Kratom: A Historical Overview
Cultural Use Of Kratom
Ethnobotanicals, such as kratom, have had a deep root in the spine of global culture since the inception of civilization. These traditional medicines were embedded into the core of healing and spiritual practices of ancient cultures, and are still commonly used in many 3rd world countries today. Over 80% of Africans still use traditional methods as their main form of healthcare. Palm trees and other similar plants have shared a distinct relation to many African rituals. Tulsi, commonly known as Holy Basil, was thought to be a manifestation of the Hindu goddess of the same name, has long been a cure all in Indian culture. Native Americans used over 2,500 of the 20,000 plant species native to America to aid various aspects of their lives. Typically people use whatever is regionally available to cure their ailments and these medicines are invaluable in locations that lack good quality, modern healthcare.
Historical uses of kratom, like most other ethnobotanicals, were typically medicinal in nature, often brewed into a tea, or chewed like tobacco, primarily used to promote productivity and combat fatigue. Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tropical tree considered indigenous to Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and surrounding areas, despite it’s origination from Thailand. Kratom reaches about 4-16 meters in height. The genus “Mitragyna” was endowed upon the herb by Dutch botanist Pieter Willem Korthals due to it’s resemblance to a bishop’s mitre. Korthals wrote that rural workers of the time would use it as a substitute for opium, when it was unavailable.
Corruption in Thailand
A traditional remedy, used for thousands of years by manual laborers in Thailand, not only for coughs, diarrhea, and intestinal infections, but even used for religious rituals as well. Despite this herb’s large array of cultural uses, it has come under recent fire of scrutiny due to it’s use as an aid to combat opiate addiction. Despite it’s cultural significance, origination, and traditional use, it has been banned in Thailand circa 1979, likely due to it’s increasing competition against the opium industry, as injected by the Thailand House of Representatives
‘Police Major General Pin Amornwisaisoradej, a member of the House of Representatives from Lampang said in a special meeting on 7 January 1943: ‘Taxes for opium are high while kratom is currently not being taxed. With the increase of those taxes, people are starting to use kratom instead and this has had a visible impact on our government’s income.’
The main constituents of kratom are known as mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitra-gynine (7-HMG). These indole alkaloids are similar in structure to yohimbine, a constituent of the popular herb yohimbe and have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties in addition to it’s affinity to opiate receptors. It is worth noting that although kratom has been heavily used culturally, these compounds have not been widely studied in a scientific sense.
There is current legislation to end the ban and renounce this cultural oppression held against the Thai people, as a recent report from the Transnational Institute and Thai Narcotic Control Board concluded that not only is kratom inherently tied into Thai culture over a long span of historic use, but that the ban is utterly unnecessary, and even counter-productive since it’s use is relatively non-problematic and a ban may lead the Thai people into harsher substances, such as opium.
On August 31, 2016, the DEA implied intent to file emergency scheduling for mitragynine and 7-HMG, as allowed under the the controlled substances act ; which would place kratom into schedule 1 territory. However strong social backlash ensued due it’s beneficial use against the growing opiate epidemic plaguing the country and although no final decision has been made, the DEA seems to have doubled down on it’s position for now. Kratom is currently banned in 15 countries. Notably Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and parts of Europe ; as well as 6 states in the USA, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
For informational purposes only.
This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.