As a pharmacist, I am always hearing about how manufactured drugs are bad and ‘all natural plant derived’ drugs are wonderful. Pharmaceuticals have gotten a really bad rap. Folks tend to forget the entire reason for pharmacology in the first place was to find plant derived medicinals and, when necessary, figure out a way to get rid of the dangerous parts of the molecules and make something safer. Many drugs started out as plants or extracts, that are safer now due to a bit of chemical modulation.
But it’s become hip to have “natural plant” medicinals.
Sometimes, they are dangerous. And cause death.
Remember Nightlock from Hunger Games? Yeah, those deadly berries were likely atropa belladonna, better known as Deadly Nightshade. The berries and leaves of the plant are lethal. Weirdly enough, during the Renaissance, belladonna was used by women to dilate their pupils, which was thought be beautiful. On the other hand, the same chemical was used to poison arrow tips.
So ‘natural plants’ may not be all that safe.
Such is the case with Kratom.
Kratom is a plant in Southeast Asia. The leaves of Kratom are chewed, made into teas or chewed. It has been used in herbal medicine for diarrhea, pain, and a host of illnesses. The drug in low doses causes increase alertness. In higher doses, it can cause vomiting, sweat, tremors, aggressive behavior, and hallucinations.
In the USA, it is found in herbal teas, diced up leaves put into capsules, tablets, and supplements. It has some opioid like effects and rumored to be a potential replacement for opioids. But there have been deaths and addiction reported from Kratom. Recently, a number of people have ended up in the ER from Kratom due to contamination with very rare strains of Salmonella. See here and here for more information.
How do I know if my supplement has Kratom in it? The ingredient list doesn’t always list Kratom. It may say: mitragyna species, biak-biak, cratom, gratom, ithang, kakuan, ketum, mambog, madat, nauclea, maengda leaf. See here for more.
Remember, herbal products and supplements are not FDA approved, nor monitored. There have been numerous cases in the USA of products have none or too much of the intended product. Many product have been contaminated with unintended product from poor manufacturing practices. Some of the over-the-counter products work, because they are tainted with eh actual pharmaceutical drug that your are hoping to get away from. See here and here for more.
With the national attention on what is being called the opioid crisis, and the call for ‘alternative, safer’ options, please avoid this one. It’s risks are not worth it.