Kratom has been in the news a lot lately, but not everything being said is “bad” – just in time for the holidays, the University of Florida has announced they’ve received a $3.5 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to begin research into the safety and efficacy of the controversial herbal remedy. If that isn’t a wonderful gift for American kratom advocates, we don’t know what is!
What Prompted the Kratom Research?
Kratom, scientifically known as Mitragyna speciosa, is a tree native to Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Thailand, that has been used for decades as a natural stimulant and sedative. Since 2004, when it was first introduced to the holistic healthcare scene in the United States, use of the plant has come under scrutiny by the federal government because of chemical similarities to opioid drugs like codeine and fentanyl. The FDA may consider it a substance of concern with eyes to regulating sale and distribution, but kratom advocates are vocal in defense of Mitragyna speciosa, so much so that when the DEA attempted to ban kratom back in 2015, a petition featuring thousands of signatures was submitted to Congress and the motion was quashed.
Who Got the Grant?
The grant awarded to the University of Florida’s College of Pharmacy will span two years, and fund studies that will look more closely at the active compounds of kratom – not just the well-known alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, but some of the other 40-odd chemicals present in the plant, as well. The purpose of these studies will be to gain a deeper understanding into the way Mitragyna speciosa interacts with our receptors and give both scientists and government an idea as to whether kratom is as safe and effective a natural medicine as advocates believe.
What is Kratom, Anyway?
Because kratom has already been shown, if only through anecdotal evidence, to have much potential in helping patients suffering from chronic pain and those with opioid use disorder, positive results from these studies might lead to a broader acceptance of M. speciosa as an effective and affordable alternative to prescription painkillers.
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