Kratom Supplements Won’t Make You Healthier — They’ll Probably Just Make You Sick

In late 2017, poison control centers started receiving high volumes of calls about an herb many had never heard of.

Kratom, often marketed online as a supplement, is legal in the United States — but several countries have banned its sale and use altogether.

Officials believe it has caused more than 40 deaths nationwide. In early 2018, it was officially classified as an opioid — a¬†much cheaper, prescription-free version anyone can purchase on the internet or in stores that sell alternative medicines and treatments.

Many people rave about its supposed health benefits. The U.S. government doesn’t believe anyone should put themselves in danger as a result of these claims.

Kratom pills

Kratom pills | AR30mm/Getty Images

According to the Food and Drug Administration, kratom is associated with a high risk of salmonella contamination — and its “benefits” don’t even come close to balancing out its dangers.

Kratom, a member of the coffee family, is a plant whose extracts have been used to treat chronic pain and digestive issues. It’s sometimes used as a stimulant or sedative and has helped people cope with opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Some websites even promote the use of kratom to treat anxiety and depression, sleep problems, and improved concentration and sex drive.

Despite these apparent health¬†effects, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove it could be an effective treatment for any medical conditions. It also hasn’t officially been approved for medical use, which is why it’s technically an alternative medical treatment.

People have started using low doses of kratom the same way most of us might use coffee, reporting increased energy and alertness. It’s also been reported to cause hallucinations and dull emotions and sensations, which is why many use it to treat chronic pain instead of a prescription medication approved by a doctor.

Prescription opioids

Prescription opioids | Moussa81/iStock/Getty Images

The herb, like many other “natural” remedies, comes with side effects, including:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe weight loss
  • Insomnia.

Kratom overdoses are also on the rise — especially since there aren’t any official guidelines relaying how much of the product is safe to consume at a time.

In addition, the risk of salmonella contamination may not be worth a short-term energy boost or a brief burst of pain relief. A multistate outbreak in 2018 left 50 people hospitalized and prompted a mandatory nationwide recall. There could still be contaminated products out there, since the FDA isn’t responsible for regulating its sale.

Vendors who handle their products poorly can expose dozens if not hundreds of people to complications such as dehydration, reactive arthritis, or bacteremia — an infection that occurs when salmonella bacteria enter a person’s bloodstream.

It’s generally not recommended to use a product that hasn’t been studied thoroughly enough to confirm or refute the claims made in support of it. This is especially true of “alternative” products that might endanger your health more than enhance it.

If you do use kratom, do your research before buying. Make sure you know how much of the product is safe for you to take, and stop using it if it makes you sick.

Supplements don’t fix everything. You’re much better off going the safe route if there’s a method other than an unregulated plant — preferably doctor-approved — that can relieve your anxiety or pain.

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