Kratom is the vernacular name given to a tree, Mitragyna speciosa indigenous to Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, P.N.G. and elsewhere) as well as to the psychoactive preparations made from the tree’s harvested leaves.
While the name Kratom is now the most well known, the Mitragyna speciosa tree and leaf derived preparations are also known as Krahtom, Ketum, Kakuam, Ithang, Biak or Thom in different South-East Asian languages and locations.
“Kratom” comes from the common Thai denomination, กระท่อม which is pronounced[krā?tʰɔ̀ːm] ( in I.P.A. transliteration). Officially, the Royal Thai Institute transliteration is krathom.
The Mitragyna speciosa Kratom tree and its ethnobotanical use in South-East Asia was first documented in western literature by the 19th century Dutch botanist P.W. Korthals, who worked as a botanist for the colonial Dutch East India Service.
Yet in the Mitragyna speciosa Kratom tree’s native region, Kratom tree leaves have a long history of human use, as a herbal drug used both for medicinal uses and for its psychoactive effects.
Mitragyna speciosa Kratom is traditionally used with little to no preparations, orally with chewing fresh leaves or drinking leaf infusions as the most popular administration routes, though concentrated crude Kratom extracts are also commonplace.
From a pharmacological viewpoint, Mitragyna speciosa Kratom is most often classified as a “non-opioid narcotic” for its sedative psychoactivity, a classification which does not reflect the fact that Kratom is also a stimulant, and commonly used for its stimulating effects in its traditional context. Kratom’s psychoactivity comes principally from the alkaloid concentrations in the Mitragyna speciosa leaves, principally from 7-Hydroxymitragynine, mitragynine, and other indoles.