What Is Mitragyna parvifolia?
Mitragyna parvifolia, or M. parvifolia, is one of seven officially-accepted plants in the Mitragyna genus. It may not be the most powerful, at least not in terms of acute effects.
For example, if you’re hoping to catch a buzz from M. parvifolia, you will be disappointed; likewise, if you aim to use this plant to replace prescription pain meds.
However, if you approach the plant as a unique entity and avoid comparing it to Mitragyna speciosa, you’ll be able to appreciate it for the effects it can offer.
Though Mitragyna parvifolia is this plant’s main accepted taxonomic name, several other cultural, botanical, and slang names exist.
- Nauclea parvifolia
- Stephegyne parvilia (Roxb. Korth)
- Bengali: Gulikadam, dharakadam
- Gujarati: Kalam
- Hindi: Guri, kaim, kadamb, kayim, kaay lum
- Kannada: Nayekadambe, Nira kadambe, Kopngu, Sanna kadamba
- Malayalam: Sirikadamba, neerkadambu, veembu, kadamba, katmahnab
- Malay: Vimpu
- Marathi: Kalam
- Sanskrit: Vitanah
- Tamil: Katampai
- Telugu: Nerkadamba
Mitragyna parvifolia Botanical Description
Mitragyna parvifolia is quite large and grows up to 40-50 feet. The stem remains erect and strong, with thick branches emerging to produce large, symmetrical leaves that grow opposite on the stem.
The flowers are beautiful, creamy-white and yellow, and found in clusters. They are very fragrant and have a memorable scent. These give rise to fruits that produce many seeds.
The tree grows native to India but has been spotted in tropical and subtropical areas in Asia and Africa and has been seen several times in Bhutan.
The wood tends to be of a light, pinkish color with even grains. It’s pretty durable and remains that way unless it becomes soaked. Otherwise, locals recommend the wood due to its easy workability and fine polish.
M. parvifolia wood is used for constructing homes, making furniture, and building tools and implements of all sorts.
Mitragyna parvifolia prefers to grow in the tropics, where it’s found at elevations of up to 1,300 meters. It prefers to grow in low-lying deciduous forests with well-drained, deep soil like that found around banks and swamps.
This species excels best when the average temperatures are between 20 and 35 degrees Celsius, but the tree can survive in temperatures ranging from 5 to 47 Celsius.
During dormancy, the plant can survive a temperature as low as minus 5 degrees, given that the plant has matured somewhat. If the plant is very young, temperatures as low as minus 1 degree can permanently damage or even be deadly.
Rainfall between 1,500-2,500 mm annually will yield the most robust M. parvifolia plants. However, the tree is known to survive in regions with annual rainfall in the range of 900-3,300 mm.
Younger trees are sometimes more capable and seem to prefer a higher degree of shade. Mature trees tend to require more light.
The M parvifolia tree thrives in fertile soils with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, although it can survive in soils of pH 4.5 to 7.5.
Human interference is one of the best ways to increase the reproduction of M. parvifolia, which naturally tends to reproduce very little. When the soil beneath the tree has been broken up, the tree’s seeds have a much easier time entering the ground and thus increase their chances of survival.
Related: How to Grow Kratom.
In the wild, M. parvifolia is classified as an endangered species. Many of the plant’s seeds dry out before they can catch root and sprout into a healthy plant.
The plant is considered “pharmaceutically valuable” and endangered because of the low seedling survival rate . The tiny seeds (about 10,000 of which weigh a single gram), overexploitation of the plant, and destruction of its habitat led to significant problems with its survival.
Various government and NGO agencies aim to improve the survival rate of M. parvifolia by using a unique micropropagation protocol that involves using nodal explants from a mature tree. When harvested during spring from a lopped tree and amplified with nutrient mediums, these explants tended to root about 90% of the time.
Medicinal Uses & Components of Mitragyna parvifolia
The M. parvifolia plant has several medicinal uses, and it has been used traditionally for many hundreds of years. Many of its benefits are similar to those of other Mitragyna plants.
It remains a popular plant in the Indian Ayurvedic medicine system, where it has been used to treat fevers, muscular pains, stomach aches, poisons, gynecological issues, cough, and edema. It has also been used as an aphrodisiac.
