flooded. Erosion and flooding are destructive natural forces that can further put indigenous animals and plants at risk.
Why Is Deforestation Occurring?
Deforestation occurs primarily because certain industries — like the paper and lumber industries — need resources or because others — like the cattle and soy industries — need the land to raise animals or grow other plants. Ultimately, the rainforest is destroyed to provide humans with more resources at lower prices.
Does Kratom Cause Deforestation?
Some people are concerned that the kratom industry, like so many others, is destructive to natural forest areas, like so many others.
Right now, kratom farming is generally not considered destructive for a variety of reasons that we explain below. However, as kratom grows in popularity, it may lead to some deforestation if consumers fail to buy it from reputable and sustainable vendors.
It’s important to note that any industry could contribute to deforestation, but you can make a difference by choosing vendors who source their products responsibly.
Is Sustainability Possible When Growing Kratom?
Sustainability is not only possible when growing kratom but is currently the norm. Kratom has been a popular herb in traditional medicine for hundreds of years and is typically sourced from mature trees without the need to destroy the tree itself.
When you buy kratom from a reputable vendor who cares about and is transparent about its sustainable harvesting and sourcing practices, you’re doing your part to prevent deforestation.
Why Kratom Isn’t Necessarily Bad for the environment
If other products lead to deforestation, why isn’t kratom considered detrimental or harmful to the environment? There are a few reasons, which we discuss below.
Non-Invasive Harvesting Process
First, kratom farming involves a natural, non-invasive harvesting process. Kratom leaves are harvested from mature kratom trees that have ample time to contribute to the natural ecosystem. Not only are the trees mature when harvested, but they’re also not destroyed in the process.
After a partial harvest, the mature kratom tree is left to grow new leaves and thrive once more before being harvested again. The trees are never destroyed to further production because mature trees continue to produce.
Additionally, kratom trees grow naturally in abundance in the rainforests of Indonesia and the surrounding islands. In most cases, they contribute to the complex ecosystem rather than growing on a dedicated kratom farm.
A significant problem with some products is that their processing puts further strain on the environment. For example, making almond milk and growing cattle requires an immense amount of water. Taking that water from the surrounding land can put rainforests at risk of desertification.
On the other hand, processing kratom is all done naturally. Once harvested, the leaves are left out in the sun and open air to dry or ferment. This process is not only the norm but is also believed to enhance the alkaloid profile of the kratom, making it more potent and more desirable. The process requires almost no strain on the environment.
Generally Responsible Farmers
Finally, since kratom is so deeply rooted in local tradition and traditional medicine, the farmers in Indonesia are typically far more responsible than manufacturers of other products. Kratom is less of a big business than a way of life for Indonesians.
In fact, some strains of kratom — like White, Green, and Red Hulu Kapuas kratom — are grown on the naturally fertile land that is considered sacred by locals. There is more of a desire by locals to preserve the land than to capitalize on the plants growing there.
How to Minimize Your Effect on the Environment When Buying Kratom
Most of the work to minimize deforestation and the potential negative impact on the environment is done by the kratom farmers and not the consumers. However, you can still do your part to help reduce the strain on the environment by committing to buying only kratom that is ethically and sustainably sourced.
One of the easiest ways to minimize deforestation and any adverse effect on the environment is to buy from reputable vendors that are open and honest about their methods for sourcing kratom powder.
Companies that have information for where they get their products and the practices of the farms from which they come are an excellent place to start. You can check out our vendor reviews for information on some of the more responsible online kratom vendors if you’re not sure which are reputable.
Suggested Reading: Growing Kratom: From Seed to Harvest
Wrapping Up: Is Kratom Farming Bad for the Environment?
Many products that humans buy and use daily lead to deforestation and the destruction of the environment. Unfortunately, we’re so far removed from the negative impacts of deforestation as consumers that we often lose sight of just how terrible they can be.
Many consumers are now more concerned with their carbon footprint and its effect on the world around them. The recent increase in kratom’s popularity leaves many wondering if this natural herb is eco-friendly to grow and produce.
Luckily, kratom manufacturing is generally quite sustainable, as the leaves are plucked mostly from naturally-growing and fully-mature kratom trees by farmers who care more than most big businesses. Kratom is steeped in tradition and is a way of life for Indonesians, so the industry has yet to be tainted by big business.
You can help keep the industry relatively environmentally friendly by buying kratom from reputable vendors who are transparent about their sourcing efforts and only buy from sustainable farmers.