Is Kratom Really Healthy? Dispelling the Natural = Healthy Myth
With more research and understanding of kratom, we can avoid the dangers associated with it, while still taking advantage of its benefits in a safer way.
With the rise of natural and organic products, many have assumed that everything ‘natural’ is inherently healthy. But is this really the case? Let's take a look at one example in particular: kratom.
In Thailand, kratom use has been centuries old, yet it's been making waves in the Western world for its potential health benefits. Many people are drawn to its alluring effects, but there are also risks you should be aware of. In this article, we'll dive into the history and current use of kratom and explore how this botanical compound has changed Thailand's economic landscape in the aftermath of Covid-19. Finally, we'll confront the misconception that if something is natural and legal, then it must be healthy. By the end of this article, you'll understand the full picture surrounding kratom consumption.
What Is Kratom? History & Modern Use
Kratom is an herbal substance that has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand. It is derived from the leaves of a tropical tree native to the region and produces a variety of psychoactive effects, both opioid-like and stimulant-like.
Historically, kratom has been used by many societies for its claimed medicinal effects, including pain relief, fatigue, relaxation and treatment of opioid addiction. In Thailand, kratom was banned in 1943 due to concerns about its potential for addiction. But, in 2021, Thailand passed the updated Narcotics Act (No. 8), which removed kratom from its list of prohibited substances.
In recent years, kratom has seen a surge in popularity outside of its traditional use cases. It's become popular for recreational purposes as well as to aid with stress and anxiety.
Despite this growth in popularity and usage, there is still much to learn about kratom and its purported beneficial effects. There are many nuances to consider such as the dosing schedule you should use and the different types available—white vein or green vein being two common varieties.
Regardless of how much we know—or don't know—about kratom, there's no doubt that it has had an interesting history and modern role in Southeast Asia today.
What Are the Potential Health Benefits of Kratom?
Kratom has become increasingly popular as a natural remedy for various ailments. It's often used to self-treat chronic and/or acute pain, anxiety, or depression. Additionally, early studies suggest that kratom may even have potential as an antidepressant and hunger suppressant.
At low doses, kratom acts as a stimulant, making users feel more energetic. Some people with chronic pain also find that kratom is an effective way to manage their symptoms. At higher doses, it can produce calming or sedative effects. It's important to note that there is still very limited research into the long-term effects of taking kratom regularly, so it's important to consult with your doctor before beginning any sort of alternative treatment plan.
What Are the Dangers of Taking Kratom?
It's true, kratom does have potential benefits, but with any natural substance there are potential side effects. First off, it has opioid-like effects and produces both stimulant (low doses) and sedative (high doses) responses. It's also addictive, and can lead to physical dependence and addiction when taken regularly. While death from kratom use is rare compared to opioids, there is a risk of death associated with it—particularly if taken in combination with other substances.
In Thailand, kratom is often mixed with a synthetic cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine which can be incredibly dangerous. As more research needs to be done around the safety of kratom, the big takeaway is that while it may have its benefits, caution should always be taken when using it.
Why Is Kratom So Popular in Thailand?
One of the main reasons why kratom is so popular in Thailand is because it has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. As such, kratom is deeply entrenched in Thailand's folk healing traditions, which has made its use legal and quite commonplace. Kratom has been used to help with a variety of ailments, ranging from reducing pain and inflammation to mitigating opiate withdrawal symptoms. It's highly sought after for these reported health benefits, however there's still a need for more research.
Kratom also produces more than 40 alkaloids, some of which have potential medical benefits but can also be dangerous if misused or taken in the wrong doses. This emphasizes the importance of understanding the effects of this drug before using it. Finally, since the onset of COVID-19, there's been a growing demand for kratom here in Thailand as jobs were lost and people were looking for ways to supplement their income. The result was an increased production of kratom that resulted in economic activity in rural areas that otherwise would have not had job opportunities.
Breaking Down the Natural=Healthy Myth About Kratom
You may have heard that kratom is ‘natural’ and therefore it must be healthy—but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Although kratom is a plant-based substance, it doesn’t make it any less dangerous.
Kratom has been known to be addictive, producing physical and psychological dependence. Common signs of kratom addiction include craving the drug, developing withdrawal symptoms when not taking kratom, difficulty concentrating without the presence of kratom, problems at work or with interpersonal relationships as a result of using kratom and using more of the drug than intended.
Mixing With Synthetic Cough Syrups
In some cases, kratom is mixed with synthetic cough syrups (which contain psychoactive substances) that can be harmful. It’s important to check who you are buying from and what kind of ingredients are being used in their products—knowledge is power when it comes to staying safe with this substance.
Simply because something is natural does not mean it comes without risks or potential for addiction or other health issues. The importance of conducting research and checking your sources cannot be overstated when it comes to understanding the risks associated with substances like kratom.
Kratom and the Need For Research
Another thing to consider when looking at kratom as a potential health supplement is the need for more research. Kratom is not regulated by the FDA in the US, so there's very limited studies available to verify any potential health benefits — or dangers.
That doesn't mean that kratom isn't being studied, however: the DEA has been researching kratom's active ingredients since early 2016, and there have been plenty of anecdotal evidence about its effectiveness for treating chronic pain and opiate addiction.
But more recent literature shows that kratom might not be as safe as previously thought — some preclinical studies have associated long-term use of kratom with dependency, and there are reports of users experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms after quitting its use. Clearly, there's a great need for further investigation on the safety and efficacy of kratom as a health supplement.
It’s clear that kratom has its own place in Thai culture, having created jobs in the aftermath of Covid, but it’s also clear that more research is needed. It’s natural and legal, but that doesn't necessarily mean it’s healthy in its current form. It’s become a very popular product for its touted health benefits and because of this, people have become reliant on it. With more research and understanding of kratom, we can avoid the dangers associated with it, while still taking advantage of its benefits in a safer way. We need to make sure that this natural product stays natural, and that the people who rely on it and the people who develop the product are protected.
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