Related: Traditional Uses of Kratom Explained
Different parts of the plant are used for different purposes:
The bark and roots of M. parvifolia are traditionally used to help manage fevers, colic, muscular pains and burns, poisons, gynecological issues, coughs, and edema. The bark of the stems helps to manage biliousness and is used topically by the natives of Tunkur in India.
The bark can be ground into a paste and used topically to help manage pain in Sonaghati. The same natives will make a decoction by boiling the bark to help bring down a fever.
Indigenous members of Topslip treat toothaches by boiling powdered parvifolia bark together with Phyllanthus emblica fruit. The resulting vapor is inhaled to reduce pain and inflammation.
Kadam fruit juice is given to new mothers as a lactodepurant. It helps to regulate the amount of milk that is produced.
M. parvifolia is one of the best Mitragyna plants for topical usage. Poultices made from the tree’s leaves can be employed to help reduce the swelling and pain associated with sprains. Such poultices help dress wounds and mitigate pain .
Just like other Mitragyna species, M. parvifolia can be used to help reduce the pain caused by conditions like rheumatism. Decoctions made from the stems and leaves of the plant can be consumed to reduce discomfort.
Natives of Chenchus, Yanadis, and Sugalis of the Indian district of Andhra Pradesh make a juice from the plant’s fresh leaves to help alleviate symptoms of jaundice.
Natives have used the sap of the fresh leaves in the Chenchus, Yerukalas, and Sugalis regions of Andhra Pradesh. This leaf sap helps to reduce pain and swelling and improves the speed at which wounds and ulcerations heal.
Scientific Evidence of Medicinal Use
M. parvifolia has been studied fairly extensively for its medicinal value. Here are some examples of its many benefits. Most of these are animal studies that show promise for human application.
M. parvifolia has been suggested to provide antinociceptive activity when used in the form of an alcohol-based extract of the dried leaves. The extract was given to mice in doses as high as 300 mg/kg.
The herb’s antinociceptive activity increased up to nearly 40% (animal studies) . This amount of relief was comparable to standard pharmaceutical agents like Ibuprofen which provides antinociceptive activity of around 43.63%.
M. parvifolia leaves, when extracted in methanol, were shown to help reduce arthritis pain in mice. Doses of 125, 250, and 500 g/kg were provided to the rats . The inhibitions of arthritic pain were at rates of 22.1%, 35.9%, and 51.3%, respectively.
Alcohol-based extract of M. parvifolia leaves can also help reduce the occurrence of seizures in mice . Though the seizures were induced manually in mice, the extract produced protective effects in PTZ-induced seizures.
Anti-inflammatory benefits have been proven to result from extracts of M. parvifolia. This is no surprise since pretty much every tree in the Mitragyna genus possesses some anti-inflammatory effects .
Unfortunately, the studies done on M. parvifolia focus on animals once again. The animals were forcibly induced with edema and then given extracts of M. parvifolia at doses of either 100, 200, or 300 mg/kg.
At the highest dose range, there were significant and potent anti-inflammatory effects (a total of 37.99%) nearly equal to that of the leading pharmaceutical agent for treating similar issues, phenylbutazone, which provides 42.02% relief.
Inflammation is believed to be reduced thanks to M. parvifolia’s ability to inhibit cyclooxygenase, which inhibits prostaglandin production, an inflammatory compound.
One of the main reasons the Mitragyna genus has gained popularity is M. speciosa’s ability to reduce anxiety. It turns out that M. parvifolia may also be effective at reducing anxiety. This particular study evaluated the effects of a methanolic extract of the stem bark on rats.
Rats were given 100, 200, or 400 mg/kg doses. All amounts led to an improvement in scores evaluating anxiety levels . Rates of anxiety reduction were compared to fluoxetine (Prozac) and proved to be statistically significant, especially in the higher dosage range.
M. parvifolia was shown to provide substantial antioxidant effects in a variety of studies. One study evaluated the ethanol-based extract of the plant’s leaves . Concentrations of 100, 300, and 500 ug/mL were evaluated for their ability to reduce free radicals in vitro. At the highest concentration, the M. parvifolia extract could scavenge 65% of free radicals.
An ethanol extract from M. parvifolia was employed in concentrations of 100, 250, and 500 mg/kg and given to rats faced with the hot plate test .
Compared to diclofenac sodium, a standard drug used to evaluate the efficacy of new drugs, the 500 mg/kg dosage was shown to have the most significant analgesic (painkilling) activity.
