As kratom continues to gain traction in the United States, much attention is being drawn to the plant’s unique properties.
A lack of formative research has left legislators with a shallow understanding of the plant, complicating classification efforts. Meanwhile, researchers remain focused on demystifying the underlying mechanisms of kratom pharmacology in order to better understand its risks and potential uses.
Thankfully, when it comes to kratom, we’re not completely in-the-dark. Through the combined efforts of scientists and researchers, we now know more about kratom than we ever have. So, what exactly makes kratom tick?
Kratom’s Central Constituents
The kratom plant has been found to contain a myriad of naturally-occurring phytochemicals. However, researchers regularly point to over forty distinctive alkaloids found in kratom leaves that seem to be primarily responsible for the plant’s effects.
Of these alkaloids, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine appear to be the primary components of kratom pharmacology. Mitragynine has been established as the most prominent alkaloid found in kratom and is the focus of most research. However, recent studies –– including the findings of Hassan et al. –– have emphasized the role of the lesser-present 7-hydroxymitragynine (7-HMG) as being perhaps even more potent than mitragynine, despite its low total concentration (an estimated 1-2%).
Kratom And The Human Brain
When ingested, kratom has various effects on the human brain, often in a contradictory fashion. Many users, including manual laborers in the plant’s native Southeast Asian regions, have described kratom as “energizing,” citing a supposed increase in work productivity and focus.
However, others often draw attention to the purported properties of kratom pharmacology. As identified by Hassan et al., many of kratom’s alkaloids – including mitragynine, 7-HMG, and others – appear to be analgesic in nature.
Kratom’s psychoactive profile diversifies even further upon examining other lesser-present constituents. According to researchers, alkaloids such as mitraphylline and ajmalicine seem to possess muscle-relaxant and even anti-leukemic properties.
Depending on the time of harvest and methods utilized, demonstratable differences in kratom pharmacology can occur. For some users, the differences between strain colors are very pronounced, while others report noticing little to no difference.
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