Kratom plants, or Mitragyna speciosa, are native to the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia and Africa. The leaves of kratom plants have narcotic, analgesic, and cough-suppressant properties, leading to kratom's traditional use as an herbal tonic for pain and depression. Historically, kratom use has been popular among the manual labor class. Kratom use is illegal in Australia and Malaysia, and is punishable by death in Thailand. There are two major types of Matrigyna speciosa, identifiable by the color of the veins found in the leaves.
An evergreen plant found in tropical regions, kratom is indigenous to Southeast Asia and Africa, but can be cultivated in the tropical regions of Australia and the United States. Kratom plants produce large, ovular leaves that are dark green in color and smooth in texture. One type of kratom plant has red veins in the leaves, while the other major type usually has green or white veins in the leaves. Some people who cultivate kratom plants believe that there is only one type of kratom, and that the veins in the leaves simply change colors during the plant's life cycle.
Mitragyna speciosa may be most well-known for its narcotic affects. The leaves contain an alkaloid substance known as mitragynine, which has an opioid affect on the body. For this reason, kratom leaves have found a place in traditional Asian and African folk medicine.
Traditionally, kratom leaves have been used to treat opium addiction, diarrhea, and menstrual cramps. The leaves can also have cough-suppressant properties. Manual laborers, peasants, and farmers, especially in Asia, have traditionally believed that using kratom leaves can help enhance work performance. For this reason, kratom use has been historically popular in countries like Thailand, which outlawed the consumption of kratom leaves in 1943.
Kratom leaves can be chewed, smoked, eaten, or brewed into tea for use. Kratom is, however, habit forming, and can cause withdrawal symptoms including aggression, hostility, muscle and bone pain, and jerky movements of the arms and legs. Side effects can include anorexia, darkening of the skin, insomnia, and central nervous system depression. Dry mouth, constipation, excessive urination, and lowered appetite can occur.