Although they are not often used for this purpose in the West, all of the Mitragyna plants possess potent antimicrobial activity. An ethanol-based extract of M. parvifolia has been studied for this purpose in doses of 25, 50, 75, and 100 ug/ml infusions in vitro .
The extract was used against various microbes, including S. aureus, P. aeruginosa, and E. coli. M. parvifolia was compared to the antimicrobial agent Ciproflaxin.
M. parvifolia was significantly effective at inhibiting S. aureus. Although it did show some effect, it was not powerfully effective against P. aeruginosa or E. coli.
Constituents & Phytochemicals of Mitragyna parvifolia
Many constituents and phytochemicals (plant-based chemicals) are found in both the leaves, bark, and root bark of the M. parvifolia plant. This member of the genus has a higher concentration of alkaloids in the bark than most other Mitragyna trees.
M. parvifolia constituents:
- The stem and bark are particularly rich in alkaloids, flavonoids, glycosides, and tannins
- The bark reveals numerous carbohydrates, phenols, flavonoids, sterols, tannins, and phytosterols.
- The whole plant contains various active alkaloids, aldehydes, and ketones, as well as daucosterol, quinovic acid, and methyl acetate.
- Many of the constituents in M. parvifolia are also found in the yohimbe tree.
Active Ingredients: Indole & Oxindole Alkaloids
Like most other plants in the genus, M. parvifolia is a rich source of many different alkaloids.
M. parvifolia contains indole and oxindole alkaloids, which can be clearly divided into two groups: closed E ring alkaloids and open E ring alkaloids.
The oxindole alkaloids, which contain the oxidole base structure, generally have strong biological activity in human beings. Open E ring oxindole alkaloids tend to influence the nervous system. Closed R ring oxindoles tend to affect the immune system.
The indole alkaloids include rotundifoline, rhynchophylline, isorotundifoline, rhynchociline, speciocilitine, speciofoline, and mitragynine. These alkaloids are especially important since they are necessary for generating the relevant oxindole alkaloids.
Other alkaloids include 16,17-dihydro-17b-hydroxy-isomitraphylline and 16, 17- dihydro-17b-hydroxy-mitraphylline, both of which were first identified in M. parvifolia.
Like other Mitragyna plants, all alkaloids have asymmetric centers located at C-3, C-15, and C-20. The closed E ring alkaloids have an additional asymmetric center at C-19, just as with other members in the genus. The oxindoles have an additional asymmetric center at C-17.
The bark of the roots contains a greater density of indole alkaloids when compared to the leaves. The biogenesis of oxindole alkaloids from indole alkaloids likely occurs in the roots. From here, only certain alkaloids are transported to the upper regions of the tree.
There is often a significant variance in the alkaloidal content in trees from different regions.
Samples from different Indian states contain significant differences: leaves from M. parvifolia plants found in Bihar and West Bengal have different alkaloids entirely compared to those found in Kerala. Leaves obtained from plants in Maharashtra had a further, different set of alkaloids from those found in Kerala.
The seasons also influence the alkaloidal content of the M. parvifolia plants, just as with other trees in the genus.
Factors like climate change, pollution, and various other factors are beginning to influence salinity across the globe. Regions that are particularly affected are arid and semiarid regions. These regions already struggle enough with remaining hydration — they don’t need any more salinization.
M. parvifolia is one of the most important trees growing in these arid and semiarid regions, particularly in India. Unfortunately, it’s currently facing the threat of extinction. One of the factors contributing to the decrease in M. parvifolia is the increased salinity of the soil.
Increased salinity causes a change in soil’s electrical conductivity (EC). This can impede the ability of plants’ cellular communication.
Researchers observed the effects of salinity on young seedlings from the plant . The M. parvifolia seedlings were exposed to soil that was influenced by salinity and experienced a change in its EC. Ideal EC is 0-5; plants were exposed to soils of various EC levels ranging from 0-5 (control) to 20-25.
There was a significant negative correlation between the level of salinity, the EC, and the health of the plants. Plants that were moved into the soil with an EC of greater than 15 didn’t survive for more than a week.
All parameters that were studied showed an overall decrease at this level aside from water-use efficiency, suggesting that M. parvifolia.
