What Is Kratom?
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a Southeast Asian herb that primarily grows in the rainforests of Indonesia, Thailand, and Borneo. It has been used for centuries to treat chronic pain, insomnia, and mood disorders due to its high alkaloid content, making it a natural pain reliever and euphoric.
Kratom is unregulated in most states in the United States, but some have chosen to regulate it or ban it altogether, raising concerns in people who assume it’s banned for being dangerous.
To understand why some people believe kratom is dangerous and set the record straight, let’s look at how people use it and its similarities and differences from opiates.
What Is Kratom Used for?
Kratom is very versatile and helpful in many ways. Here are the top ways people use it.
Many people take kratom for pain relief due to its potent, natural analgesic qualities. The native people of Southeast Asia traditionally used kratom to ease their aches and pains and make them feel relaxed and content. Today, most people prefer taking kratom in a powdered form, either with water or in a capsule.
Anxiety & Depression
Kratom is sometimes used to relieve anxiety and depression. It’s not a cure, but it can help make symptoms manageable.
White kratom strains work best for depression due to their euphoric effects and energy boost. Red strains are best for anxiety. In small doses, kratom can induce euphoria, helping people destress and improve their mindset.
Many people have replaced their morning coffee habit with a potent white strain and claim it gives them smoother, longer-lasting energy to tackle the day. White strains are the most energizing, though all strains are mildly stimulating in small doses.
Another common use for kratom is to support sleep. Red or even high doses of green kratom can be very relaxing, and some users take it before bed to help them sleep.
Finally, people recovering from opioid abuse may use kratom to help manage their withdrawal symptoms. Pain from opiate withdrawal can be unbearable, and kratom gives recovering addicts a fighting chance at pushing through the rough stages of recovery without relapsing.
Is Kratom an Opiate?
No. Despite interacting with the body’s opioid receptors in a very similar way to opiates, kratom is not an opiate itself. Some people don’t realize that not all substances that bind to opioid receptors are opiates, and others intentionally misrepresent the facts to push legislators towards banning kratom.
The two main alkaloids in kratom — mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine—interact with opioid receptors in the central nervous system, blocking pain signals and creating the relaxing and euphoric effects kratom is known for. These effects bear similarities to the effects of some opioids, but don’t let that confuse you.
Is Kratom Safe?
Kratom is safe to use when taken responsibly. Experts agree that responsible kratom use requires controlling your doses, monitoring your weekly and monthly intake, and taking breaks at the first sign of developing dependence.
Unfortunately, following the guidelines for using kratom safely might not be enough to protect you from low-quality, contaminated products. Less reputable companies will sell impure or contaminated kratom to extend their profits even though it can harm their customers.
Bad batches of kratom have been found to contain dangerous chemicals like solvents, heavy metals, and biological contaminants like mold and bacteria. It is essential that you only purchase kratom from reputable companies that have their products tested by third-party labs.
Suggested Reading: Fake Kratom is Out There; Here’s How to Avoid it
Does Kratom Come With Side Effects?
Even though kratom is 100% natural and largely regarded as safe, it has some unpleasant side effects that users need to watch out for.
Below are some of the most common side effects of kratom and some tips for avoiding them.
Addiction is the most important side effect to be aware of if you’re a kratom user. People who take kratom daily for extended periods may develop a physical dependence and find it hard to stop taking it without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Experts recommend limiting weekly kratom intake to fewer than five days and taking at least one week off every two months. Taking kratom seven days a week is dangerous and will almost certainly lead to addiction.
Stomach Ache & Nausea
Some people complain of gastrointestinal discomfort from taking kratom. These people often take large amounts of red or green kratom and say they feel sick shortly after taking their dose. Luckily, feeling nauseous from kratom is usually short-lived and easily avoided by taking a smaller dose.
Diarrhea is also possibly a side effect of taking large doses, although it seems to be less common than nausea.
Lightheadedness or Dizziness
One of the most common side effects of kratom is lightheadedness or dizziness. Kratom is psychoactive and can alter users’ headspaces dramatically, making it challenging to disentangle pleasurable relaxation from feeling woozy at times.
Experienced kratom users suggest lowering your dose if you feel dizzy and switching strains if you still feel unsteady when taking less.
Also see: What Are the Kratom Wobbles?
Feeling lethargic is also a common complaint among kratom users, and it can be a sign that you need to take a break. Prolonged tiredness is one of the early signs of kratom dependence and is most often seen in people who take kratom every day. You should take a week off from using kratom if you start to feel unusually tired for an extended period.
Some white strain users report becoming constipated when taking kratom regularly. The mechanism behind this side effect is unknown, but it seems less common among people taking red or green strains.
