In the last two decades or so, kratom has become widely used and referred to as a “natural opioid.” With the opioid epidemic on the rise, it’s not surprising that some people turn to kratom to get similar pain relief.
The active ingredient found in kratom is called mitragynine. At low doses, mitragynine can have energizing properties. At higher doses, it can feel like a sedative. Mitragynine works by binding to opioid receptors in your brain, relieving pain, which may explain the antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.
Many people fight depression and anxiety, and now that it’s more widely talked about, those suffering from these conditions have many treatment options, including kratom. Kratom can noticeably elevate your mood, make ordinary jobs or projects feel fun, and provide additional motivation to those needing a boost of energy. This is usually achieved by taking smaller doses and only when needed. It is not recommended to take kratom recreationally, as there is a risk of tolerance buildup.
Do you have questions about the effects of kratom, or if it is a viable option to treat depression and anxiety, read on.
Energy + Focus; Good for those looking for a boost
Positivity; Good for those dealing with depression
Relax + Pain relief; Good for those looking to unwind or relieve tension
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tropical tree found in parts of Southeast Asia and has a long history of medicinal uses. Kratom is also known around the world as Thom, Thang, and Biak. Its leaves and the teas brewed from them have long been used by people to manage pain and opioid withdrawal and fight fatigue. Kratom has become popular in the last ten years as a self-treatment for those looking for a more holistic approach to manage symptoms of depression or anxiety. Although some evidence suggests that certain kratom strains can help alleviate these symptoms, more research is needed.
It is important to know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)hasn’t approved kratom to treat depression or anxiety. It is only considered a dietary supplement; the FDA hasn’t regulated its consumption. For transparency sake, kratom is illegal in some parts of the world, including Denmark, Thailand (where it is also produced), and Australia. While it’s technically legal in the United States, governing bodies, including the FDA and CDC, have been trying to ban people from importing, and it is said that this ban could go into effect as soon as early 2021.
According to a study done in 2017 by Science Direct, kratom gained international attention for its potential therapeutic agent to treat people addicted to opioids or suffering from immense pain. Kratom is also said to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety among many users. For many, kratom’s negative mental health effects – primarily withdrawal symptoms – appear to be mild relative to opioids.
If you’re thinking about using kratom to treat depression or anxiety symptoms, you must conduct extensive research and exercise caution as there are always possible risks that come along with any treatment plan. It is always important to talk to a trusted family member, friend, or a mental health professional before deciding which treatment plan might be right for you.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of using kratom for depression and anxiety, it is important to know more about the actual types of kratom and its effects if you decide to take any form.
There are three commonly known colors of kratom leaves; green, white, and red. Each type can be found in different parts of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Borneo, and Bali. These different kratom types are commonly referred to as strains, with each of their titles or names coming from their country of origin. For example, Green Indo would be a green strain, coming from Indonesia.
Like marijuana strains, various kratom strains have different effects; some are very slight, and others more extreme. There’s currently no research into the consequences of various strains of kratom. The following descriptions are based only on anecdotal reports produced by the Centre for Drug Research at the University Sains in Malaysia. It’s also worth noting that the after-effects and risks involved in a specific strain vary from one supplier to another.
There are many different strains of kratom - the most well-known include:
Maeng Da Kratom
Green Malay Kratom
Maeng dacan bring many of the pain-relieving qualities expected of kratom, but with a much more extreme stimulating boost. However, unlike other stimulants, such as Adderal, the energy boost doesn’t come with the jittery, unfocused side effects. Maeng da was first discovered in Thailand, but strains from Indonesia and Malaysia are also available. Maeng da is often green, red, or white in color.
As you might have guessed, Indo kratom comes from Indonesia. It is often green, red, or white in color. Indo kratom is said to be known as ‘kratom lite,’ as it generally induces a lesser result than other strains. Indo is said to improve relaxation, relieve pain, and can promote feelings of well-being and happiness. Some say this strain of kratom is good for those trying to manage feelings of depression and anxiety.
Bali Kratom has traditionally been one of the most popular strains because of its high potency, gentle energy boost, and a euphoric blend of properties. Bali kratom is mostly used to treat pain-related conditions, like chronic pain, as well as depression.
Green Malay kratom comes from Malaysia, is a dark green color, and is known to have some of the longest-lasting effects of any kratom due to its high concentration of alkaloids. If taken in small doses, it is said to induce energy and focus, but if taken in larger doses, it may have more of an “opioid” effect. Most take Green Malay to help manage anxiety and stress.
Found in Thailand and comes in all three kratom veins, red, green, and white, with each vein having its own set of effects. Both green and white vein strains can increase energy levels, all while supplying feelings of euphoria, whereas the red vein supplies the ultimate relief of pain.
Found in Borneo, but not as widely produced or distributed as other strains, Borneo kratom is mostly known to cause sedation feelings. It is generally taken by people dealing with anxiety and stress.
Malaysian strains, including green, red, and white vein kratom varieties, are said to be excellent for those suffering from chronic pain, inflammation, and anxiety. Malaysian kratom promotes natural bursts of energy and aid in cognitive function.
Now that we know more about the types of kratom and what each strain is capable of let’s talk more about using kratom to treat depression and anxiety. Since kratom isn’t approved by the FDA and is only considered a dietary supplement, there is no real way to say that it will or will not be effective in treating anxiety and depression symptoms. However, there have been studies put out suggesting that the active ingredient in kratom called Mitragynine could be behind the antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects that are reported by some users. Simply put, Mitragynine binds to the opioid receptors in your brain, which causes you to feel pain relief and lowers your stress level.
