If you’re familiar with kratom then you’ve undoubtedly heard about VivaZen, the controversial kratom shot that’s made waves in the community and left some users sick. In 2015, the makers of this proprietary energy shot decided to remove kratom from their ingredients list after the FDA issued an import alert for kratom.
At the time kratom had come under fire for causing a rash of hospitalizations among those who had overdosed on a cocktail of medications which included mitragynine, kratom’s most powerful alkaloid. After a Birmingham-based affiliate of CBS News ran an article that called VivaZen “addiction in a bottle,” the folks behind the so-called “dietary supplement” pulled kratom from their assembly line.
In the months that followed, VivaZen shots were reintroduced to the marketplace with four new shots bearing names like Bliss and Pain. Perhaps owing to brand loyalty, the public continued to eat their shots up…until they didn’t.
Presumably United Naturals, the company responsible for VivaZen, recognized a dip in sales at some point and decided to go back to their questionable roots. As of 2018, users began to see VivaZen kratom shots reappearing on headshop shelves.
Wholesalers all across the US started stocking VivaZen Botanicals Maeng Da and similar liquid kratom extracts. The problem with products like VivaZen comes down to the sketchy nature of the brands. VivaZen shots and other smoke shop kratom bears little to no vital information on its labeling.
By asserting that their shots qualify as an herbal dietary supplement they are not only deceiving the public—the FDA has not approved VivaZen or any other kratom product for dietary use—but distracting them from what they should be asking. Namely, how much kratom is in VivaZen? And what concentrations of kratom’s alkaloids are contained in each serving?
Buyer beware: You won’t get a straight answer from the company behind this product.
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This is where things get particularly alarming: There are eight chemical compounds in United Naturals’ proprietary blend. They include boswellia serrata resin extract, corydalis extract, mitragyna speciosa (read: kratom) leaf extract, valerian root extract, willow bark extract and yohimbe bark extract.
You’ll notice at once that their label does not list the percentages at which each individual ingredient occurs, rather they claim that their blend as a whole consists of 47.4 grams.
It is worth noting that many of these ingredients are potentially harmful on their own. For example, corydalis has been linked to at least one acute case of cholestatic hepatitis. This kind of herbal hepatoxicity is not uncommon among compounds that are marketed as “natural supplements.”
Furthermore, yohimbe has been known to be potentially unsafe when taken orally. There have been multiple reports of rapid heart beat, seizure, heart attack and kidney failure. Since kratom has also been associated with potential liver and kidney damage, it is imperative that users avoid taking large dosages. Combining it with something like yohimbe may pose an even greater risk of harm to organ systems.
Of particular interest to first-timers should be the mitragynine content of VivaZen since this is one of the two primary alkaloids that has been stigmatized by the media and scrutinized by government institutions. Mitgragynine is believed to be responsible for the more deleterious effects of kratom. Some have speculated that mitragynine consumption at large dosages can lead to addiction, abuse and/or overdose.
So how much mitragynine is present in a single 1.9 oz bottle of VivaZen?
As it turns out this kratom drink contains roughly 1,530 mg of kratom which is akin to taking two to three grams of kratom powder. However, United Naturals does not disclose the precise concentration of mitragynine or other alkaloids.
This is not particularly suspicious since few, if any, kratom vendors share this kind of information with their customers. The reason being, alkaloid content tends to vary from batch to batch, depending largely on environmental conditions such as season of growth and method of harvesting/drying kratom leaves.
Mitragynine concentrations in dried leaf generally account for 1.5 to 2% of the dry leaf mass and may comprise two thirds of kratom powder’s overall alkaloid profile. Based on these figures we can assume that VivaZen’s mitragynine levels fall somewhere within this range.
The exact pharmacology of kratom is not yet known, nor has mitragynine’s toxicity been definitively determined. What we do know from extant clinical studies is that mitragynine is believed to play an instrumental role in death from kratom toxicity.
Mitragynine’s long duration and terminal half-life is said to contribute to potential side effects when ingested in high dosages. When combined with other chemical compounds it may potentiate severe side effects such as cardiorespiratory arrest.
When the cardiotoxicity of this alkaloid, and others, is treated with a large dose of insulin some say it may mitigate this toxicity. However, these is inconclusive evidence to support this hypothesis. As such, users should avoid taking kratom in conjunction with other potentially dangerous substances such as corydalis and yohimbe extract.
First and foremost, users need to be aware of the likelihood of kratom overdose. Such an overdose is often hard to spot. Kratom side effects may start out rather mildly and could present as something more innocuous than it initially seems.
These symptoms can include constipation, stomach cramps, headache, shortness of breath, rapid heart beat or loss of balance. Such side effects should not be ignored as they could prove fatal if they aren’t treated.
In the past, we’ve discussed the many kratom potentiators which contribute to more pronounced effects. While such compounds may seem advantageous to long-time users who have long since developed a tolerance to kratom, they may increase the probability of overdose or organ damage.
Kratom use has been associated with discoloration in skin color and/or skin rash. Similarly, willow bark extract is associated with itching, rash and other allergic reactions.
Additionally, valerian can cause side effects such as headaches, stomach upset and cardiac disturbance. When taken in concert with kratom these side effects may be more acute.
If you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up, kratom might be your ticket to ride. But be sure to get off before the crazy train stops off at VivaZen so as to avoid any life-threatening combinations. Be safe, be smart and be well.
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