Is Kratom a Nootropic?


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Officially known as Mitragyna speciosa, Kratom is a plant which originates from Southeast Asia, and has been used there for hundreds of years. Its growing popularity is due to its natural healing properties. Users across the western world are now turning to the plant to relieve anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue and chronic pain. 

As research is limited on the substance, and many herbal remedy stores market it as a ‘legal high’, it would be natural to assume that Kratom comes under the banner of a nootropic. Whilst there are some similarities which could link one to the other, there are also some conflicting outcomes which affect Kratom being classified fully as a nootropic. 

What is a Nootropic? 

Nootropics are classed as drugs, supplements and substances which alter/improve cognitive function, and they are often referred to as ‘smart drugs’. 

Commonly taken to boost brain performance, creativity, motivation and memory, users take comfort in the fact that they are generally classed as legal. Nootropics tend to fall into three categories: synthetic compounds, dietary supplements and prescription drugs.

 Some nootropics, used to treat Alzheimer’s, narcolepsy, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are prescribed medications because they counteract the symptoms of these medical conditions. These will be FDA approved, and most health experts would justify their use in a medical setting. 

 In contrast, substances like caffeine and creatine are also considered nootropics, due to their brain performance and focus enhancing effects, as well as other stimulants. There are concerns that the use of nootropics for non-medical mental stimulation is controversial, and can cause harm to the user if abused.[1]

Is Kratom a Nootropic? 

Kratom isn’t currently listed as a nootropic, although many find that the effects can be similar to that of official nootropics. In the past, it was often used to increase productivity in laborers, treat medical conditions such as fatigue, inflammation, digestion and even to boost sexual health

An important factor is that Kratom isn’t FDA approved, with many concerned over the long term effects and overdosing when taking Kratom. It isn’t illegal to purchase Kratom, however human consumption is not advised. Some countries where Kratom originates, such as Malaysia, have banned the substance completely

The main two alkaloids prominent in Kratom are what causes the substance to interfere with the opioid receptors in the brain, and are known as ‘mitragynine’ and hydroxymitragynine-7’.  One of these effects, which is a very common experience when taking nootropics, is relaxation. Unlike nootropics though, Kratom can cause the user to feel sedated as well as relaxed, thus hindering mental clarity. In addition, there is little research conducted on the herb, as well as scientific backing to the substance, which makes it hard for Kratom to confidently classify it as a nootropic.

Does Kratom have Nootropic Effects?

The psychoactive effects of taking Kratom mean a variety of people find it useful, and its natural element adds to the appeal of consumption, even though it isn’t legally approved. Whether users need it to enhance clarity and memory, or to help them sleep at night, Kratom’s popularity amongst herbal remedies is fast increasing. [2]

Mitragynine, one of the main alkaloids in Kratom, works as a partial agonist of the mu-opioid receptors (MOR) in the brain, releasing effects similar to that of morphine and opium. It is this which makes Kratom produce some effects which are very similar to other nootropics, with users experiencing:

  • Relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • Increased concentration 
  • Sedation 
  • Pain relief 
  • An enhanced mood

Users also report that Kratom helps with some mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, whilst others find that it benefits hypertension, as well as chronic pain and opioid withdrawal symptoms. Many users find that Kratom works effectively on withdrawal symptoms to painkillers as well, however Kratom itself can become an addictive substance, causing its own withdrawal symptoms. [3]

When taking Kratom, the dosage plays a large part in determining the outcomes of the experience. When taken in small doses, it increases the users awareness and energy, acting as a stimulant. In higher doses it can cause sedation, relaxation and euphoria. 

In conclusion, although Kratom isn’t classed as a nootropic, many believe it can benefit their lifestyle in a way that nootropic substances do. Users tend to experiment with different strains of Kratom, as every individual responds differently to the substance. Those looking for effects similar to nootropics are advised to always start with a low dose and experiment responsibly until they find the right amount and strain for their intended purpose. 






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