Kratom, scientifically known as Mitragyna speciosa, is a group of tree-like plants that belongs to the coffee plant family (Rubiaceae).

It has a long history in Southeast Asia, where its leaves have been used for various medical purposes, as well as their stimulant effects.

In recent years, kratom tea has gained popularity in the natural health community for its natural pain-relieving properties and to elevate mood.

Though it’s legal, there are safety concerns regarding kratom tea and other kratom-based products, which have made some people wary about using it.

This article explores kratom tea, including its effects, safety, and risks.

What is kratom tea?

Kratom tea is traditionally made by brewing leaves from the kratom tree (Mitragyna speciosa).

It’s native to parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Kratom also goes by other names, including Maeng Da, ketum, biak-biak, thom, thang, and kakum.

Traditionally, field workers would chew on kratom leaves to help increase their energy and endurance, aid their heat tolerance, and relieve fatigue (1).

These leaves were also used as an herbal remedy to treat various illnesses, including coughing, diarrhea, diabetes, and high blood pressure. They were likewise used as a substitute for opium — a potent pain reliever — or for opium withdrawal (1, 2).

Kratom leaves are typically chewed, crushed, and brewed into tea or smoked. However, nowadays kratom leaves are ground and used to make pills and powders.

Summary

Kratom tea is made by brewing leaves of the kratom tree. It’s used for various purposes, including pain relief, its stimulant effects, and as a component of traditional medicinal applications.

Kratom tea effects

Kratom leaves that are used to make kratom tea contain more than 40 active compounds, although the main ones are mitragynine and 7-Hydroxymitragynine (1).

These compounds act upon various receptors in the brain, causing effects similar to those of stimulants and opioid pain relievers, depending on the dosage (3, 4).

In small doses between 1–5 grams, kratom acts as a stimulant and appears to increase energy, causing people to feel more alert and social.

In higher doses between 5–15 grams, kratom appears to have a sedative effect, similar to that of opioid pain relievers, such as morphine and codeine, causing people to feel tired, calm, and euphoric.

The higher dosage range is traditionally used to treat conditions like diarrhea and cough. It’s likewise used to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms (3, 4).

In very high doses above 15 grams, kratom’s sedative effects are much higher and may cause people to lose consciousness.

It’s worth noting that kratom leaves from different parts of Southeast Asia have varying levels of mitragynine. Malaysian kratom leaves have a much lower concentration at 12%, compared with 66% for Thai kratom leaves (4).

Summary

The effects of kratom tea vary depending on the dose. Lower doses appear to have stimulant effects, while higher doses have pain-relieving effects similar to those of opioid drugs like morphine and codeine.

Is it safe?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved kratom tea or kratom-based products for any medical purpose. Moreover, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has listed kratom as a drug of concern.

In European countries, such as Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Romania, and Sweden, kratom use and possession is controlled (5).

Other countries that control kratom under their narcotic laws include Malaysia, Myanmar, and Australia. Meanwhile, New Zealand controls kratom under its Medicines Amendment Regulations act (5).

One reason why kratom is restricted in many areas is that no evidence shows that kratom is safe or effective for health purposes (6).

In addition, it has the potential to be abused, can be addictive, and has been linked to serious health consequences, including death (6).

One recent review of data from the National Poison Data system found that more than 2,312 people have reported that kratom has made themselves or someone else ill (7).

Moreover, there have been 44 reported deaths linked to kratom use, with most of them involving kratom products laced with other ingredients (6).

It’s important to note that the FDA does not monitor or regulate the dosage or purity of kratom supplements, so kratom products may not contain exactly what is listed on their labels.

Summary

No evidence shows that kratom tea is safe or effective for health purposes. Plus, it has safety concerns, leading to its restriction in many countries. Though it’s legal in the United States, it is considered a drug of concern.

Kratom tea risks and side effects

Kratom use has been linked to various side effects, including (1, 8):

  • dehydration
  • constipation
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • anorexia
  • nausea
  • increased urination
  • seizures
  • psychosis
  • hallucinations

The FDA has also reported 44 deaths linked to kratom use and abuse (6).

Like other opioids, such as morphine and codeine, regular kratom use may cause dependence. So users may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it.

Symptoms of kratom withdrawal include (8):

  • muscle aches
  • jerky movements
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • hostility
  • aggression
  • emotional changes
  • runny nose
Summary

Kratom has been linked to various side effects including dehydration, weight loss, nausea, and hallucinations. Regular kratom use may lead to dependence and cause withdrawal symptoms.

The bottom line

Kratom tea is made from kratom leaves that are steeped in boiling water.

It has a stimulant or opioid-like effect on the body, depending on the dosage.

Though it’s legal in the United States, the DEA considers kratom a drug of concern due to its potential to lead to abuse, addiction, and even death. Its use is regulated in many other countries for the same reasons.