So, how does Kratom actually work? Even experienced Kratom users might not know about the science behind this plant. Kratom works in your body because of something called alkaloids. There are many Kratom alkaloids, and we’re going to cover what they are and what they do below.
What is an Alkaloid?
Simply put, alkaloids are parts of plants that have effects on the human body. Oxford Languages defines them as “any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds of plant origin which have pronounced physiological actions on humans.” Plants are made of various structures called phytochemicals. Alkaloids are a very special type of phytochemical. They are found in plants like poppy, coffee, cacao, and, of course, Kratom.
Alkaloids are special plant compounds because of the effect that they have on the human body. They can have a range of physiological effects. Additionally, different plants have different levels and mixtures of these compounds. Alkaloids can be responsible for relieving inflammation, killing pain, boosting mood, and more!
There are hundreds of different alkaloids, some of which with very common use. For example, caffeine is an alkaloid that occurs in plants like coffee, and types of tea leaves. Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant in humans. Also a well known alkaloid, nicotine has stimulant properties as well.
What about Kratom alkaloids? There are actually over 40 different identified alkaloids in Kratom. They make up about 0.5%-1.5% of the actual plant matter.
The most abundant alkaloid in Kratom is mitragynine. In fact, it can be up to 66% of the total alkaloid content of the plant. It is responsible for a lot of the pain relief properties in Kratom. It acts similarly to an opioid in the brain. As far as the brain’s detection of pain, mitragynine is 1/3 as effective as morphine, and three times as much as codeine! (source)
While this alkaloid doesn’t hold the second largest distribution in Kratom, it is the second most researched. It is present at up to 2% of the alkaloid content of the plant. Like mitragynine, this alkaloid affects opioid receptors in the human brain. Even though this alkaloid is present at much smaller rates, it packs quite a punch. It is up to 17 times as effective as morphine!
Lesser Known Kratom Alkaloids
The science on Kratom is growing steadily. However, the bulk of the research on Kratom alkaloids has been done on the two mentioned above. But, we said there are over 40 known Kratom alkaloids, right? Well, there are 7 different alkaloids that make up 99% of the alkaloid content. So, the other 33+ alkaloids are present at very small concentrations. Still, with further study, these could prove to be a big reason for why Kratom works the way it does.
This is the second most prevalent alkaloid in Kratom. This alkaloid is known to cause sedation. So, concentrations of it could have a lot to do with the sedative properties of particular strains. Further, studies have pointed to the possibility that this alkaloid could promote autophagy. Or, the bodies process of cleaning out damaged cells.
Speciogynine & Paynantheine
These act as smooth muscle relaxers. This could contribute to Kratom’s pain relief properties.
This alkaloid acts mildly on opioid receptors. However, coupled with the other opioid agonists in Kratom, this alkaloid could play a big role in Kratom’s pain relief, as well.
Two Kratom alkaloids have had the focus for most Kratom research. However, there are a whole host of alkaloids that need further study to fully understand how Kratom works. These alkaloids, though present in smaller concentrations, could play large roles in the effects of particular Kratom strains.