7 States Have Banned This Herbal Supplement for Its Reported Health Risks

Updated: Nov. 21, 2023

Kratom, an over-the-counter herbal supplement, is used to manage anxiety, depression, pain and other symptoms—but governments are determining that its health risks likely outweigh its benefits.  

Aside from over the counter pain relievers and prescription medications, many people these days are resorting to more natural remedies, like herbal supplements, to treat pain and mood-related issues. Right now, one popular herbal supplement is being marketed to the masses, but a new report suggests it may not be the panacea it’s touted to be.

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What is kratom? 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), kratom is an herbal substance that can produce opioid and stimulant-like effects in users. Kratom comes from the leaves of an evergreen tree (Mitragyna speciosa) grown in Southeast Asia and is generally sold in liquid or powder form—think capsules, infused in beverages, and eaten raw.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to release approved medical uses for kratom, but some Americans have reported using the supplement as energy booster, mood enhancer, pain reliever and sedative. 

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How does it work? 

The exact science about how kratom works is still relatively up in the air, but according to the Mayo Clinic it’s believed to act on opioid receptors. Unless under the supervision of a licensed doctor, it’s advisable not to take kratom.

But here’s what is generally known about how kratom works: When it’s taken at lower doses, kratom acts as a stimulant, making users feel more energetic and uplifted. At higher doses, it may serve as a pain reliever and sedative, depending on an individual’s body chemistry. Kratom is also said to be indicated for cough.

According to the American Addiction Center, when kratom is consumed at high doses, it may have effects similar to morphine giving it a more addictive potential. It’s also being used to mitigate the symptoms of opioid withdrawal in the clinical setting among some populations. 

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Side effects of kratom 

The FDA lists kratom as a drug of chemical concern,” and its unregulated nature makes it difficult to determine which ingredients are actually present. Some reports suggest there has been specific caution about potential heavy metal and bacterial contamination.

Aside from unknown ingredients, kratom has a variety of known side effects including weight loss, dry mouth, chills, nausea, liver damage and muscle pain. Additionally, high doses of kratom have been shown to lead to seizures, confusion, decreased libido, tremors and heart and lung problems in some individuals. 

A July 2023 U.S. Attorney’s Office news release summary notes the following about potential side effects of kratom:

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the use of kratom is associated with serious health risks, including but not limited to seizures, liver damage, addiction, and death. Side effects may also include respiratory depression, nervousness, agitation, aggression, sleeplessness, hallucinations, delusion, tremors, loss of libido, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and severe withdrawal signs and symptoms.

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Where to get kratom

In many cases, a prescription isn’t necessary to obtain kratom, and it’s easy to purchase—available even at places like gas stations and smoke shops. With that said, it has been easy for people to obtain, especially teens and young adults who are looking for a quick fix to relieve anxiety and improve focus similar to other well-known ADHD medications. 

Right now, kratom is illegal in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. And recently, more states have decided to take action about the sale of kratom, especially to more vulnerable populations. As of July 1, 2023, a Florida law went into effect that bans the sale of kratom to individuals under the age of 21. 

More information is yet to be uncovered about kratom and its potential benefits and side effects. However, you’ll want to check in with your doctor before adding any new medication or supplement to your daily routine. 

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