Document Type : Review
Department Food and Nutrition, Consumer Centre of the German Federal State of Bavaria, Munich, Germany
Kratom, also known as herbal speed, is the powdered leaves of the Asian kratom tree (Mitragyna speciosa Korth.). The consumption of kratom powder or kratom tea for diarrhea, inflammation, fever, and pain, but also for anxiety and depression is based on traditional experiences from East Asian herbal medicine.
Pharmacologically, kratom is an intoxicant or narcotic. In low doses, the leaves have a stimulating effect, in high doses, they are depressant and psychoactive like opioids. There is a steadily increasing popularity of the herbal drug kratom and its psychoactive compounds mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine around the world. To date, no randomized controlled human intervention study has evaluated the safety and efficacy of kratom ingestion. In addition, there are increasing reports of kratom-associated adverse effects including herb-induced liver toxicity and nephrotoxicity, cardiovascular and neurological symptoms, and withdrawal syndrome.
The still unsatisfactory lack of regulatory control and easy availability via internet providers will continue to increase kratom use in many countries. Clinicians should be aware that kratom use can be addictive and have potentially serious side effects. It is important to determine the consumption of dietary and herbal supplements when taking the patient's medical history.