What is Kratom?

What is Kratom?

Kratom, also known as Mitragyna speciosa, is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. The leaves of the tree have been used for centuries by people in the region as a traditional medicine to manage pain, fatigue, and other ailments. In recent years, kratom has gained popularity in the United States as an herbal supplement used to treat chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and opioid addiction.

A 2018 review of the literature on kratom published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs concluded that kratom has potential as a safer alternative to opioids for managing chronic pain and opioid addiction. The authors noted that while there is limited clinical research on the efficacy of kratom for pain management, preclinical studies suggest that kratom may have potential for reducing pain and inflammation.

Other studies have suggested that kratom may have potential as an anxiolytic and antidepressant. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that a kratom extract reduced anxiety-like behavior in mice, while a 2019 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry found that a derivative of mitragynine had antidepressant-like effects in animal models.

University of Rochester Research on Kratom

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in 2018 investigated the potential therapeutic uses of kratom. The study found that mitragynine, the primary alkaloid in kratom, has potential as a treatment for neuropathic pain.

Neuropathic pain is a chronic pain condition caused by damage or dysfunction of the nervous system. Current treatments for neuropathic pain, such as opioids and antidepressants, have limited efficacy and are often associated with unwanted side effects.

The University of Rochester study found that mitragynine significantly reduced mechanical hypersensitivity in rats with chronic neuropathic pain. The researchers concluded that mitragynine may be a promising new therapy for neuropathic pain.

Another study conducted by the University of Rochester in 2019 investigated the safety of kratom use. The study found that kratom use was associated with a higher risk of overdose, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms compared to placebo.


  • Singh D, Narayanan S, Müller CP, et al. The Mitragyna alkaloids: Pharmacology and regulation. Pharmacol Res. 2019; 142: 208-218. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2019.01.005

  • Smith KE, Lawson T. Preclinical and Clinical Pharmacology of Kratom: An Emerging Botanical Agent With Stimulant, Analgesic and Opioid-Like Effects. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2018; 50(4): 325-332. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2018.1515855

  • Hanapi NA, Ismail S, Mansor SM. Anxiolytic-like effect of mitragynine isolated from Mitragyna speciosa Korth in mice model of anxiety. J Ethnopharmacol. 2017; 199: 44-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2017.01.025

  • Kuhar JR, et al. Mitragynine attenuates mechanical hypersensitivity in a chronic neuropathic pain model by dampening dorsal horn neuronal excitability. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental

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