There is very little research done on kratom, and researchers haven’t been able to examine whether its other side effects, such as a feeling of sedation, can interfere with its other suggested benefits.
Other benefits may include:
Treatment of chronic pain
Decreasing the effects of muscle aches
Opioid addiction and withdrawal
As we stated before, more research is needed to verify the medical benefits of taking kratom for any condition.
There are a variety of ways to ingest kratom, which include:
Other extracts, such as oils
In most cases, people take kratom by swallowing capsules filled with powder that has been dried and ground from its leaves, but from what we’ve read, there are more and more people buying kratom powder in bulk, then mixed into foods, such as applesauce or nut butter. In some cases, kratom leaves are eaten fresh, dried, or boiled, then consumed as a tea.
On rare occasions, kratom has been said to be smoked or vaporized.
The way a person ingests kratom is entirely up to them, and it is important to know that the method of ingestion may influence the effects of kratom. Unfortunately, there isn’t any real research to deem which ingestion method is most effective in treating depression and anxiety.
When it comes to the safety of using kratom, again, there is so little research to know exactly how any person will be affected, and there aren’t any studies on the long-term effects of kratom use, so we, unfortunately, are unable to give any clear facts here. We will say, though, if you or someone you know is thinking about using kratom for depression, anxiety, or any other condition, that they speak to a mental health professional and, at the very least, do their own extensive research. Experimenting with any dietary supplement can be dangerous.
According to the FDA’s review of available public information regarding kratom, “there does not appear to be a history of use or other evidence of safety establishing that kratom will reasonably be expected to be safe as a dietary ingredient. In fact, the scientific literature disclosed serious concerns regarding the toxicity of kratom in multiple organ systems. Consumption of kratom can lead to a number of health impacts, including respiratory depression, nervousness, agitation, aggression, sleeplessness, hallucinations, delusions, tremors, loss of libido, constipation, skin hyperpigmentation, nausea, vomiting, and severe withdrawal signs and symptoms. In the absence of a history of use or other evidence of safety establishing that kratom will reasonably be expected to be safe as a dietary ingredient, kratom, and kratom-containing dietary supplements and bulk dietary ingredients are adulterated under section 402(f)(1)(B) of the Act [21 U.S.C. 342(f)(1)(B)], because they contain a new dietary ingredient for which there is inadequate information to provide reasonable assurance that such ingredient does not present a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury.”
Like other treatment plans, the recommended dose is dependant on a variety of factors.
These factors include:
Method of ingestion
For example, if you decide to choose a green strain over a red strain, you might feel more happy and energetic rather than euphoric and sedated. Or if you steep the leaves and drink it as tea, the effects could be lesser than if you used it in its extract form.
It is recommended that you start with a low dose, then gradually increase the amount until the desired outcome is achieved.
With a lack of medical research, kratom can have a wide variety of effects, being entirely dependant on the individual, the dosage, and other factors, such as mental state, environment, and if you’ve taken kratom before.
The following doses are based on current research but may not be entirely accurate due to research limitations.
Low to moderate dose - 1 to 5 grams
High - 5 to 15 grams
Risky - 15 grams +
The effects of kratom can have many faces, and with a lack of research, it’s tough to nail down exactly how a person will react when they take it. The effects are also dependant on the individual, how much is ingested, and other factors.
It is said that the effects of kratom usually take between 5 and 20 minutes and can last around two hours if taken in low to moderate doses. If a higher dose is taken, the effects can last up to five hours.
Taking Kratom may cause the following mental, emotional, and behavioral effects:
Your body could experience the following effects:
Many people kindly tolerate kratom, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t risks associated with taking kratom.
Minimal side effects can include:
Changes in mood or mood swings
Severe side effects can include:
High blood pressure
Kidney and liver problems
Though not known for sure, kratom may adversely interact with other substances, including alcohol and other drugs or substances, leading to potentially life-threatening complications. Stopping the use of kratom abruptly can be associated with withdrawal symptoms; these symptoms may include insomnia, nausea, and mood swings. It should also be known that withdrawal from kratom may increase any depression and anxiety symptoms.
Stopping kratom use after a period of time can be associated with withdrawal symptoms. This includes insomnia, mood swings, and nausea.
Simply put, kratom is under-researched. Since the FDA doesn't approve dietary supplements, it hasn’t been approved by the FDA, which makes talking about the effectiveness of treating depression and anxiety a little bit tough. Kratom may help relieve certain symptoms, but it can also have negative side effects, and for some, these benefits may not outweigh the risks.
If you decide to take kratom, please remind yourself of two very important things, 1.) You should always talk to your doctor or other medical professionals before starting a new course of treatment, and 2.) Kratom is a dietary supplement and not a medically approved treatment for depression and anxiety. Kratom can interact with other substances, including medications and alcohol. It is also suggested that you don’t drive or operate heavy machinery after taking kratom.
If you're looking for an online doctor to talk through your decision about taking kratom to treat your depression or anxiety, check out the list that we've put together here. Some of the online doctors we recommend are Talkspace and BetterHealth.
Related Article: BetterHealth vs. Talkspace & Regain
Try to start with a small dose so you can monitor its effects and, like any other substance, think about telling a trusted friend, loved one, or medical professional so they can check on you periodically.
Related Article:What Are The Symptoms of Depression?
Sarah covers mental health, parenting, and women's health-related issues at ReliefSeeker. As a mother of two wonderful kids with a long career in marketing & media, Sarah's perspective on access to world-class healthcare connects to both heart and mind.
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