What is the Difference Between Kratom Strains?
First, A Short History of the Kratom Tree
The rainforest jungles of Southeast Asia and parts of Africa house an amazingly beneficial plant by the name of kratom (also known colloquially as thang, biak, ketom, thom, and/or kauam). Sometimes referred to by its scientific name, Mitragyna speciosa (M. speciosa), kratom belongs to the Rubiaceae (coffee) family (Stolt et al. 2014) and is becoming increasingly popular as a natural way to relieve pain, decrease anxiety, and promote productivity.
As with other plants, there are different sub-types. The difference between kratom varieties lies in the composition of the over 40 different alkaloids, or plant chemicals, that can be found in mitragyna speciosa leaves. When one refers to specific “strains” of kratom, he is likely referring to the color of the central vein in the middle of the kratom leaf. This is normally combined with the name of the place where it was allegedly grown (take Green Malay kratom, for example).
All kratom leaves begin with deep green central veins that change in color over time depending on the environmental factors present. Red, yellow, and gold kratom is mostly a result of the specifics of the drying or curing process used by the farmer and is also influenced by the seasonal timing of the harvest.
Kratom is most often consumed orally. This is usually done using either powder (crumbles) or capsule forms of pure leaf powder. There seems to be an overall love/hate relationship with the taste of kratom. Those who enjoy it claim it tastes like a very rich tea and has a pleasant and unique aroma. Freshly-cut grass is an analogy we have heard more than once.
Others may fight the urge to spit their kratom out as soon as a bit of it touches the tongue. As a method to make the product a bit easier to enjoy, some prefer to brew it into a kratom leaf tea mixed with tasty liquids. The native people of Southeast Asia have a lengthy history of chewing fresh leaves. This results in greater potency by weight due to the sublingual (under the tongue) absorption of the base alkaloids.
A debate continues regarding the efficacy or smoking kratom leaves, with most users recommending against it. It is perhaps possible to vaporize mitragynine as this would require temperatures somewhere within the 347 – 392°F range (Ulbricht et al., 2013) – well within the reach of a standard lighter. However, this would necessitate isolation and extraction of this alkaloid because kratom’s leaves contain tar, and we have learned from cigarettes how destructive tar can be.
Back to kratom colors: the three most popular types of kratom are referred to by the color of the individual leafs’ stems and veins: red vein, white vein, and green vein. Yellow and gold colored kratom has become relatively popular in recent history as well. These are blends, which are becoming increasingly popular as ways to experience a more robust alkaloid profile compared to sticking to just one traditional vein color.
Though the science is not actually this simple, it s generally agreed upon that red kratom comes along with greater analgesic potential. Green is said to be relaxing and uplifting with anxiolytic properties. White kratom strains are said to be the most stimulating of the three major vein colors and some say it is the best kratom for euphoria.
The general properties of red, green, and white strains are the same for any strain, though individual strains exhibit their own unique effects. Again, we can thank kratom’s more than 40 known alkaloids for the leaf’s wide array of beneficial effects. Each distinct kind of kratom varies, sometimes significantly, in composition.
Most Popular Mitragyna Speciosa Strains
Kratom comes in a multitude of different versions, but many tend to be nothing more than marketing tactics and may not be very different from one another. We sell kratom that we can trace the lineage of because we have to be able to keep it consistent from shipment to shipment. We are proud to offer kratom strains that are unique from one another.
There is evidence to suggest that the differences between strains are due to distinct contrasts in the composition of indole alkaloids, the most popular of which are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine (Mudge & Brown, 2018). These are the semi-psychoactive substances primarily responsible for the partial mu-opioid agonistic properties of the plant (Harun, Hassan, Navaratnam, Mansor, & Shoaib, 2015).
Let’s have a look at some of the most common forms of kratom available today.
