Curing the perfect kratom leaf
There is a lot of misinformation out there about what kratom colors mean and how they are achieved. Kratom strains names are usually used to identify a particular method of drying and processing the leaf or to note a specific ratio of colors.
Reds are most often associated with sleep or mellow relaxation. Whites are usually used for energy support. Greens are somewhere in the middle and are used by some for mental support when dealing with anxiety issues or mood imbalances.
Kratom’s vast spectrum of beneficial effects is attributable to the alkaloids, or plant chemicals, contained inside the leaf. The composition of these alkaloids varies greatly between regions, ecological and geological conditions, and weather, but our kratom is grown exclusively Borneo.
On the tree, kratom colors are usually a gold/yellow, green, red, and shades therein, many times all being found on the same tree. Stems are green or red, though this is not an indication of the leaf’s contents.
But, if all kratom leaves are naturally green veined, how do you get red, white, and yellow? This all comes down to technique. How a batch is cured and dried makes all the difference in its color and overall alkaloid profile.
The key alkaloid inside the kratom leaf is called mitragynine and it is a partial mu and delta-opioid receptor agonist. This is what makes kratom such a popular choice for pain relief. Mitragynine is estimated to be about 13 times more potent than morphine. It has also shown that it may not have abuse potential.
Another alkaloid present in kratom is called 7-hydroxymitragynine. It is said to be four times as powerful as mitragynine, but it is not present in large quantities in the live leaf. The proper curing techniques can alter this as oxidation transforms mitragynine into 7-OH-mitragynine.
Oxidation is most evident in red strains. In fact, the way a leaf is treated once it is cut down holds primary influence over what the leaf’s overall alkaloid content is going to be by the time it reaches the end user.
To reach light green kratom colors, what we refer to as white, the sun is the enemy. White kratom is made by drying the leaves away from light, heat and humidity. An indoor setting is ideal with levels of exposure to the Indonesian humidity varying depending on the desired outcome.
The goal is to prevent as much oxidation as possible and to keep the alkaloid profile virtually untouched from its live state. Theoretically there should be more mitragynine in this type of leaf compared to if it had been dried outdoors. This results in an experience that may be more upbeat and productive than usual.
Another method of producing white kratom involves the stems of the tree, or bones. With this method, kratom is oxidized by being dried under sunlight in high humidity as if it were to become a red (see below).
After the kratom dries with its reddish tint, bones are added back to the product and its color lightens a bit. Bones are high in mitragynine, which explains why whites are associated with energy support.
Red kratom does get some of its color from the red plant material that leeches out while drying under hot, humid sun. It gets the rest of its color from oxidation.
Again, oxidation is what causes mitragynine to be converted to 7-hydroxymitragynine (7-OH), which again is a more potent form of mitragynine. This can actually happen after the leaf is cut from its tree and is the goal when trying for a red cure.
To make things easier, some farmers place their red leaves into clear bags and set these out under direct sunlight to oxidizes. Condensation then builds up within the bags and it must be let out a couple of times per day.
This helps avoid mildew growth. Red kratom colors are usually associated with rest and relaxation along with support for a pain-free lifestyle.
What if you want something in the middle? Green kratom colors are a nice balance between whites and reds in terms of effects.. Users report energy, greater drive, and pain relief without too much drowsiness. This is due to kratom’s natural alkaloid profile staying as untouched as possible during the curing process.
A perfect green is achieved by drying leaves in high heat for a short period of time at medium humidity levels. Typically leaves are strung up or dried out on screens for this.
There is a small bit of light used to help. With greens, the amount of humidity exposure is what controls that level of oxidation that occurs and thus influences the entire alkaloid spectrum present in the final product.
Natural yellow kratom leaves occur due to substandard nitrogen uptake by the host tree. They are found in nature randomly either by the whole tree or just individual leaves on a tree. However, farmers can influence their product to turn a yellow color by leaving red kratom out for an extra long time to let the sun bleach it out.
Some varieties, like Bentuangie, can be achieved with the right usage of fermentation bags. The timing must be just right – up to five days is usually good. This is one of the kratom colors that takes practice to get right.
If the leaves are left in for any longer there is a risk of mold growth, which results in a product that is unfit for consumers. The amount of time under direct sun or UV exposure and humidity are both variables that can be changed to control the overall amount of oxidation that occurs.
Some facts to sum it up:
- Most of the coloration of any sort of kratom depends on what specific steps are taken with the leaf after it is removed from the tree
- Kratom colors in nature are not indications of effects.
- Less light and heat result in lighter kratom colors while the opposite can produce dark reds.
- Red kratom results mainly from oxidation of mitragynine into 7-hydroxymitragynine, a more potent analgesic
- 7-OH shows abuse potential while mitragynine does not
- There are many other alkaloids in the kratom leaf that give it its effects, the composition of which is influenced by post-harvest treatment