Kratom: Traditional Uses

Kratom has been used in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries since prehistoric times for both recreational and medicinal purposes. The Mitragyna Speciosa tree that produces Kratom leaves is native to Thailand, and the plant is venerated in traditional cultural practices and celebrations in that country, especially in the South. Kratom has been used in religious ceremonies in Thailand and Malaysia for centuries.

Although Kratom use is currently illegal in Thailand, the plant has such a deep role in Thai culture that there is no stigma against its use, and efforts to prevent people from enjoying its effects have proved ineffective. In some areas of Thailand, it is estimated that 70 percent of the male population uses Kratom regularly.

Traditionally, Thai people have consumed Kratom either by chewing on fresh leaves or making a tea with dried powdered leaves. The plant has unique effects, acting as a stimulant in moderate doses and as a depressant in larger ones. One of its primary historical uses was to give laborers energy to work long hours. Thai workers make a habit of chewing Kratom leaves throughout the day for a pleasant stimulant effect, consuming as many as 60 fresh Kratom leaves a day. Despite such heavy use, there is no proof that the plant has addictive properties.

The plant has traditionally been used medically as an anti-diarrheal, a painkiller, and a treatment for opium dependence. Southeast Asian men drink Kratom tea to combat sexual dysfunction. In more recent years, Kratom users have found that the plant treats the symptoms of arthritis, restless leg syndrome, and fibromyalgia. In the areas where Mitragyna Speciosa grows naturally, Kratom is not thought of as a recreational drug, and is thought of as a medicine or natural remedy. Some popular types of kratom include gold reserve, white vein, red vein, and green vein.

Despite Kratom’s wide array of beneficial effects, the Thai government has tried to eradicate the plant by burning and clearcutting large sections of its natural habitat. Instead of discouraging Kratom use, these efforts merely destroy parts of Thailand’s valuable rainforest ecosystem. A large majority of government officials, doctors, and academics in regions with heavy Kratom consumption agree that the plant has no appreciable negative health effects, and a decriminalization movement is gaining steam.