With an EC of 10-15, seedlings survived, but their height was reduced by 37%. The plants exposed to 5-10 showed less positive performance values than the control group.
Since it’s not certain that other plants increase their water use efficiency when exposed to saline environments, this could provide helpful information for environmental scientists interested in helping to fight increasing salinity.
By observing M. parvifolia and how it manages to increase its water use efficiency, we may be able to learn more and combat some of the desertification that is taking place on the planet at large. Humans, too, tend to increase our water use efficiency when faced with a decrease in water.
The dynamics and patterns of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are a good way to evaluate soil health. In some areas of the Thar Desert in India, the effects of the Mitragyna parvifolia tree on the AMF were observed.
Soil samples were collected for just over a year, from June 2003 until July 2004. The study evaluated several different components of the AMF as well as observed the different types of actual AMF . Fifteen other species of AMF were identified during the study.
The inclusion of these species of AMF allows for greater communication between plant species in the region. Mycorrhizal fungal networks enable plants to send messages and transport nutrients and water across significant distances.
M. parvifolia is a fascinating member of the Mitragyna genus. Like all the other members of this group, M. parvifolia shows impressive benefits. It has been and continues to be used medicinally by people worldwide.
Some of the effects of this species are similar to kratom (Mitragyna speciosa). Still, its effects are considered much gentler overall and likely to disappoint users expecting powerful effects on cognition, mood, or pain.
The combination of alkaloids and phytochemicals produced by the plant allows for its wide variety of medicinal benefits. The plant prefers to grow in tropical regions in the Indian subcontinent and proves challenging to cultivate elsewhere.
Unfortunately, M. parvifolia is listed as endangered and is likely to go extinct in the natural environment if we don’t change the way we treat tropical forests around Southeast Asia soon.
- Patel, A. K., Lodha, D., & Shekhawat, N. S. (2020). An improved micropropagation protocol for the ex situ conservation of Mitragyna parvifolia (Roxb.) Korth.(Rubiaceae): an endangered tree of pharmaceutical importance. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology-Plant, 56(6), 817-826.
- Brown, P. N., Lund, J. A., & Murch, S. J. (2017). A botanical, phytochemical and ethnomedicinal review of the genus Mitragyna korth: Implications for products sold as kratom. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 202, 302-325.
- Gupta, V., Kumar, P., Bansal, P., & Singh, R. (2009). Anti-inflammatory and Anti-nociceptive Activity of” Mitragyna parvifolia”. Asian Journal of Medical Sciences, 1(3), 97-99.
- Taur, D. J., & Patil, R. Y. (2011). Some medicinal plants with antiasthmatic potential: a current status. Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine, 1(5), 413-418.
- Kaushik, D., Khokra, S. L., Kaushik, P., Saneja, A., & Arora, D. (2009). Anticonvulsant activity of Mitragyna parvifolia leaves extract. Pharmacologyonline, 3, 101-106.
- Gupta, V., Kumar, P., Bansal, P., & Singh, R. (2009). Anti-inflammatory and Anti-nociceptive Activity of” Mitragyna parvifolia”. Asian Journal of Medical Sciences, 1(3), 97-99.
- Vishal, B. B., & Sanjay, J. S. (2009). Investigation of anxiolytic effects of Mitragyna parvifolia stem-bark extracts on animal models. Der Pharmacia Lettre, 1(2), 172-181.
- Kaushik, D., Saneja, A., Kaushik, P., Lal, S., & Yadav, V. (2009). Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of Mitragynaparvifolia leaves extract. Der Pharmacia Lettre, 1(1), 75-82.
- Kaushik, D., Khokra, S. L., Kaushik, P., Saneja, A., Sharma, C., Aneja, K. R., … & Koshy, S. (2009). A study of analgesic and antimicrobial potential of Mitragyna parvifolia. International Journal of Pharmaceutical sciences and drug research, 1(1), 6-8.
- Bidalia, A., Hanief, M., & Rao, K. S. (2017). Tolerance of Mitragyna parvifolia (Roxb.) Korth. seedlings to NaCl salinity. Photosynthetica, 55(2), 231-239.
- Panwar, J., & Tarafdar, J. C. (2006). Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal dynamics under Mitragyna parvifolia (Roxb.) Korth. in Thar Desert. Applied Soil Ecology, 34(2-3), 200-208.