Mitragyna speciosa, or Kratom, is one of many remarkable plants in its scientific family of classification, Rubiaceae. Kratom’s botanical family members include the coffee plant and thousands of other species in total, some of which have deep roots in the world’s medicinal history.
What is the Rubiaceae Family?
Rubiaceae is a family of flowering plants that includes trees, lianas, and herbs, although the majority of its members are shrubs. The classification is alternatively known as the coffee, madder, or bedstraw family. It contains about 13,500 species in 611 genera, which is more than double the number of species in the Mammalian family.
Like the Kratom botanical, most Rubiaceae plants are found in humid tropic and subtropic regions. The majority grow in abundance across Colombia, Venezuela, and New Guinea. However, some species have a wider distribution and can thrive in other areas of the world, with the exception of extremely cold or dry regions.
Rubiaceae are generally characterized by simple, opposite leaves (although some exceptions exist), elliptical leaf blades, and endospermic seeds. Aside from the Kratom botanical, mitragyna speciosa, some of the most recognized Rubiaceae members include:
- Coffea: the genus of flowering plants that includes several coffee-bean producing species, most notably Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora
- Cinchona: a genus of flowering plants abundant in South America that have played an integral historical role in herbal medicine
- Carapichea ipecacuanha: a species of plant used to produce ipecac syrup, which has been used to induce vomiting in a medical setting
- Breonadia salicina: a genus of plants with anti-diarrheal and anti-bacterial properties traditionally used in African medicine to combat gastrointestinal ailments
Characteristics & Traits of the Botanical Kratom Family
Many of the species in the Rubiaceae family have intriguing properties due to their respective alkaloid concentrations. Alkaloids are naturally-occurring organic compounds with pharmacological properties.
For example, caffeine – one of the world’s most widely-consumed substances – is an alkaloid found in the seeds or “beans” of the coffea plant. Coffee plants grow primarily in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and South America, where Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, and Indonesia are the largest exporters.
Several Cinchona species in the botanical Kratom family are the source of many notable alkaloids. Quinine – an alkaloid found in cinchona bark – has been used to treat malaria since 1632. Today, researchers continue to study the potential application of Cinchona’s alkaloids in the treatment of falciparum malaria due to the disease’s evolved resistance to synthetic drugs.
Homeopathy – an alternative medicine founded by Samuel Hahnemann – was actually inspired by an incident involving cinchona bark. After taking large daily doses of Peruvian cinchona bark, Hahnemann developed malaria-like symptoms, which spurred his subsequent development of homeopathy as a treatment methodology.
Prevalent throughout Central and South America, Carapichea ipecacuanha contains the alkaloids emetine and cephaeline, which induce vomiting.
Although the effects of Carapichea ipecacuanha are certainly less pleasant when ingested in comparison to other plants in the botanical Kratom family, the plant has earned its place within the world’s history of medicinal herbs.
For centuries, Carapichea ipecacuanha was used to induce vomiting in patients who had been poisoned. Later, manufacturers would use the plant’s roots and rhizomes to produce bottled ipecac syrup. However, today’s medical community now favors other treatment options over ipecac for various reasons.
Breonadia salicina is the only species within its genus, but the plant has single-handedly played a vital role in traditional African medicine. The plant’s bark has been used to treat a variety of gastrointestinal conditions, including diarrhea and E. coli infections.
An Ancient Botanical Legacy
Despite its extensive history, little research has been conducted on the evolution of the botanical kratom family. Scientists estimate that the Rubiaceae have existed since the Late Cretaceous or Paleocene age based on fossilized evidence, and the oldest fossils of Rubiaceae plants are expected to be between 48-49 million years old.
Kratom itself only entered recorded history in 1839 at the hands of Dutch botanist Pieter Korthals, but likely existed in local records for centuries prior. In his research, Isaac Henry Burkill observed that Kratom use in Malaysian cultures had been identified as early as 1836.
Unlike Kratom, other Rubiaceae plants have seen regular representation throughout history. For instance, the influence of the coffee plant is very well-documented, with initial references dating back as far as 15th century Yemen.
Today, many species in the botanical kratom family are popular commodities within human civilization. Coffee’s worldwide popularity has made Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora the subjects of a $20 billion industry. Meanwhile, Kratom has managed to ascend its status of relative obscurity to become a topic of global interest. However, in the process, it has also drawn the skepticism of legislators across several countries.
Other Rubiaceae members are coveted for their cosmetic applications, rather than being popularized as psychoactive or medicinal substances. The roots of the Rubia tinctorum plant have been used to produce red dye since the 15th century and are still used in dye manufacturing to this day. Another Rubiaceae species, Morinda Citrifolia, can be used to create either brown-purple or yellow dyes depending on the method of preparation.
Discover One of Rubiaceae’s Most Remarkable Members
As a botanical family that includes over 13500 species, it’d be challenging to build our business around each and every member of the extended Rubiaceae. Instead, we’ve dedicated ourselves to the singular pursuit of providing our customers with the highest quality all-natural botanical kratom products.
At Kratom Spot, all of our Kratom is ethically sourced and independently verified for quality and potency. Each batch is crafted directly from nature and contains no additives, chemicals, or fillers. To ensure our customers can shop in full confidence, we stand behind our products with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.