Kratom has been used by the indigenous people of Southeast Asia for thousands of years in order to acquire a natural energy boost, treat chronic pain, and wean off of harmful opium addictions. Thailand workers chewed kratom leaves to better perform during their intense laborious work days and improve their mood. However, it was first introduced into Western civilization in the 19th century by a botanist named Pieter Willem Korthals who worked for the East India Company. In 1895, E.M. Holmes identified kratom as Mitragyna speciosa. In 1907, L. Wray wrote about the methods of ingestion used by the locals such as drinking, chewing, or smoking and later sent multiple samples of kratom to the University of Edinburgh with the hope that this unique plant could be further studied for the benefit of people worldwide. In 1930, Burkill claimed the use of kratom as a medicinal plant that could be utilized to treat fevers and diarrhea.
At the time, Thailand obtained much of its tax revenue from opium addicted individuals. Kratom quickly became a threat to the Thai government due to its ability to become an opium substitute and was therefore outlawed on August 3, 1943. The Thai government became so paranoically fearful that it classified kratom as a harmful drug and ordered the elimination of all kratom trees in the country despite the severe biological consequences. Unfortunately, Thailand was not the only country to illegalize the use of kratom. On January of 1993, the Myanmar Ministry of Health proclaimed Kratom as a narcotic drug. Myanmar’s reason for banning kratom remains unknown. However, the Health Ministry claimed that individuals who were successfully able to treat their addictions continued the use of kratom. Malaysia declared kratom as an illegal substance in 2003 and carried out multiple operations with the intention of seizing all kratom trafficking. In 2006, kratom was removed from the list of poisonous substances to being classified as a dangerous drug. Despite the many public opinions on the safety and health benefits of kratom, Australia banned its use in 2005 and classified it as a schedule 9 drug.
Unfortunately, too many countries view kratom as a harmful and addictive substance with no medicinal benefits. However, if you carefully study the history of kratom you can begin to form a more educated opinion as to why governments worldwide have outlawed such a valuable substance. What would be the consequences of more populations replacing harmful pharmaceutical drugs with natural remedies? Who would benefit and who wouldn’t? Kratom is still relatively new to the Western culture. There are many misunderstandings and incorrect conclusions about its many uses. The Transnational Institute along with the Thai Narcotic control Board have concluded that Kratom has been and always will be a major part of Thai culture and the illegalization of kratom is irrelevant especially when viewing the thousands of years of medicinal use.