Coffee has a cousin, and its name is kratom.
It’s true that coffee and kratom are related, both members of the Rubiaceae plant family. With some obvious differences, coffee and kratom do share many of the same desirable effects and benefits. While one billion coffee drinkers around the world rely on their daily cup to get their day started, more and more people are also now waking up to the wonders of kratom as a natural pick-me-up.
However, despite 15 million users of its own and growing, kratom is clearly not as widely known or understood as its famous family member. But it certainly should be.
Also called Mitragyna speciosa, kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia that has been used for centuries to treat various ailments. Kratom has traditionally been consumed by chewing the fresh leaves, brewing them into tea, or grinding them into a powder to be ingested. Its leaves contain over 40 alkaloids, including mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, which produce a wide range of effects on the body. These effects vary depending on the strain used and the dose taken. In low doses, kratom has stimulating effects, while in high doses, it can be sedative and pain-relieving.
In Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, kratom has long been used for its analgesic, anxiolytic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic properties. Common treatments have been for muscle pain, intestinal infections, coughing, and diarrhea. It is also believed to help improve the immune system, lower blood pressure, and act as an antiviral or antidiabetic agent.
Kratom has recently gained popularity in the West as an alternative to prescription opioids and a natural remedy for pain, anxiety, depression, and addiction. However, to be clear, it is not an approved cure for opioid addiction or any other medical condition. It remains important to seek professional treatment for opioid use disorder.
Both coffee and certain strains of kratom are stimulants that boost energy and focus. They also both can alleviate stress and anxiety. Kratom’s alkaloids offer similar effects to coffee’s caffeine, though kratom’s impact is more potent and longer lasting, and kratom does not produce the jitters and headaches commonly associated with coffee.
Also, just as the quality of coffee can vary significantly, with seemingly no two beans created equal, kratom has a wide quality range of its own. Not only are there different strains and varieties of kratom, each with their own unique properties, but the supplier matters greatly. It is crucial to make sure that kratom is 100% pure and responsibly harvested. Also, kratom products should only be used when manufactured in a GMP-certified facility.
One difference between the two substances is their source. Coffee is derived from the roasted seeds of the Coffea plant, while kratom comes from the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree.
Coffee’s effects are also experienced relatively quickly, usually within about 10-15 minutes of consumption. The onset of kratom effects, on the other hand, is slower than coffee due to the alkaloids that it contains metabolizing in the body before reaching the central nervous system. It is possible, though, for manufacturers of kratom products to speed up kratom’s effects through the use of certain bioenhancers that can increase kratom’s bioavailability.
While their effects are equally energizing, coffee definitely has the advantage when it comes to taste. Kratom has a sharp, bitter, earthy flavor that is not very pleasant. However, there are several methods people successfully use to help make kratom taste better, such as mixing it with different beverages, food, and herbs.
Another significant difference is their legality. Coffee is not illegal to drink in any country, while kratom laws vary among different countries and states. Kratom’s legal status is constantly changing, though, and in the U.S., states do seem to be trending recently toward wider acceptance and regulated legality, thanks in large part to efforts such as the Kratom Consumer Protection Act (KCPA). Check out our post about kratom laws in America.
With a coffee shop on every corner these days, it seems ridiculous to think that there was ever a time when coffee was illegal anywhere. And while it never has been banned in the U.S., there are several other places throughout history where rulers have attempted to ban coffee.
One of the earliest examples of coffee restrictions was in Mecca, where local authorities were concerned about the social and political ramifications of coffee houses. In 1511, it was prohibited to visit coffee houses in Mecca under the threat of beating. Even more brutal punishments were doled out by rulers of the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century, with coffee drinkers subject to capital punishment, including beheading.
Various other efforts to outlaw coffee took place around the world from the 16th to 18th centuries, including in Turkey, Rome, Sweden, Prussia, and Germany. Although the actual reasons varied, the justifications given were often on religious or health grounds, as coffee was considered a dangerous intoxicant. It was even known as “Satan’s Drink” in 16th century Rome. Fortunately, Pope Clement VIII loved the taste of coffee so much himself that rather than banning it as his advisers urged, he blessed the beans in order to cleanse them of their demons.
This demonization of coffee hundreds of years ago sounds very familiar to the fearmongering that takes place today when it comes to kratom. Thankfully, coffee’s popularity among the people ultimately prevailed. Kratom is now experiencing its own emergence into mainstream culture, and it is proving itself ready to follow in the footsteps of its superstar cousin.
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