The Facts About Kratom Alkaloids
Kratom seems to be popping up in smoke shops and health stores alike. Kratom has quickly gained popularity for its potential medicinal and mood-enhancing abilities. But are kratom alkaloids safe? Here is everything you need to know about kratom alkaloids.
What is Kratom?
Kratom, sometimes known as kratem, is derived from evergreen trees that are native to several Southeast Asian countries including Thailand and Indonesia. The current scientific classification for the kratom tree is mitragyna speciosa, though the plant was reclassified several times by the scientific community.
While kratom leaves have been used for several purposes for centuries, recent commercialization has led to the development of kratom powders and kratom capsules that are designed for global consumption.
What are Alkaloids?
Alkaloids are a special type of chemical compound that is found in certain plants that can have strong physiological effects even when ingested at minimal doses. Not every plant has the concentration, or even the same type, of alkaloids.
Because of their ability to influence the body, alkaloids have been studied by the scientific community with the goal of medical and wellness applications. While research is still underway, scientists did discover that, in addition to plants, alkaloids can also be found in certain animal species.
If the term ‘alkaloid’ sounds foreign, this may be because we haven’t heard it in conversation until now. However, there’s a good chance that you are already benefiting from the effects of an alkaloid. For instance, caffeine is considered an alkaloid that can be derived from coffee beans and tea leaves. Caffeine is known for producing mild stimulant effects aka keeping you awake in the morning.
Another popular alkaloid is morphine, which is found in opium poppies. Unlike caffeine, morphine actually acts as a strong sedative and pain reliever.
Which Alkaloids Can Be Found in Kratom?
One of the potential appeals of kratom is its diverse alkaloids. Thus far, scientists have identified 28 different alkaloids including mitragynine, paynatheine, mitraphylline, isomitraphylline, speciogynine, akuammigine, rhynchophilline, raubasine (ajmalicine), isorhynchophylline, ciliaphylline, corynantheidine, and more. The most common alkaloids that can be found in kratom include mitragynine and 7-hydroxy-mitragynine. Here’s a bit more information on the individual alkaloids:
On average, mitragynine makes up around 66% of kratom alkaloids by concentration. However, this can vary depending on where the kratom, the type of kratom, and the way the kratom is harvested. For instance, Malayan kratom tends to have lower levels of mitragynine compared to other strains. Likewise, green and red kratom strains have been shown to have higher concentrations of mitragynine.
Mitragynine tends to bind to the µ-subtype opioid receptors (MORs) in our systems and has a variety of effects on the body including antitussive, or cough suppression, antidiarrheal, adrenergic, and even antimalarial. Mitragynine is also a possible antagonist for the psychedelic 5-HT2A.
Like mitragynine, 7-hydroxy-mytragynine also binds the µ-subtype opioid receptors and has similar effects but has a shorter half-life, meaning that it affects the body for a shorter duration of time. However, it is much less abundant, making up about 2% of kratom’s average total alkaloid content. The highest levels of 7-hydroxy-mytragynine can be found in the red vein Maeng Da kratom. In general, the level of 7-hydroxy-mytragynine is also higher in mature kratom plants.
Paynantheine makes up a fair percentage of kratom alkaloids with an average of around 9%. Paynantheine has been shown to relax smooth muscles, though more research is needed to identify its potential benefits.
Considered to be the third most common kratom alkaloid, specigynine makes up around 7% of kratoms’ alkaloid content. While speciogynine is structurally similar to opioids, its uses are still being studied.
While mitraphylline makes up a small percentage of kratom’s alkaloid contents, it is known to have several effects on the body and can act as an antihypertensive, diuretic, and muscle relaxer. Some studies also show that mitraphylline is also an immunostimulant.
These alkaloids are also present in trace amounts and are known for their immunostimulant effects.
While it is structurally similar to mitragynine, rhynchophylline makes up <1% of kratom alkaloids. Rhynchophylline is known as a calcium channel blocker with anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antiarrhythmic, and antihypertensive properties.
Also known as raubasine, ajmalicine activates alpha-1 receptors, which have anti-adrenergic properties. This helps ajmalicine act as a smooth muscle relaxer and allows the alkaloid to promote decreased blood pressure.
This alkaloid makes up <1% of the kratom leaf and may have neuroprotective effects in addition to promoting lower blood pressure.
This alkaloid is also found in trace amounts and is known to suppress cough and relieve pain
Also known as rauhimbine, corynantheidine is known as an alpha 1 and 2-adrenergic receptor antagonist with a greater affinity for the alpha 1 receptor. While corynantheidine is only a tiny percentage of kratom alkaloids, it is also found in Yohimbine, which is known for its antimalarial effects.
Corynoxine A and B
Both of these alkaloids are trace in kratom, but research suggests that these alkaloids may be helpful in battling Parkinson’s disease.
This powerful and common alkaloid is found in green tea, dark chocolate, grapes, and even kratom. Epicatechin offers a variety of potential benefits as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Other benefits of epicatechin include antihepatitic, anti-peroxidant, and antiviral properties.
This is known as a potential opioid agonist, though it is considered to be weaker than mitragynine.
Another trace alkaloid speciociliatine is also a weak opioid agonist that is only found in kratom. Speciociliatine is known to inhibit acetylcholine’s release from the presynaptic nerve.
Corynoxeine and Isopteropodine
Trace amounts of these alkaloids are found in kratom; while isopteropodine is an immunostimulant, corynoxeine is a calcium channel blocker.
Other Trace Alkaloids
Isomitrafoline, Isospeciofoline, Mitraciliatine, mitragynine oxidole B, and mitrafoline are all found within kratom in trace amounts and are currently under investigation by scientists.