Maeng Da Kratom
Arguably the most popular strain available and the one with the richest history, Maeng Da is produced through a selective pollination process called grafting. With grafting, botanists are able to isolate individual target characteristics of different strains and combine them in an offspring plant. Legend has it that Maeng Da was produced to meet laborers’ demands as they worked long, strenuous hours in the hot, humid Indonesian climate.
The benefits of all Maeng Da kratom sorts may include liberation from mild to moderate pain and euphoria due to extraordinary levels of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. This strain’s subjective effects on focus and energy make it worth consideration for those taking on mentally exhausting or repetitive work.
Some of our customers who are under the distress of chronic pain have used Maeng Da, particularly reed, to get off of prescription drugs. This is because mitragynine and other similar compounds provide relief without the harmful side effects and accompanying dependence opioid medications are known for. None of the products mentioned on our website are intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease, but a quick glance through our testimonials provides records of people using kratom to successfully kick prescription drugs.
The over-saturation of the supplier market has caused some to indiscriminately label random strains as Maeng Da due to its name recognition. However, shoppers requiring an authentic Maeng Da will learn to carefully select their sources. A good supplier will be able to describe the entire process from the tree to your door, including environmental factors and the specific locations of their source trees.
Socratic Solutions only works with those who are well established in the industry with decades of trade experience – these are categorically the most reliable partners.
Bali kratom has become somewhat of a misnomer in present times. Deforestation has taken a major toll on the enormous island, destroying more than 30% of its forests in the past 40 years (Gaveau et al., 2014). Because of this, Bali strains have been introduced to other areas of Malaysia and Indonesia to ensure supply sustainability moving forward. Bali’s major types are as follows:
- Red Bali kratom, which may be suitable for analgesia but lacks much of an anesthetizing impact
- Green Bali, which is said to decrease stress and apprehension and is easy on the gastrointestinal system
- White Bali; the usual preference for appetite control
- Gold Bali; a blend of different colors of the Bali kratom leaf, often strategically cured outdoors to attain a particular coloration
Some people have reported using Bali to aid in their fat loss goals, as it has been shown to effectively reduce appetite in vivo (Somsmorn Chittrakarn et al., 2018). Red Bali is the all-time best-selling strain here at Socratic Solutions, comprising 21.8% of all sales made. Since Netflix’s addition of the A Leaf of Faith documentary, Red Bali has gained a great deal of notoriety as the most demanded pain-relieving strain and maybe a helpful tool for those looking to trade prescription drugs for a natural solution.
Borneo is the most exported kratom in the world as it can flourish in a variety of conditions and climates. As one may infer from the name, this tree is native to Borneo; the third largest island in the world and part of the Greater Sunda archipelago. Borneo kratom has an uncertain future as unsustainable logging practices have resulted in deforestation, reduced carbon retention by remaining trees, and destabilization of soil in some regions.
The user-reported effects of Borneo kratom include:
- Pain reduction
- The ability to treat addictions (Boyer 2008)
- Treating insomnia
The green and red vein varieties are the most prevalent, with the red vein being used mostly for pain relief and green vein for reducing tension and anxiety. Some say that White Borneo may be the best kratom for mood due to its “slow” qualities. A close friend who previously suffered from generalized anxiety disorder even found it to be an effective alternative to prescription sedatives like benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, etc.), but without the dangerous side-effects.
Thai strains are not often found at the top of bestseller lists, but they have achieved a cult-like following from diehards. They are most often used for motivation, confidence, and energy. Yellow Thai is chosen for energy, while Red Thailand kratom is said to combine that energy boost with pain-relieving properties.
Thai varieties contain a greater concentration of the potentially stimulating alkaloid, mitragynine, relative to many others. A study once showed that, in Thai varieties, mitragynine accounts for up to 66% of total alkaloid content (Takayama, 2004). This was about five times higher than the other strains tested, though the others contained other mu-opioid receptor agonists (painkilling alkaloids) that the Thai lacked.
