What is kratom?
Kratom, the common name for the Mitragyna speciosa, is a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family that grows in Southeast Asia. The leaves of the tree have psychoactive effects. It has recently become very popular in the United States both as a recreational supplement and one taken for purported health benefits. Some compare the supplement's effects to those of an opioid. At low doses kratom produces a euphoric effect similar to coca. At higher doses it produces something closer to opioid-like effects.
In Southeast Asia, the kratom leaf has been used in herbal medicine since the nineteenth century. However, the FDA have not recognized any therapeutic uses for kratom. 1
While many people use kratom recreationally, some swear by the substance as a home remedy for opioid withdrawal symptoms. But according to the Mayo Clinic, "In a study testing kratom as a treatment for symptoms of opioid withdrawal, people who took kratom for more than six months reported withdrawal symptoms similar to those that occur after opioid use. Too, people who use kratom may begin craving it and require treatments given for opioid addiction, such as naloxone (Narcan) and buprenorphine (Buprenex)."2
Kratom exists on the edge of legality. Many states are moving to make the drug illegal. On a Federal level, making kratom a Schedule 1 drug is subject to debate. Efforts to ban kratom abound. In 2016, the goverment briefly made kratom a Schedule 1 drug, but backtracked out of pressure from kratom enthusiasts.
The Mayo Clinic says, kratom is "a supplement that is sold as an energy booster, mood enhancer, pain reliever and antidote for opioid withdrawal. However, the truth about kratom is more complicated, and the safety problems related to its use are concerning."3 Kratom is believed to act on opioid receptors.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (the DEA), Kratom is considered a "Drug or Chemical of Concern." In a drug fact sheet, the DEA writes, "Kratom’s effects on the body include nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth, constipation, increased urination, tachycardia, vomiting, drowsiness, and loss of appetite. Users of kratom have also experienced anorexia, weight loss, insomnia, hepatotoxicity, seizure, and hallucinations." 4
According to WebMD, people with alcohol dependency who use kratom appear to have an increased risk of suicide than those who just use kratom and don't have an alcohol dependency. Kratom may exacerbate heart conditions as it may lead to an elevated heart rate. Kratom also may worsen mental illnesses.5 The number of kratom-related deaths is relatively small but they do occur. Most occur when the kratom has been laced with another substance.
Kratom takes effect quickly, in just 5-10 minutes, and the feelings that it produces last anywhere from 2-5 hours.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol or CBD is one of more than 100 cannabinoids found exclusively inn the cannabis plant. Commercial CBD is derived from the hemp plant, a version of the cannabis sativa plant that has less than 0.3 percent THC by law. A cannabis sativa plant that has more THC than that is considered a marijuana plant and products derived from a marijuana plant are considered Schedule 1 drugs and are illegal.
CBD has become popular since industrial hemp was legalized in 2018. People take CBD for a variety of reasons: to help with sleep, to curb stress, to combat inflammation caused by sports or exercise injuries.
CBD works with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS consists of endocannabinoids and receptors. There are two main endocannabinoid receptors: CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system and CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells. The cannabinoids in hemp plants mimic the endocannabinoids in your body and activate the receptors.
There are three types of CBD oil products:
- Full-spectrum CBD oil: As close to the hemp plant itself, full-spectrum CBD oil products contain not just CBD, but also more than 100 cannabinoids, including THC, terpenes, and flavonoids. All of these compounds have health benefits on their own, but when they work together, these benefits are enhanced. This is called the "entourage effect."
- Broad-spectrum CBD oil: Full-spectrum with the THC removed is called "broad-spectrum." Some people are fearful of THC because of its association with marijuana. Others prefer broad-spectrum because they're afraid of failing a drug test.
- CBD isolate oil: The name says it all. This is CBD by itself, with everything else that comes from the hemp plant when you distill it removed. It contains no other cannabaniods or terpenes, etc. Typically, isolate is in white powder form.
CBD comes in many forms. The most popular and well-known CBD products are oils and gummies, but you can also find CBD in lotions, capsules, bath bombs, various toiletries and skin care products. There are even CBD infused bedsheets available.
You may find CBD and kratom at the same stores, but they're vastly different substances. They can be delivered in similar ways, true. Advocates of kratom claim that it can fight inflammation and bring pain relief, and improve your mood. By contrast, CBD works with the body's own ECS to support healthy responses in the body. Neither CBD nor kratom is appropriate for children or pregnant/nursing people. You can't overdose on CBD, but you can certainly overdose on kratom. There have been no deaths related to CBD, but there have been deaths where kratom was the only substance taken.
Both CBD and kratom are in an unregulated marketplace, and, as with any unregulated marketplace, there are bad actors selling inferior and even dangerous products. Do your research before buying. Look into the reviews of the company and consider their reputation. You should look for companies that third-party test all of their products and report the lab findings to their customers. Pay attention to these lab reports.
For CBD products, you should definitely consider where the hemp is grown. Hemp is a great bioaccumulator, and its roots suck up whatever toxins are in the soil it's grown in. Hemp from countries like China are nortorius for being grown on unregulated soil that could be teeming with toxins.
For both kratom and CBD, look for companies that stand behind their products with a money-back guarantee.
So, there are lots of differences between the two herbal substances, but the couple of things they have in common revolve around safety and quality.
The last thing that CBD and kratom have very much in common is that there needs to be significantly more research into the benefits and dangers of these substances.
Can you overdoes on Kartom?
Yes. There have been numerous cases of people having to seek medical care due to an over does of Kartom. The safer alternative is full spectrum CBD.
What are the side effects of Kratom
Common side effects include Nausea & vomiting, Dizziness, Blurry vision, Loss of muscle coordination, and Sedation. Side effects for large amounts of CBD, the alternative supplement, include sedation, nausea, and low blood pressure & dizziness.
About the Author
Dr. Leslie Mudd, PharmD
A board certified oncology pharmacist with 25 years experience at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. Leslie Mudd now serves as the Cornbread Hemp resident pharmacist and medical expert. Read Dr. Mudd's full author bio here.
1 "Mitragyna speciosa" Wikipedia. Accessed: 19 April 2022 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitragyna_speciosa>.
2, 3, 4 "Kratom: Unsafe and Ineffective." Mayo Clinic. Accessed: 19 April 2022. <https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/kratom/art-20402171>.
4 "What is Kratom?" DEA. Accessed: 21 April 2022. <https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Kratom-2020_0.pdf>.
5 "Kratom - Uses, Side Effects, and More." WebMD. Accessed: 19 April 2022. <https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1513/kratom>.