Asia & Ancient Use
Long has man sought relief from daily ailments. Blessed were those from Southeast Asia who were gifted an indigenous kratom tree, providing a new remedy to help treat a variety of symptoms.
Once the kratom tree was discovered it didn’t take long for news of the Kratom leaf to spread, not only geographically, but also in its applications. First documented in Thailand, Kratom was used symbolically as a gift given to guests as a warm welcome. Manuscripts also point to various uses in ancient rituals and ceremonies across Southeast Asia and beyond. Reaching as far as Mongolia, kratom began to spread. Dozens of religions found a spiritual connection to the plant, much as their patrons did.
But kratom was not just used for visiting dignitaries or starry-eyed shamans. Many of its earliest users were the common man, who found kratom a useful additive to their daily schedule in assisting with their work, improving their mood, and generally providing relief from the aching realities of life before modern medicine. Southeast Asian peasant farmers revered the leaf for the aid it provided in an otherwise limited lifestyle, and we’ve seen a multitude of sources through time laud the kratom tree and its benefits.
Western Use (19th Century – Present)
Pieter Korthals, a Dutch botanist who is often credited with bringing kratom into the consciousness of the Western World in the 19th century, is also credited with dubbing the kratom tree with its scientific name, Mitraynga Speicosa, but its complete etymological origin is unclear. Some attribute it to the Dutchman’s clever comparison of the appearance of a kratom leaf to a bishop’s garb; others, the link to its ceremonial roots in ‘Mithraic’ Cults, an order determined to transcendent to the spiritual. Whatever its origin, there is little doubt of its popularity for those who use it.
Despite being illegal in many of its native countries, kratom – often known as ‘ketum’ – is still wildly popular and only growing, used as a ‘traditional’ medicine, as a work aid, and in social settings. The United States alone, a still-nascent market, has an estimated 15 million users. And while the science is young, the American Kratom Association (AKA) – one of many emerging groups who promote the education and responsible use of kratom – recently pushed legislation through the House to increase the pharmacological studies on kratom. Whatever anecdotal evidence has failed to show us will be illuminated by well-funded, academic research, and that stands to benefit not only kratom’s users but those who could one day benefit from it.
Kratom is ancient. It has found its way into all levels of society, regardless of class, race, gender, or affiliation. But its history has only just begun.