It may provide users with long-lived mental concentration and stamina. It is perhaps the latter benefit that may make Thai the best kratom for weight loss. As many kratom lovers can attest to, the leaf can be a powerful appetite suppressant. It is not difficult to eat during the duration of effects, but hunger pangs just don’t seem to be as pronounced as usual. Some of our friends achieved unbelievable fat loss by combining kratom with a reduction in caloric intake and a moderate increase in physical activity.
It Is said that Thai strains began as a tool for Thailand’s manual laborers to achieve greater productivity and to fight off exhaustion. Now that Thailand has removed kratom from its controlled substances roster, Thailand’s kratom farmers should see more opportunities for innovation.
To sum up, anecdotal accounts propose Thai strains are useful for:
- Increased productivity
- Increased levels of energy
- Increased confidence
- Intrinsic motivation
- Mild analgesia
Indo kratom is a blanket term often used to describe kratom from areas of Indonesia that are not already represented by a strain. It is included in this list simply because of how frequently it is used. This type of kratom (or group of, really) is sometimes said to have an increased concentration of 7-OH-mitragynine but a smaller concentration of mitragynine compared to other mainstream types. This may make Indo particularly soothing and another insomnia-fighter, right behind Borneo. As with all kratom, it has an extensive history in Asian regions as a treatment for diarrhea, hypertension, and even coughing (Stolt et al., 2014).
The most popular Indo strains and their alleged benefits are:
- Super Indo – provides analgesic effects similar to Bali, but is more energizing
- Red Indo- a potent painkilling, mood-boosting, and sedative strain. It stacks very well with White Maeng Da or Yellow Thai
- White Indo – though we have no credible empirical data to share at this time, studies have suggested that White Indo may help with cognition. Plus, there is always the stimulatory aspect that whites are so great at providing.
Overall, the benefits of Indo kratom may include:
- Pain relief
- Relief from opioid withdrawal symptoms
- Mood elevation
Malay kratom is cultivated in Malaysia, hence the name. Malaysian kratom has advanced to become a popular strain with very unique properties. Malay’s energy boost is reportedly smoother and more stable relative to other strains. The strain commonly called Super Green is often based on green Malay kratom.
Every type of kratom has its own unique combination of alkaloids. Each one of these is responsible for drastically different effects, at least as far as researches are concerned. It is in Malay samples that the indole alkaloids corynantheidaline, corynantheidalinic acid, mitragynaline, and mitragynalinic acid were first observed.
These and many other indole alkaloids are recognized as potentially revolutionary elements in the future treatment of depression (Hamid, Ramli, & Yusoff, 2017). The effects of this type are dose-dependent, with low doses providing a boost of energy, and high dosage being sedative (Ahmad, 2012). This is pretty typical of most kratom strains, but Malay distinguishes itself with a longer duration of effect.
Some typical characteristics associated with Malay kratom are:
- Cognitive benefits
- Useful to help with symptoms of ADHD
- It provides a stable, stimulating effect making it more preferable for people battling anxiety or bipolar disorder.
- Malay plant cells have thicker cellulose walls and are slower to be metabolized in the body (Shellard & Walker, 1969). This results in a longer duration of effect
- Easy on the stomach
Different varieties of Malay kratom include:
- Green Malay – highest overall alkaloid content of all Malaysian kinds. It is promoted by users for its various effects, such as energy, analgesia, reduced anxiety, concentration, and temperament
- Super Red – the most popular Malay for relief of pain, stress, and anxiety with potentially greater efficacy compared to Super Green.
- White vein Malay – experienced consumers claim this strain yields the most stimulation, focus, and energy of the Malaysians, and is either a good mood booster or relaxation agent depending on the dosage.
A large part of the kratom community has come to recognize blends as a legitimate class of kratom worthy of a permanent spot vendors’ inventories. The strains comprising a blend will vary widely in aggregate alkaloid content, again based largely on the time of year, harvesting technique, and curing processes. The variance grows larger as more strains are added to the blend. Our favorite blend is one we call Tri-blend, which is made using Red Bali, Green Maeng Da, and White Maeng Da kratom strains. It is a good option for those looking to cover a wide range of the alkaloid spectrum found inside mitragyna speciosa.
