What is kratom? Kratom (scientific name mitragyna speciosa) is a tropical tree in the coffee family indigenous to Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia. Studies have found that in low doses, the substance derived from it can act like a stimulant relative to caffeine, while higher doses create a sedative effect. That is because of two alkaloids in the plant: mitragynine, its main compound, and
7-hydroxmitragynine. It has been used in Southeast Asia as a therapeutic medicine since the 1800s.
Kratom can be consumed in leaf, capsule or tablet form or brewed into a tea. A concentrated extract of kratom is also available, but buyers beware. "When people start trying to extract the active chemicals, that's when people run into a much greater risk of toxicity," said pharmacologist Walter Prozialeck.
What is kratom used for? For everything from recreation to self-medication. Some people have used it for an energy boost while others have taken kratom in place of highly addictive prescription painkillers to deal with chronic pain. Then there are those consumers who use kratom to manage their opioid addiction and manage withdrawal symptoms. In fact, kratom has been used to wean opium addicts in Thailand for at least nine decades.
What are kratom's side effects? Little has been studied about kratom's full range of side effects. What is known is that high dosages of kratom (10-15 grams) can lead to nausea and constipation, according to a 2012 review of available scientific literature on kratom conducted by Prozialeck. Some cases of seizures have occurred, although it's unclear if kratom or a combination of substances was responsible. "It's not that kratom is devoid of adverse events," said toxicologist Ed Boyer, who studied one of the seizure cases with McCurdy in 2008. "The scientifically responsible statement is that we don't know what the full range of those consequences are and under what circumstances they occur."
But is it deadly? That's not entirely clear. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that poison centers across the country have received 660 called related to kratom-use over a five-year period, many of those incidences seem to have also involved another substance including ethanol and narcotics. Over 65 percent of reported kratom exposure resulted in minor to moderate side effects; while about 26 percent saw no effects at all. Less than a tenth of reports resulted in life-threatening symptoms or death, according to the CDC. But in one fatality, the person who used kratom also had anti-depressants and a mood stabilizer present in their system.
"Most people who looked at the reports of deaths associated with kratom have found, in the mass majority of cases, there have been these compounded factors," said Prozialeck, who teaches pharmacology at Midwestern University. "It's not clear that kratom has been the cause of death."
Interesting enough, all toxicity and fatality reports have emerged in the West. Earlier this year, Dr. Darshan Singh, a Malaysia-based scientist, published a study that found such reports "non-existent" in South East Asia, which has a longer history of kratom use. By contrast, prescription opioid overdose has accounted for about 68% of US emergency room visits in 2010, according to the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Ginger Ale: /ginger-ale It’s not surprising, then, that pharmacists had a role in the development of ginger ale as a nonalcoholic brother to ginger beer. Thomas Cantrell, an American apothecary living in Ireland, carbonated his drink with soda water instead of yeast and began exporting the beverage to the U.S. around 1850. This established ginger ale as an American favorite. And according to legend, the Detroit pharmacist James Vernor created a blend of ginger, vanilla, and spices and left it in an oak barrel when he was called off to fight in the Civil War. When he returned, he was delighted by the flavor, and his concoction became a hit in the Midwest. Vernor’s, a fizzy soda with a strong ginger kick, claims to be the oldest ginger ale in the U.S. And in 1904 yet another pharmacist, a Canadian named John J. McLaughlin, created a paler, dryer ginger ale—one that appealed to those who were put off by the sweetness and pungency of Vernor’s. Thus Canada Dry was born. ... Canada Dry ginger ale says it’s made with “real ginger” on the label. Chris Barnes, a spokesman for Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, which owns Canada Dry and Schweppe’s (another brand of ginger ale), says the sodas do contain real ginger, but the company won’t reveal how much to protect proprietary formulas.
Ginger soothes the stomach because it contains the compound gingerol, which is converted to another kind of compound—a group called shogaols, said Zick. Shogaols relax the gastrointestinal tract by blocking receptors that cause nausea—much like anti-nausea drugs do, Zick said.