Kratom has been growing in popularity outside of its native Southeast Asia. But what exactly is this plant and what’s the difference between the various kratom strains?
What is Kratom?
Kratom is a tropical tree (Mitragyna speciosa) native to Southeast Asia. Its leaves contain compounds that can have psychotropic (mind-altering) effects. It’s a member of the coffee family and is native to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea, where it has been used in herbal medicine since at least the nineteenth century.
Although it is currently legal to buy and consume in the United States, its legal status remains tenuous.
The Three Primary Kratom Strains
Kratom strains come in three basic varieties: white, green, and red. The different strains come from different harvesting times at various stages of the plant’s life cycle. Each strain has unique effects and risks.
White Vein Kratom Strains
White vein kratom comes from young kratom trees. Of the three primary kratom strains, it is the most potent.
Users who opt for white vein kratom often seek it out for its euphoric properties. Different varieties of white vein kratom, such as White Borneo, are known to have potent stimulant effects including:
- Improved mental clarity
- Uplifted mood
- Heightened libido
- Pain relief
- Stress and anxiety relief
White Vein Kratom Risks and Side Effects
You may be reading that list and thinking, “Wow, that sounds great!” And it does. But there are many caveats.
- Kratom can be habit-forming and extremely difficult to quit.
- For the most part, kratom is an unregulated product. There is no consistency in manufacturing, potency, or purity among brands.
- When taking higher-than-recommended doses, white vein kratom strains can produce negative side effects. There’s also no science-backed “safe” dosage available.
Negative side effects include:
- Tongue numbness
- Dry mouth
- Brain swelling
- Liver Damage
Red Vein Kratom Strains
Red vein kratom is the most popular and widely used of the three primary kratom strains. It is harvested from the most mature kratom trees and has the highest 7-hydroxymitragynine content. Translation: this strain is used for sedative effects and pain relief.
It is also used for anxiety relief and as a sleep aid. Although red vein kratom strains have more sedative properties, it doesn’t mean there aren’t red vein varieties that pack a punch.
For example, Red Maeng Da, is a Thai red vein strain that is highly potent, whereas Red Bali is a milder strain that can also produce stimulant effects. It is used to manage anxiety, depression, insomnia, and pain relief. Which sounds great, except it’s not without risks.
Red Vein Side Effects and Risks
All three kratom strains share similar risks. If you insist on trying red vein kratom or any other strain, make sure you are purchasing from a reputable company that does third-party lab testing.
Negative red vein kratom side effects include:
- Thyroid problems
- Urinary tract issues
- Loss of appetite
- Blurry vision
- Abdominal pain
Additionally, regular overdosing of red vein kratom can lead to emotional withdrawal and dullness.
Green Vein Kratom Strains
Green vein kratom is in between white and red strains in terms of potency and effect. It is harvested in the middle stage of the kratom tree’s life cycle and has a gentler stimulant effect than the white vein strain. It can also help improve mental clarity and focus.
Unlike its red vein counterpart, green vein kratom is primarily used as a mood and energy boost. Of the three strains, green vein kratom’s effects tend to last the longest.
Users often prefer green vein kratom for balanced pain relief that doesn’t leave them feeling drowsy or foggy.
Green Vein Kratom Side Effects and Risks
Whereas there are communities that swear by kratom’s power to help opioid addicted people get off pain-killers for good, there are others who wind up similarly addicted to kratom and have to go through severe withdrawals to overcome it.
Because kratom targets opioid receptors similarly to morphine and codeine, it is classified as an atypical opioid.
However, a lack of research leaves many questions around what is considered a safe dosage and duration of use.
The side effects and risks for green vein kratom strains are similar to other kratom strains.
Bottom Line: Are The Different Kratom Strains Safe?
At this point and time, I would say the answer is: probably not. Is there potential for kratom varieties to be used to combat the opioid crisis? Maybe. We need to learn more.
Because there are so many unknowns in terms of dosage, how kratom interacts with other substances, and long-term use, it’s best to not risk it.
If you’re a sober person in recovery, I especially urge you to steer clear. The effects of plants like kratom and kava may seem like tempting alternatives to alcohol and drugs, but there are too many health risks and opportunities for abuse to risk it.