Yellow and gold kratom are popular blends and exist in “flavors” like Bentuangie, which can taste somewhat like chocolate depending on technique, Bali Gold, Gold Reserve; the list goes on. You are likely to find a gold variety of any traditional strain (yes, you can even find a Gold Maeng Da). These days, the roster of blends available out there features mostly fairly comical, very marketable names that only help to disguise the fact that many of them are referring to the same exact kratom.
There is a growing number of vendors today that will label the same batch of kratom as if it were several different strains with the only difference being the sticker they place on the package. In such cases, Red Maeng Da, Red Bali, and Red Vietnam could have all come from the same package. There is a certain level of trust that is required when transacting in this industry. We always aim to establish and keep yours.
Unfortunately, there is no way to determine whether you are receiving different types, even after you try them. Differences may be extremely subtle. The best you can do is find a supplier that seems like they are genuine and have truly studied the trade and vetted their supply chain. Stick to people who personally put in the time to learn the chemistry and pharmacology behind the leaf and the processes that bring it to you.
When getting into kratom blends, know that the most useful information you could obtain is the list of sub-types inside. Empirical data have established that the composition of kratom leaves can vary drastically by originating region, especially when exposed to subtly-varying climates, seasonal weather variations, and other ecological conditions. If your source is reliable, this information may help you predict how a given batch will affect you.
One can get a bit confused by all of the different strains on the market today. At the bottom of this article, you will find a list of every type that we have ever come into contact with. We highly doubt this is an exhaustive list, but perhaps it can give readers some ideas for the future. We do take requests, so feel free to drop us a line anytime.
The important takeaway is that kratom’s effects, irrespective of type, are heavily dependent on the amount used. Smaller amounts may be more stimulating, and large amounts more sedative. Start low to assess individual tolerance – more can always be added later. A little high-grade kratom, like the kind we supply every day, really can go a long way.
In summary, kratom strains come in a wide variety and are usually named after where their leaves are harvested. Although all of them come from the mitragyna speciosa tree, they can contain many different compounds than others taken from other regions due to environmental factors like soil conditions and climate, as well as the techniques used for harvesting and curing them. Many of the alkaloids inside the kratom leaf contribute to the total experience and benefits, and every person responds differently, so often times a person will try a few different strains before finding the one that’s right for them.
What kratom strains would you like to see stocked next? Feel free to reach out to us and let us know!
Ahmad K, Aziz Z (2012) Mitragyna speciosa use in the northern states of Malaysia: a cross-sectional study. J Ethnopharmacol 141:446–450
Assanangkornchai S, Muekthong A, Sam-Angsri N, Pattanasattayawong U (2007) the use of Mitragynine speciosa (“Krathom”), an addictive plant, in Thailand. Subst Use Misuse 42:2145–2157
Boyer EW, Babu KM, Adkins JE, McCurdy CR, Halpern JH (2008) Self-treatment of opioid withdrawal using kratom (Mitragynia speciosa Korth)
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Somsmorn Chittrakarn, Nisaudah Radenahmad, Sujitra Kaewsara, Wandee Udomuksorn, Niwat Keawpradub, & Pimpimol Phukpattaranont. (2018). Gastroprotective effects of methanolic extract of kratom leaves on gastric ulcer and reflux esophagitis in rats. Songklanakarin Journal of Science & Technology, 40(2), 258–263.
Stolt, AC., Schröder, H., Neurath, H. et al. Psychopharmacology (2014) 231: 13.
Takayama, H. (2004). Chemistry and pharmacology of analgesic indole alkaloids from the rubiaceous plant, Mitragyna speciosa. Chemical & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 52(8), 916–928.
Ulbricht, C., Costa, D., Dao, J., Isaac, R., LeBlanc, Y. C., Rhoades, J., & Windsor, R. C. (2013). An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of kratom ( Mitragyna speciosa) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 10(2), 152–170.