How has kratom become popular in the West?

The kratom tree, also known as Mitragyna speciosa, has long been popular and used in its native lands: Southeast Asia. For at least two centuries, many farmers in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have been using this plant as an energy enhancer to develop their work activities in planting and harvesting, beyond its analgesic properties against bone and muscle pain caused by their hard work. Its most traditional method of ingestion has always been in the form of tea or chewed leaves. In Thailand its use became widespread as a substitute for morphine dependence, while in Malaysia its power to alleviate opium withdrawal symptoms was discovered.

Although its use has been widespread in some parts of Asia for a long time, the history of kratom in the West is much more recent. It was first mentioned in the Western world in the mid-19th century, taxonomized by the Dutch botanist Pieter Willem Korthals in the Rubiaceae family (to which coffee also belongs). After this fact, kratom spent a long period practically unnoticed in Europe and America, until in 1930 two botanists reported its use as a harm reduction tool among opiate users during the 19th century in Malaysia, with a publication in the Cambridge Journal of Asiatic Society.

Kratom has become popular in the West in the last decade. Could it be because kratom really works?

Despite some mentions in academic studies developed during the 20th century, the great boom of kratom in the West occurred after its popularization in the United States a little more than a decade ago. Upon discovering its beneficial properties, Americans increasingly began to consume kratom either as an analgesic, anxiolytic, antidepressant or opiate damage reducer, almost always in the search for a natural medicine without side effects. It is estimated that today about five million Americans use Mitragyna speciosa to treat their ailments and/or addictions to other substances with harmful side effects for the body and mind.

Faced with this recent popularization in North America, kratom has come to the attention of many Europeans who are also looking for natural and effective solutions to various problems. Along with its diffusion, unfortunately, there has been no lack of detractors of the plant, which is very reminiscent of the negative campaign against cannabis throughout the 20th century. It is worth mentioning that among the main financiers of anti-kratom propaganda is the Big Pharma lobby, more specifically the opioid industry, which sees kratom as a threat to some of its most profitable products, such as morphine, methadone, tramadol, oxycodone and many others: we are not talking about thousands or millions of Euros in profits every year, but billions.

Along with this panorama, several countries have banned kratom without further study of its benefits to society. Even so, many people continue to seek it, because kratom really works.

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