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About Kratom

Jemi Fischbach

Also known as Biak, Ithang, Kakuam, Ketum, and Thom, Kratom may be a relatively unheard of plant, but it has, in fact, been around for centuries.

The common name for Mitragyna speciosa, a plant native to Southeast Asian jungles, Kratom is an evergreen which grows wild and prolifically in places such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo, New Guinea, and other places within the Pacific Rim.


Not a small plant, Kratom can grow to around 42 feet high (although some classes of the tree have been recorded as reaching 100 feet in height), and displays clusters of flowers which are a deep yellow in appearance, while the green leaves are broad and oval in shape, with tips which narrow to a point, and can be up to 80 mm long and 100 mm wide. Some leaves display red veins, while others have greenish white, and the seeds of the Kratom plant have a ‘winged’ appearance.

It was the Dutch colonial botanist Pieter Korthals who first described the plant in 1839, and he named it Mitragyna speciosa because the stigmas which were found in the very first variety he saw looked like a Bishop’s Mitre. However, it was renamed several times following that before its final name and classification was settled on 20 years later in 1859 by George Darby Haviland, a British surgeon and naturalist.


Being indigenous to Thailand, you would be forgiven for thinking that Kratom was prolific there, but incredibly the Thai government passed a law on August 3, 1943, which outlawed the planting of the tree, and ordered existing trees to be cut down. In fact, even having a Kratom leaf in one’s possession was a crime punishable by death. However, this ban was partially lifted in 2018, allowing for production and possession of Kratom for research and medical use only.

At the time of writing, across the globe legalization issues vary wildly. For instance, in Australia there is a blanket ban on Kratom, while different parts of Europe have differing views – in some countries such as England, Ireland, Poland, and Sweden Kratom is illegal, while in others such as Spain and France, it is completely legal.

In the US, the only States which have outlawed Kratom are:




Rhode Island



Washington D.C.

However, even in States where it is legal, some local laws have been enacted to prohibit the plant:

San Diego and Oceanside in California

Alcorn County in Mississippi

Alton in Illinois

Columbus City in Mississippi

Itawamba County in Mississippi

Jerseyville in Illinois

Lowndes County in Mississippi

Monroe County in Mississippi

Sarasota County in Florida

Senatobia City in Mississippi

Tishomingo County in Mississippi

Union County in Mississippi

It should be noted, however, that laws change all the time, and as Kratom becomes more widely known, different countries, and even states within the US, will no doubt amend their laws accordingly. As long as you check the legislation where you live or where you intend to travel to, you should be fine.

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