“Kratom” refers to both Mitragyna speciosa, a tree native to Southeast Asia, and to products derived from its leaves that are marketed as herbal supplements. Kratom leaves contain many chemical compounds (known as bioactive alkaloids) that can affect the body. The most well-studied compounds related to kratom are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.
Much is still unknown about chemical compounds related to kratom, the short- and long-term health and safety impacts of kratom use and kratom’s potential therapeutic uses. NIDA supports and conducts research on kratom and related chemical compounds to help inform kratom policy and health decision-making around kratom use.
While kratom or its related compounds have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective for any medical use, people report using kratom products to alleviate drug withdrawal symptoms and cravings (particularly for opioids), to alleviate pain and to help manage mental health problems.
People typically use kratom by swallowing raw plant matter in capsule or powder form, mixing kratom powder into food or drinks, brewing the leaves as a tea, or taking liquid kratom extract.1 People who use kratom report both stimulant-like effects (increased energy, alertness and rapid heart rate) and effects that are similar to opioids and sedatives (relaxation, pain relief and confusion).
Anthropologists report that kratom has been used in Southeast Asia for hundreds of years as a multi-purpose remedy in traditional medicine, to increase alertness and energy while working and during social gatherings.While estimates of the scope of kratom use in the United States vary,the expansion of kratom vendors and increasing case reports suggest kratom use has become more common over the past two decades.