What is Kratom Extract? Complex Chemistry Made Easy

Kratom extract is made by boiling kratom leaves down into a concentrated liquid. This liquid contains a much higher concentration of the plant’s active ingredients, called alkaloids. Kratom extract allows us to take less of the product while receiving more of the active ingredients. This makes kratom extract a more efficient and cost effective way to use kratom powder.

What is Kratom?

Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia and is in the same family as coffee. Like coffee beans, kratom’s leaves that can have psychoactive effects. The leaves of the kratom tree are often dried and made into a powder or tea.

Kratom is frequently used by those seeking relief from pain or anxiety or looking for mood support. It is also used both to increase energy levels and promote relaxation, depending on the type of kratom chosen.

The chemicals inside kratom, which we’ll read about next, have been or are currently being studied for a wide range of benefits. Some of these include blood pressure regulation, blood sugar control, antibacterial and antiviral activity, appetite suppression, and anti-diarrheal properties.

Multiple studies have also shown some of kratom’s elements to be effective at inhibiting the growth of certain types of cancer cells. Research into these ingredients is just getting started and much more is needed before anything can be considered solid evidence. That said, it’s a promising start.

What are Alkaloids?

Alkaloids are a class of naturally occurring organic compounds that contain mostly nitrogen. Many alkaloids have medicinal effects, and some are used as drugs. Examples of common alkaloids are morphine, quinine, nicotine, cocaine, and strychnine.

Kratom leaves contain over 50 different alkaloids. The most widely known by far is called mitragynine. On an average basis, mitragynine has been found to comprise about 66% of the total alkaloid content of the kratom leaf and about 1.0% to 2.0% relative to the total weight of the ground leaf.

Mitragynine’s main actions are on the μ- and δ-opioid receptors. This is part of the reason kratom is so effective for pain relief. However, studies reveal that mitragynine has deeper, non-opioid mechanisms that we don’t quite yet understand, meaning there is a whole unknown set of actions behind some of its power.

Another opioid receptor agonist, 7-hydroxymitragynine, is present in the leaf in very small proportions. With a content usually between 0.00% and 0.04% of total kratom weight, this alkaloid is barely detectable using common methodologies.

That said, it is very strong on a milligram per milligram basis. In fact, it is over 10 times more potent than morphine and over 40 times more potent than mitragynine according to this oft-cited study.

There are other kratom alkaloids that act on the opioid receptors and a multitude of others that derive their actions in different manners. The overall alkaloid profile of the kratom leaf is influenced by environmental factors like climate and soil conditions and can vary wildly among trees.

It can also be altered by various leaf drying and curing techniques, which we will explore next

Kratom Color and Alkaloid Content

The color of the kratom leaf may help indicate the levels of some alkaloids inside. Why do I add the emphases? Because color on its own tells you very little.

On the tree, the kratom leaf can be a wide range of colors including red, green, yellow, and shades in between. The color depends on the quality and quantity of the nutrients the leaf is receiving from its environment.

In this state, you can’t really tell what the alkaloid profile looks like based off the color of the leaf. However, once a a producer has had a chance to manipulate the drying process, you may be able to get a hint by looking at the color of the product.

Dark green leaves typically offer a very balanced alkaloid profile as oxidation doesn’t take place in large amounts during green cures. Slight oxidation occurs due to the humidity present, which results mild change to some of the plant chemicals, but the changes are modest.

The result is a product with a nice balance of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. This type of cure is achieved in a low light, low humidity environment. The more humidity the leaf is exposed to during drying, the more changes will take place in the overall alkaloid makeup due to oxidation.

For what most refer to as a white cure, the process is very much the same. The difference is whites require darkness, low heat, and low humidity for a longer period of time.

There is very minimal oxidation occurring during a white cure, which means mitragynine is not converted to 7-hydroxymitragynine in significant amounts. The alkaloid makeup of white kratom is relatively untouched, especially compared to reds.

Since it is higher in mitragynine than it would be after different curing methods, a white sample is usually found to be more energetic.

Red cures are unique in that they depend on increased levels of light, heat, and humidity. Some processors spread their leaves out on large taps and let them dry out under direct exposure to the Indonesian sun.

Since humidity is such an important element in causing oxidation, some farmers use fermentation bags instead of relying solely on the humidity in the air. These bags are usually changed out every three days to prevent any mold growth.

As oxidation occurs, the leaf turns red and mitragynine turns into 7-hydroxymitragynine. This is why red kratom is usually associated with increased sedation and more potent pain relief.

The Benefits Extraction

The biggest benefit of extraction is that taking kratom becomes more efficient. Since alkaloids make up such a small percentage of the total weight of the kratom leaf, you must consume an awful lot of plant material to get a significant amount of any of them.

A moderate dosage of kratom, for the sake of this example, is 4 g. Although samples will vary from batch to batch, this probably amounts to somewhere around 60 mg of mitragynine, the main active ingredient which we discussed above.

After adding in the rest of the alkaloids, which may contribute another 10 mg or so, that means you are consuming 3.925 g of inert plant material. Naturally, this amount becomes larger as your dosage increases.

What extraction allows us to do is increase the amount of active ingredient we consume while reducing what is essentially filler material. It is important to note that there are three common types of extracts commercially available:

  • Full spectrum extracts: these contain specified amounts of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine as well as natural amounts of the various other alkaloids that comprise the organic leaf.
  • Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine: these contained specified amounts of both mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. If present, many existing kratom regulations mandate that the level of 7-OH-mitragynine be less than 2%.
  • Mitragynine extracts: mitragynine is the target alkaloid of most commercially-prepared kratom extracts. Examples include MIT kratom mints and kratom gummies. A common dosage is 15 mg of mitragynine per piece, as this equates to roughly a gram of raw powder.

The Extraction Process

The extraction process works due to solubility of the alkaloids. There are various methods used to achieve the extraction, some more practical than others and most requiring laboratory equipment.

There are several reports online of kratom users trying various extract methods, but none of the methods produce a consistent and identifiable yield. None of these extractors have followed through by testing their final products, so we do not know what type of yields can be expected from their methods.

Want to make a basic full spectrum alkaloid extract without any special equipment? Check out our article on making red bubble kratom!

Forms of Kratom Extract

Extract comes in a wide variety of forms:

  • Gummies
  • Caramels
  • Mints
  • Powder
  • Capsules
  • Tablets
  • Crystals
  • Liquid shots
  • Honey
  • Tea cups
  • Coffee cups
  • Tinctures

Conclusion

So, what is kratom extract? Kratom extract is a powerful concentration of the plant’s alkaloids. It is most commonly found in powder form, but can also be made into gummies, caramels, mints, capsules, tablets, crystals, liquid shots, honey, tea cups, coffee cups or tinctures.

The extraction process usually involves laboratory equipment and produces a more potent product than raw kratom leaves. Extracts are often used to increase the efficiency of kratom consumption.

When taking kratom extract it is important to start with a low dose and increase gradually as needed. Kratom extract can be dangerous if not used responsibly.

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