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You have probably noticed that kratom vendors promote many different “strains” of their products. It may seem like new “strains” are popping up constantly. All of the different names and color combinations are becoming more and more difficult to keep up with. How are you to determine which one is the best for your needs?
Well, the usage of the “strain” terminology is a misnomer. There may be several different reasons why this faulty vocabulary has become so widespread.
All the kratom obtained in the United States comes from Indonesia – usually from rural villages in Borneo. There, leaves are harvested from wild kratom trees in the jungle or from trees on privately owned land.
There has been some examination into the composition of kratom leaves harvested from young trees versus mature trees. There is some speculation that mature trees may deliver higher levels of alkaloids, but this is not yet very well understood. Not to mention, this kind of scrutiny toward the properties of the leaves is not well controlled for by the Indonesian operators.
In Indonesia, the quality controls in general for harvesting kratom are not very good. This is why higher scrutiny by American businesses that sell kratom is vital.
The lack of quality controls from the harvesting side directly contradicts the notion of “strains”. There are no kratom “strains” being cultivated for their unique properties in Indonesia.
While researchers hypothesize that there may be genetic differences between plants in different regions (e.g. Indonesia vs. Thailand vs. Malaysia), this is not yet very well studied or understood.
The strain names are arbitrary and completely made up by the vendor (e.g. the “Red Thai” strain is not from Thailand).
Unethical or misinformed vendors will make inaccurate claims about kratom “strains”. For example, “Red Borneo is for nighttime and White Borneo is a good morning strain” or “Green Elephant is a strain with the largest leaves from the tree”. In reality these vendors are often filling orders for different strains from the same batch of kratom.
It may be a red flag when a vendor carries an excessive number of strains. It presents operational challenges to maintain an expansive inventory, especially if a vendor is observing good manufacturing practices (GMP) and doing a good job with quality control.
Now that you’re aware about the fallacy of strains, you may be wondering about the colors. You’ve probably observed kratom being categorized into vein colors:
Green, red, and white vein colors are the most common. Yellow vein is a newer color that has recently popped up. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see other vein colors popping up in the future.
As you may have already guessed, the categorization of kratom into vein colors is misleading as well. The green, red, white, and yellow kratom powders are not a result of the leaves’ vein color. This is a commonly held misconception.
Leaves of different vein colors are often found on the same tree! This should go to show how vein colors are not a reliable indicator of the properties of the leaves. There is no research that suggests there are any significant differences due to the color of the veins.
The Indonesian suppliers do not even sort the kratom leaves they harvest by the color of the veins. They employ various drying techniques to affect the color of the kratom powder. You can even experiment with this yourself by taking green kratom powder and leaving it in the sun for several hours. After some time, the color will be noticeably darker. The Indonesian operators use similar practices to create green, red, and white kratom.
The color of the veins does not affect the color of the kratom powder any more than natural variances in the shades of the leaves themselves.
Kratom can be graded by color – the darkest color is typically sold as “red”, the lightest is typically sold as “green” and in between colors may be sold as “white”.
Consumers may believe they have indeed experienced different effects between strains, but that is more likely due to different batches. Since Kratom is a naturally harvested product, every batch is different.
The alkaloid content between each batch can vary significantly. In unadulterated natural kratom leaf, Mitragynine (the main active ingredient) can range from 0.5% to 1.5%. To illustrate the variance, two grams of kratom from one batch may have 10 milligrams of Mitragynine, whereas two grams from a different batch may have 30 milligrams – a 3x difference!
Research has shown that the effects of kratom are dependent on serving size. It’s no wonder how your experience can vary widely.
It’s common to hear feedback from customers saying they are not feeling the intended effects from their kratom and they want to try a new strain. Sometimes we will suggest to these customers that they need to reduce their serving size. The customer will then report back that this solved the problem.
We do not ever use the term “dose.” Kratom is a dietary supplement, so it is appropriate to use the term “serving size” at all times.
“Less is more” is a popular idea that has been adopted by some responsible kratom users and advocates in discussion groups on sites like Reddit and Facebook. It is the idea that the optimal effects of kratom are achieved at the lowest necessary serving size.
Consumers often report that decreasing their serving size will help them achieve what they want from kratom. There is some research that seems to back this up as some of kratom’s alkaloids are MOR antagonists (check research to confirm), which lends credence to the idea that kratom has “self regulating” mechanisms.
Kratom has also been described as a “fickle plant” for the reasons discussed above.
Another factor that may contribute to the variability in consumer experience is the density of the kratom powder. Consumers tend to measure their servings in teaspoons or tablespoons.
However, the density of the powder itself can vary, so volume is not a good way to measure the amount of Mitragynine in your serving size. For example, a level teaspoon of one batch may contain 2 grams, but a level teaspoon of a different batch may contain 3 grams. Compounded with a significant difference in alkaloid content, this can lead to a drastically different experience!
Kratom’s variability in the current market is best attributable to the different “batches” of kratom as opposed to different “strains.” While we here at Speciosa may still use the “strain” terminology to accommodate the mainstream lexicon, we prefer to use the term “variety.”
Kratom varieties, and each one represents distinct batches of kratom. Each batch is graded by mitragynine content and color, and then “named” based on these two factors..
Kratom powder that tests highest for mitragynine and it will always test 1.4% or greater. Maeng Da (regardless of color) will test higher than 1.0%. The Bali and Thai varieties will usually test above 1.0% but may be as low as 0.5%.
Green varieties are the lightest green in color and red is the darkest. White is usually in between, but may be just as dark as red.
You should be aware that all kratom vendors are not conscientious about separating batches. If you order two different “strains” from such a vendor, it’s possible that you are receiving the exact same product that is simply labeled as two different things.
The above described practice of grading kratom and selling it accordingly is how we have decided to approach it. We are not aware of any other brands of kratom products that do this. We feel it is a more transparent and objective way of doing things. We also think it provides the customer with more consistency.
Thailand is in the process of decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana and kratom. As a result, it is possible kratom imports to the US may open up offering American consumers something that is actually genetically different as a strain would suggest.
Learn more about the importance of quality standards and good manufacturing practices for kratom: