There are many myths out there about kratom, making it difficult to discern which benefits and effects have any truth to them. If you’re wondering what to believe, and how to trust your own intuition in the process, we’ve got the perfect resource for you.
Let’s start with what we consider to be the golden rule: Start with a smaller serving size and experiment with the amounts, situations, and frequency that work for you.
There is a considerably wide range of individual sensitivities to kratom. A larger individual who’s already a heavy coffee drinker and has particular biological markers will likely consume a much larger serving size to achieve comparable effects. That said, as part of our commitment to the consumer, we wanted to provide some general information about kratom’s potential benefits, risks, and range of effects.
Although traditionally brewed into tea, smoked, or chewed, kratom is utilized today in much more convenient ways. Some popular forms of kratom include:
Since kratom’s natural taste is quite bitter, many people recommend consuming kratom in a tasteless form (such as a capsule) or with an added sweetener (such as a gummy). The “best” type of kratom is the type that works best for you!
While the history of kratom use likely goes back several hundred, if not thousands of years, there are documented stories of kratom’s use in the early 19th century by Southeast Asian laborers to avoid the fatigue and general wear-and-tear that came along with field work. In essence, it became heralded as an herbal remedy that was rumored to help them boost productivity despite difficult working conditions. It’s even been used as part of religious ceremonies in some cultures to promote well-being.
Modern forms of kratom, such as powders, are often praised and described using words or phrases like:
Kratom is considered a promising substance, even though its potential hasn’t been proven using conventional methods just yet. However, a recent report summarizes well what many kratom supporters are feeling—“Survey respondents overwhelmingly indicate that regular kratom consumption produces desired effects…allowing them to live functional lives and meet daily obligations.” The hope is that future studies confirm the therapeutic properties that both ancient wisdom and modern-day kratom users report.
In short, research on kratom is still in the early stages, and there aren’t enough solid scientific studies to clarify if kratom (or what ideal amount of kratom) is tied to certain health benefits.
In regards to the complexity of kratom’s effects, a recent study put it well: “Desirable kratom effects were described among a majority, but so too were adverse effects.” Like many holistic substances, kratom is largely misunderstood and has gone from a substance wisely utilized in ancient medicine to one that’s sometimes used incorrectly. The myths surrounding kratom can cloud the shopping experience. Luckily, there are a few safeguards you can take to protect yourself against negative effects and increase the likelihood of positive outcomes.
One key aspect to know about kratom is that its effects are dependent upon the amount consumed. Basically, a smaller serving size may produce different results than a larger serving size. Beyond this, there are many unknowns about kratom, including the best serving size, all potential interactions with other substances, and when exactly long-term effects set in. That said, there are ways to approach this herbal substance with a healthy balance of both caution and optimism.
In some sense, one of kratom’s most promising qualities is an effect it doesn’t create. According to one study reported by the American Kratom Association, kratom doesn’t depress the respiratory system like opiates do, making it all but impossible to receive an acutely lethal amount.
In general, we encourage you to educate and empower yourself with available evidence, all while trusting your intuition and body to tell you if something feels “off.” Meeting with a holistic healthcare provider may be helpful in determining if the benefits outweigh the risks for you personally. Also, it’s not recommended to use kratom in place of a medication unless you’ve cleared this switch with your doctor. In other words, it’s advised to involve your healthcare practitioner in the process whenever possible.
Again, consume the smallest amount you personally find effective, and then only consume kratom to the extent you find it beneficial. Using too much for too long may not be desirable. Instead, listen to your body when adjusting serving sizes, and only use as needed. Similar to drinking multiple cups of coffee throughout the day, you’ll want to closely monitor how your body is responding to your consumption levels..
In other words, it helps to have a specific effect in mind anytime you take kratom. Consume it with a clear purpose! Seek out a balance of benefits and effects that works best for you.
Instead of being “kratom-naïve” (as one study puts it), aim to be kratom-knowledgeable, as this may help you to avoid adverse or unwanted effects. Start with the directions or serving sizes listed on the product label, and then consider any previous kratom experiences and your individual sensitivity level.
If not used carefully, kratom may cause some of the very symptoms people claim it alleviates. Staying educated or increasing education about kratom is a key part of consuming kratom responsibly, encouraging a positive effect, and empowering yourself to make the best decisions for your health. Along those lines, it’s crucial to seek out a reputable vendor who sells an unadulterated product, free from any unwanted additives that may further increase health concerns.
The most commonly reported effects to be aware of include:
It’s also important to note that these unwanted effects aren’t necessarily unique to kratom, and nausea and vomiting may simply be a sign that your body wasn’t prepared for the serving size it was given. Similar effects can occur when misusing a product, substance, or ingredient you aren’t familiar with. Emerging science also suggests that mitragynine may not play well with other active ingredients.
It’s just like when you eat too much candy and get a stomach ache, or drink too much coffee and start to feel jittery. It doesn’t mean these things are inherently bad, just that you need to moderate or adjust your intake.
Everyone’s body is different, and will react differently to kratom. This means that even though you may not experience the effects listed below, it’s important to be aware of them. Some effects of kratom can occur in the short term, such as soon after ingestion, or in the long term, meaning they become evident after repeated or regular use. Again, these effects are more common in people who misuse or abuse kratom, including the simultaneous use of other active ingredients.
