(Update: Despite having no recorded overdoses and no potential for addiction, the DEA has announced plans to elevate Kratom to a schedule 1 controlled substance as of October 1, 2016. Users of the supplement have been speaking out against the decision.)

Kratom has been catching on for the past 5 years. More and more people are using this potent tropical vine to manage pain, get a boost of energy, or just have fun. The active ingredients in kratom mirror the effects of prescription opiates like Vicodin and Oxycontin. However, unlike opiates, kratom is legal in the majority of the United States and around the world.

What to Expect From Kratom

Depending on the strain and dosage — which we’re going to cover later — you can expect wildly different effects. Most of the time, at low doses kratom is a stimulant. You can expect to feel some slight numbing in your fingers, lips, and toes. Along with that sensation comes a burst of energy. Some users have reported an increase in creativity and motivation, while others find that it makes them jittery.

However, at higher doses kratom takes on a whole different set of effects. Since it works on the mu opioid receptors in your brain, kratom feels an awful lot like an opiate. The numbness that is present at low doses gets more intense and you feel intensely relaxed. Like opiates, there can be some itching and sleepiness, and at extremely high doses some users will begin to nod off.

How to Take Kratom

Depending on how you choose to purchase your kratom — powdered, extract, tincture, or whole leaf — you have a few different options when it comes to actually ingesting it. Kratom extract is easiest to take for beginners, since you need to take so little in order to feel the effects. Most users prefer powder though, because it tends to be cheaper and just as easy to ingest.

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Whatever method you choose, you’re going to have to deal with the bitter taste. Kratom is known for being especially harsh, and most users have to mask the taste. Applesauce and yogurt are two popular options. All you need to do is mix in your powdered kratom or kratom extract. Another popular mixer is chocolate milk, and it’s even better if you make kratom milkshakes.

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When you’re dealing with whole leaf kratom, tea is pretty much a must. Brew tea with kratom in the same way as you would with any other herb — simmer it in hot water with a little lemon juice for 15 – 20 minutes and drink. Although you can also smoke leaf kratom, you’ll need to pack so many bowls that it’s not worth it. If you want to smoke kratom, it’s advised that you get your hands on some extract.

Dosage Matters

One of the most interesting things about kratom is how the high changes with dosage. We mentioned briefly that low doses of kratom will boost your energy levels, while higher doses feel more like an opiate. Of course, this all depends on the potency of your leaf or extract, but in general the dosages given below are a good rule of thumb.

Please note that these doses don’t apply to extracts and tinctures, both of which are much stronger than powdered or leaf kratom.

2 – 4 grams = mild stimulation
4 – 6 grams = mild sedation mixed with moderate stimulation
6 – 8 grams = strong sedation

Different Strains, Different Effects

Dosage is one part of the picture, but the strain you choose to buy can impact your buzz in a big way. There are dozens of different strains available on the internet, but for the most part you’ll find that kratom comes in one of four varieties.kratom3

Bali kratom is the king of pain relief. Even in low doses it only provides moderate stimulation. In high doses you’ll notice that Bali tends to come on fast and strong, gluing you to the couch and sending numbness and tingles shooting through your body. If you’re looking for pain relief — and only pain relief — then Bali is a great choice.

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Malaysian kratom tends to have more balanced effects, although it provides more pain relief than it does stimulation. Malaysian kratom is a good choice for your first kratom experience. It’s balanced without being too sedating if you happen to take too much. It’s a great pick if you want to feel the full spectrum of effects.

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Maeng Da kratom is the perfect pick if you’re looking for a big boost of energy. Although it provides some pain relief, the stimulating effects are the number one reason to pick maeng da. You can count on experiencing a huge emotional lift along with the stimulating energy, which makes maeng da a great choice for if you want to add kratom to your everyday herbal regimen. You won’t believe how much you can get done with a couple of grams of maeng da.

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Thai kratom has a lot in common with maeng da, although it has even less of the pain reducing alkaloids. It’s the perfect pick-me-up along with a cup of coffee in the morning. This strain is purely for energy, and you won’t feel any of the sedative effects of other types of kratom.

Active Ingredients in Kratom

Kratom contains quite a few different active compounds, most of which are indole alkaloids. This class of molecule is responsible for the effects of hundreds of different plants, from opium to psychedelic mushrooms. Kratom is unique, though. The alkaloids in kratom aren’t found in any other species of plant.

7-Hydroxymitragynine is the principal alkaloid, and it makes up as much as 3% of the total weight of dried and powdered leaf. It’s accompanied by mitraphylline — which is what is thought to provide the emotional boost of some kratom strains — and mitragynine, another potent pain reliever.