Kratom: Age-Old Plant, New Frontiers

What is Kratom? Is Kratom Legal?

Kratom, or Mitragyna speciose, is a tree native to Southeast Asia and other tropical regions. Closely related to the coffee tree, its leaves have traditionally been harvested and chewed or ingested for a variety of reasons.

Although research data on kratom is lacking, the plant’s storied traditional uses include dose-dependent effects of increased energy, pain reduction, sedation, diarrheal treatment, and opioid use reduction.

Today, kratom is banned in at least 8 countries in Europe and is subject to various levels of regulation and restriction in Southeast Asian countries.

It is not currently scheduled as a federally controlled substance in the United States, and recent estimates suggest that between three and five million adults use kratom in the U.S. alone, an increased prevalence from earlier reports.

Like the CBD industry just a few years ago, kratom’s growing popularity and small body of research in spite of historic use has already created a divided atmosphere in the budding kratom industry.

Advocates are at odds with government agencies who wish to tighten control over, if not outright ban, kratom use in the United States, and issues of contaminated product and contradictory findings from research have only added to the plant’s uncertain future.

The Science and Unknowns of Kratom

Analytical chemists have so far identified more than 40 alkaloids in kratom leaves. Some of these alkaloids are more active in humans than others; 2 alkaloids in kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, are given most of the credit for the majority of physiological responses in humans, although this is only a conservative consensus pending further study.

Other alkaloids in kratom include speciogynine, paynantheine, and mitraphylline which have limited study behind them.

Beyond the identity of these alkaloids, there is much disagreement about the pharmacodynamics of each chemical constituent of kratom.

The two most active alkaloids appear to have a biased partial affinity for mu-opioid receptors, potentially explaining the self-reported user effects of sedation, reduced pain, and possible substitute for opioids.

It is unclear to what extent kratom may also have an affinity to some serotonin and dopamine receptors, although anecdotal evidence and self-reported experiences testify robust antidepressant and anxiolytic effects.

Understandably, much of the argument for scheduling or banning kratom by government agencies rests on the lack of current information on potential toxicity and possible dependence.

While this information remains relatively unknown, there are currently no reports of clear instances of death due solely to kratom use – a common point of soreness in the kratom community, who aim to dispel misconceptions about kratom in the United States.

Another major concern is the absence of testing standards to ensure that those choosing to reap the potential benefits are safe from metal impurities and microbiological contaminants.

Kratom Testing and Future Outlook

In 2018, an outbreak of Salmonella infections across 41 states was linked to kratom. However, there was no identified single source of the kratom contamination; the infected patients who were interviewed implicated various suppliers of kratom around the country.

The majority of kratom is imported to the United States for processing and sale in various product forms, meaning that there is greater opportunity for contamination from overseas suppliers, as the process of importing can also reduce distributor or retailer control over product before it enters their hands.

Salmonella testing is common practice in food and dietary supplement regulations to ensure consumer health.

This may indicate a need for Salmonella kratom testing guidelines to be put into place for the kratom industry as well as other contaminants. 

In 2019, the FDA conducted laboratory tests on samples from 30 different kratom products to determine the level of elemental contamination in commercially available kratom. The heavy metals kratom testing results showed significant amounts of nickel and lead in each sample tested.

While the numbers produced by the report were in nanograms per gram, heavy kratom users could be able to ingest more than what is considered the daily maximum allowable dosage of these dangerous materials based on guidelines set forth by US Pharmacopeia.

Thus, regular kratom users whose products are not tested are potentially at risk of long-term bodily harm.

The American Kratom Association has been tirelessly working to lobby for the Kratom Consumer Protection Act (KCPA), which would institute a baseline of regulatory practices for the American kratom industry. These include requirements of product registration, age restriction, and labeling, including warning label requirements.

Certain limits would also be instituted to combat product adulteration and contamination.

Bans on synthetic alkaloids and limits on certain natural alkaloids could also be added to ensure that companies are producing natural and safe lab tested Kratom for consumers.

In the current absence of regulation, however, analytical testing for kratom heavy metals and microbes is one of the best ways for any industry to protect itself. Kratom brands – just like CBD brands – are encouraged to take responsibility for their product and for the reputation of the industry by cultivating relationships with kratom testing laboratories.

Kratom testing can ensure that products are free from harmful microbes, heavy metals, and pesticides.

Santé Laboratories Tests Kratom

At Santé Laboratories, we are committed to using evidence-based techniques to generate data through validated testing for kratom companies in the United States.

As Texas’s first ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accredited hemp testing laboratory, we have been hard at work to support the growing hemp industry by upholding quality even in the absence of high compliance standards.

Now, we have seen a need in the kratom industry for the same high-quality testing for relevant kratom analytical testing.

Santé Laboratories offers microbiological screening for microbes such as Salmonella, as well as heavy metals, and pesticides. In addition, Santé tests for a panel of alkaloids including mitragynine, 7-hydroxymitragynine, speciogynine, paynantheine, and mitraphylline in our state-of-the-art facility in Austin, Texas.

Learn more about kratom testing at