From caffeine to nicotine, the legal to the illicit, using stimulants for recreational and medicinal purposes has been a constant throughout human history; in the modern era, the well-known corporate slogan, "America runs on Duncan" (a reference to the popularity of Duncan Donuts' unique brand of coffee) is a testament to that fact. While caffeine may enjoy some of the most widespread use of any stimulant out there, other natural stimulants like kratom have similar effects. For those interested in trying something new, choosing the best kratom to buy can be a daunting task. Not enjoying the same level of notoriety and wide-spread use as coffee beans, fewer people are aware of the uses and origins of kratom leaves, which in turn causes them to suffer from the negative stigma of the unknown. There's nothing to be afraid of though, as kratom leaves have been cultivated and used in some parts of the world for hundreds of years.
Why Buy Kratom, Anyway?
The first step down the road of choosing the best kratom to buy is to understand what it is, and a little bit about the history of its use by man. Kratom is actually a name that refers to the leaves of a specific type of Southeast Asian deciduous evergreen tree known as the Mitragyna speciosa. The tree grows indigenously in Thailand, and as a result the kratom leaves have become deeply ingrained in some veins of Thai culture. The leaves contain a combination of chemicals that act as a specific type of opioid receptors. There are approximately 40 distinct chemical compounds in the kratom leaves, but the most commonly recognized as the "active" chemical is 7-hydroxymitragynine.
The result of this chemical composition is that kratom leaves can be used as a pain management tool, mood enhancer, and depending on the strength of dosage a sedative or stimulant. In Thailand, especially the southern peninsula, chewing the leaves is a common cultural practice. Some estimates put the rates of usage at up to 70% of the male population in certain regions, with an average of 10-60 leaves chewed on a daily basis. In addition to chewing the leaves whole to extract the chemicals through mastication, they are also commonly brewed in tea. Because of its characteristics that act as an opioid receptor, an increasingly common use of the leaves is to help opium addicts break their addictions. Numerous case studies exist where individuals dependent on pain killers such as morphine were able to gradually able to lose their addiction to the substance without experiencing the painful withdrawals often associated with the process.
On the flip-side of that, the process of "quitting" kratom has been likened by many to caffeine withdrawals.
The Opium Stigma
Because of the potential medicinal use by opium addicts to break their addictions, kratom leaves have garnered a somewhat negative reputation by association in some Western countries. Although kratom is legal in the United States, there have been numerous grumblings in state legislatures about adding the leaves to banned substances lists, and in one state the key active chemicals in found in kratom have been added - in this case the leaf itself is still legal though, because it does not qualify as a synthetic product comprised of the banned substances.
In Thailand itself the kratom leaf has been illegal since the 1940s, although given that the Mitragyna speciosa grows abundantly in the wild the ban has had minimal effect on overall usage rates. A recent study released by the Office of Narcotics Control Board has called for the decriminalization of the plant, as research into its initial prohibition has uncovered that it was largely for economic, rather than social or health reasons.
Choosing and the Best Kratom
Given kratom's legal status (at least for the time being) in most countries, there is a growing need to spread awareness about the leaf. Like any natural product, there are a variety of different types, and sub-types on the market for consumers to choose from. Some of the varietals available today have been engineered with genetic modification, while many are simply naturally occurring variations brought up and cultivated in different regions and climates. Choosing the best kratom to buy depends much on an individual's personal preference, much like when you have hair loss, but also the desired effect that they want the stimulant to have. Below is a short rundown of the different ways kratom is categorized:
- Bali (a.k.a Borneo)
- Indonesian (a.k.a Indo)
By Stem Color
- Red Vein
- Green Vein
- White Vein
There is no definitive guide to the characteristics of each strain, and like coffee beans even leaves harvested from the same region can vary greatly in their strength, effect, and overall quality. The real differences come from the chemical composition of the plant and how the processing by specific suppliers supplements, alters, or otherwise changes that initial composition. In general all kratom leaf products produce an energetic boost at low dosages, and a more sedative affect with higher consumption. The strength and effects are also largely dependent on the medium through which they're ingested. While many people are most comfortable steeping powdered extract for tea, there are also options to buy kratom resin, capsules, and various other forms.
Find What Works
In the end the lack of a mainstream consumer footprint or government regulation has led to a kratom market that is rife with players. The key for anyone looking to incorporate kratom into their daily routine is to shop around; try different regional strains, leaf grades, vein types, and most importantly vendors. There is no catch-all for choosing the best kratom to buy, and it will be a decision that varies from person to person.