White strains also have a higher chance of triggering anxiety in some people, especially those prone to anxiety or who have a preexisting condition. Most people theorize that this is due to white kratom’s intensely stimulating effects at low doses. Experienced users suggest taking a red or green strain if you’re susceptible to anxiety.
Brain fog is similar to lightheadedness and dizziness in that it can be hard to tell when it’s happening. Kratom can impair memory and make it difficult to focus on work, especially when taking a large dose of a strong red strain.
White kratom doesn’t cause brain fog nearly as often as red kratom, and many people use it to increase their focus and make them more productive.
Other Side Effects
There are plenty of other side effects that are less common than those listed here. Of particular concern to some people is the potential for liver issues and hormonal imbalances. Anyone with known kidney problems, liver problems, or a hormonal imbalance should not take kratom. When in doubt, you should consult your doctor.
How to Avoid Side Effects While Using Kratom
Side effects from using kratom are far more prevalent in people taking large doses above 10 grams. The best way to limit your chance of experiencing unwanted side effects is to control your amount and only take as much as you need to produce the desired effects. Many people make the mistake of thinking higher doses are better and wind up having a bad experience.
Remember that everyone is different, so you may experience side effects even when taking lower doses. Your age, weight, gender, and metabolism all affect how your body reacts to kratom, so take the time to experiment and find the optimal dose for you.
What is Considered a Safe Dose of Kratom?
An overwhelming majority of kratom users take between 1 and 10 grams. Larger doses are more likely to cause unwanted side effects and don’t offer better or more pleasurable experiences. Dosing kratom safely and effectively is about taking the proper amount, not as much as you can tolerate.
Specific dosing guidelines vary slightly between strains, but here are some general recommendations.
- Dose for stimulation: 1 to 3 grams
- Dose for relaxation: 3 to 5 grams
- Dose for pain relief: 6 to 10 grams
How & Where to Buy Pure, Safe Kratom
Buying kratom online is by far the best way to get pure, high-quality products. Buying kratom online is safer, more affordable, and gives you access to a broader range of strains and products than buying it from a local shop.
Reputable online kratom vendors source their kratom directly from suppliers, giving them access to better prices and allowing them to set lower prices, saving you money. They also can reach a broader customer base than brick-and-mortar shops, which means they don’t need to factor spoiled products into their operating costs.
Having a direct relationship with a kratom supplier gives online kratom shops another advantage: access to third-party testing. Since online shops know where their kratom comes from, they can have random samples of their products tested for quality and safety at independent laboratories. Local shops usually sell someone else’s product and don’t purchase kratom in bulk from the growers.
Finally, online kratom retailers usually have more variety than a local store. Since their audience is country-wide, they can afford to carry niche items without worrying about them sitting on a shelf for months.
The three best online shops for buying kratom are VIP Kratom, Kona Kratom, and Star Kratom.
VIP Kratom specializes in selling premium kratom products and providing its customers with unparalleled customer service. Its prices are slightly higher than the other vendors, but customer reviews are overwhelmingly positive and indicate that the higher prices are worth the VIP treatment.
Kona Kratom is more affordable than VIP Kratom but still sells high-quality products. It focuses on offering a variety of top-notch kratom capsules and powders at reasonable prices. Many people use Kona Kratom as their go-to shop for its selection and value.
If speedy shipping is your number one concern, Star Kratom is the vendor for you. It offers 1–2 day shipping on most of its products and processes orders placed early enough on the same day. Star Kratom’s selection is a bit sparser than the other two companies’ selection, but its prices are excellent and shipping times unmatched.
Summary of Best Online Kratom Vendors
- Best choice for premium kratom: VIP Kratom
- Best all-around kratom vendor: Kona Kratom
- Best choice for fast shipping: Star Kratom
The Bottom Line: Is Kratom Safe?
Kratom is generally considered safe as long as you use it responsibly. Experienced kratom users advise beginners to start slowly with low doses to see how their body reacts before taking larger amounts. They also recommend limiting weekly intake to only a few days, especially when starting.
Some people wrongly assume that kratom is an opiate due to its similar biological function and effects. This leads them to lobby for kratom restrictions under the pretense that kratom should be held to the same standards as dangerous opioids. Despite its similarities, kratom is not an opiate and is actually used to treat opiate withdrawal in recovering opioid abusers.
The number one risk of using kratom is addiction, so users need to be especially careful to avoid developing dependence. Prolonged lethargy is the most common early sign of kratom addiction, so you should stop taking kratom immediately if you feel unusually tired. The best way to lower your risk of addiction is to use kratom sparingly, taking regular breaks to give your body time to recover.