Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement regarding the ongoing risk of Salmonella in kratom products which underscored their previous claims that kratom is a dangerous substance that the public should avoid at all costs.
In the past, the FDA has pointed to scientific evidence of kratom’s potential for abuse and have renounced its purported health and wellness benefits. But the demonization campaign they’ve been waging against the Mitragyna speciosa (kratom) plant and its active alkaloids hasn’t stopped the scientific community from exploring its properties.
On June 29th, it was revealed that Dr. Scott Hembly, chair of basic pharmaceutical sciences at the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy at High Point University had led and published a new study about kratom. Hemby spearheaded the efforts of a group of researchers from the University of Florida, the University of South Carolina and his own campus.
Together, they tested kratom’s main constituents, Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, to determine whether they are addictive and whether they may be capable of reducing opiate intake. Their findings, published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, were illuminating.
Dr. Hembly’s research reflected no potential for addiction inherent in Mitragynine and, perhaps more promising, evidence that said alkaloid could reduce opiate consumption. Alas, all of their findings were not so positive. This same research pointed to 7-hydroxymitragynine’s high abuse potential and ability to lead to an uptake in consumption of opiates.
So, what does all of this mean?
According to Dr. Hemby himself, “The rationale for using kratom to treat opiate addiction and dependence in the US is largely anecdotal, as are the claims that the plant is addictive. What has been lacking is objective scientific data to directly address both claims. Now, we’ve completed the first controlled scientific study demonstrating evidence for potential therapeutic value.”
The thing about this study which is most notable is the research regarding kratom’s individual alkaloids. After all, should the newly-minted SITSA Act lead to the Department of Justice outlawing kratom, all of its alkaloids would also be banned.
What this new research demonstrates is the innate value of individual kratom alkaloids, particularly those of Mitragynine. Jack E. Henningield, PhD, of Pinney Associates, a health consulting firm, has called HPU’s research an important study, saying, “It shows that the major naturally occurring constituent responsible for the health-related effects of kratom, mitragynine, is of very low abuse potential.”
He adds that 7-hydroxymitragynine is obviously of minimal health consequence based on these findings and that those findings do not support the FDA’s claim that kratom is a narcotic-like opioid.
All of this tacitly conveys the need for the FDA to properly regulate kratom rather than outlaw it. Experts in the field, such as Dr. Henningfield, believe that it would be wise for the FDA to regulate the amount of 7-hydroxymitragynine present in their products.
This could serve as a boon to the kratom community as natural kratom powder would remain available so long as levels of the alkaloid were not in excess of that which is found in kratom leaves. Should this be considered, we would no doubt see the elimination of kratom extracts and enhanced kratom powders, but at least the Ayurvedic herb, which has been tangentially referred to as the “miracle herb,” would remain legal in the U.S.
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