Possible reported short-term effects include:
Although poorly understood, anecdotal evidence suggests there may be long-term effects as well including changes to weight and appetite, blood pressure, hyperpigmentation, sleep problems, and kidney or liver damage.
Some effects may be especially serious, and necessitate medical attention, such as heart palpitations, seizures, or tremors. These more serious effects tend to happen when kratom is combined with alcohol or drugs or with a preexisting health condition. Again, some of kratom’s alkaloids don’t play well with other active ingredients.
It’s helpful to view kratom through a similar lens as coffee. There can be varying levels of physical tolerance and withdrawal when it comes to coffee, and the same seems to go for kratom. Some people rely on coffee as part of their daily routine, while others feel like their body doesn’t respond well to caffeinated drinks. Just as you can choose whether coffee feels like a good fit for you, you can choose whether kratom feels like a healthy choice.
If you feel like you’re relying too heavily on kratom at any point in time, you can always take a “tolerance break.” This may help your body reset and find a restored sense of balance. It can also ensure that you’re listening to your body’s natural signals about the substance. Just as you can evolve, your kratom use can evolve to fit your needs, too.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has labeled kratom concerning, meaning it may not be a good fit for some people but could be a good fit for others. At the same time, it’s worth noting that the FDA refused to defend its position in federal court that kratom is a dangerous substance.
As mentioned above, it may take some trial and error to find out if the risks outweigh the benefits for you personally. Involving a healthcare provider in the process can increase the likelihood that any adverse effects are caught early.
Additionally, kratom is not recommended for certain populations, such as children or pregnant women. It’s currently considered dangerous for these populations to consume kratom, meaning the possible risks for people in these life stages outweigh the potential benefits.
When it comes to kratom, the bottom line is, it’s hard to find large-scale studies that confirm the positive benefits or negative effects that have been reported. That said, some psychopharmacological scientists have started publishing research that indicates it’s essentially impossible to overdose on kratom and it has a low potential for abuse overall.
If you’re still feeling conflicted, it may be helpful to, cautiously, turn to anecdotal evidence (people’s personal reports of using kratom) to inform your own journey. Consulting a holistic healthcare provider, as well as listening to your own body and understanding how it responds to kratom, can encourage you to make sense of kratom and make the most of your efforts.
Basically, there needs to be a healthy balance of caution, guidance from trained experts, and trusting your own intuition about a particular kratom product’s potential benefits and effects.
American Addiction Centers Editorial Staff. Kratom Short-Term, Long-Term, Effects, and Addiction Treatment. Drugabuse.com. Published February 2023.
Carlson D. Making Sense of Kratom Research: Therapeutic Effects, Abuse Potential, & More. Kratom.org. Published July 2023.
Cinosi E, Martinotti G, Simonato P, Signh D, Demetrovics Z, et al. Following “the Roots” of Kratom (Mitraguna speciosa): The Evolution of an Enhancer from a Traditional Use to Increase Work and Productivity in Southeast Asia to Recreational Psychoactive Drug in Western Countries. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:968786.
Drug Enforcement Administration. KRATOM (Mitragyna speciosa korth). Deadiversion.usdoj.gov. Published March 2023.
Dudley P. An In-Depth Look At Kratom’s Long-Term Side Effects & How to Avoid Them. Kratom.org. Published August 2023.
Grinspoon P. Kratom: Fear-worthy foliage or beneficial botanical? Health.harvard.edu. Published September 2019.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Natural Herb Kratom May Have Therapeutic Effects And Relatively Low Potential For Abuse Or Harm, According To A User Survey. Hopkinsmedicine.org. Published February 2020.
Konkel L. Kratom: A Look at the Risks and Possible Effects Related to Taking the Herbal Product. Everyday Health. Published July 2018.
Lautieri A, Editorial Staff. Kratom Short-Term, Long-Term, Effects, and Addiction Treatment. DrugAbuse.com. Updated February 2023.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Kratom. Nccih.nih.gov. Published June 2023.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Kratom. Nida.nih.gov. Published March 2022.
Operation Supplement Safety. Kratom. Opss.org. Published March 2022.
Paul W. Curious About Kratom? Here’s What We Know, Based On Science, Of Course. Kratom.org. Published July 2023.
Ramanathan S, McCurdy CR. Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa): worldwide issues. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2020;33(4):312-318.
Singh D, Narayanan S, Grundmann P, Chear NJY, Murugaiyah V, et al. Long-Term Effects of Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) Use. Malaysian J Med Health Sci. 2020;16(4):64-72.
Singh V, Mulla N, Wilson JK, Umansky A, Lee J, Stead T, Ganti L. Intractable nausea and vomiting in naïve ingestion of kratom for analgesia. Int J Emerg Med. 2020;13(42).
Smith KE, Rogers JM, Dunn KE, Grundmann O, McCurdy CR, et al. Searching for a Signal: Self-Reported Kratom Dose-Effect Relationships Among a Sample of US Adults With Regular Kratom Use Histories. Front Pharmacol. 2022;13: 765917.
Smith KE, Rogers JM, Schriefer D, Grundmann O. Therapeutic benefit with caveats?: Analyzing social media data to understand the complexities of kratom use. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021;226:108879.
Stevens CJ. Kratom: Is It Safe? Healthline.com. Published June 2020.
Swogger MT, Smith KE, Garcia-Romeu A, Grundmann O, Veltri CA, et al. Understanding Kratom Use: A Guide for Healthcare Providers. Front Pharmacol. 2022;13:801855.