Mitragyna speciosa is native to Indonesia, The Sunda Isles, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, and Vietnam. Thailand is where most of the information about natives using it comes from, though the cultural connection is rarely found in the northern/northeastern parts. Reportedly it grows abundantly in central and southern Thailand (at least it used to, eradication efforts by Thai authorities have reduced the Mitragyna speciosa population incredibly).
Borneo is the world’s 3rd largest island. The island is split between the countries of Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The place Mount Kinabulu, and next to Mahakam River, is a specific place on the island mentioned in the kratom community where Indonesian kratom is grown and then exported all around the world. There are communities of Indonesian farmers on Borneo island that farm kratom for a living. The island of Bali was and is a major exporter of kratom, and people argue on whether or not kratom that is sent from there actually grows there or not. It appears that most of it comes from Borneo or elsewhere. When a package of kratom is labeled “Bali”, it’s probably more of an indicator of the type of leaf blend it is, and not where the kratom itself actually originated. It’s up for debate whether or not all the kratom we receive here in the US, was originally grown in Indonesia and many even claim most all comes from Borneo. The reason this is unconfirmed is because it is banned in Thailand and some of the other countries we see with the names of strains, so it is difficult to verify the origin of shipments. This applies to Vietnam and Malaysia as well, as it is banned in these places yet we receive strains like “Yellow Vietnam” and “Green Malay” here in the states. It’s possible that people are smuggling Thai, Malaysian, and Vietnam kratom to Indonesia and then sending it worldwide, but the Transnational Institute and Thailand’s media have investigated the kratom trade and can probably clear up some of the confusion. We now know that Thailand’s efforts to eradicate kratom trees has been so effective, that southern Thailand gets most of its kratom from Malaysia! This feeds evidence into the possible scenario for where the name Thai comes from, that it could refer to the genetics, and not location. For example, Thai seeds could have originated in Thailand, and sold to Indonesian farmers years ago. And the insight into Malaysian kratom being imported into Thailand also tells us it’s highly possible that Malaysian kratom is being smuggled on a large scale to Indonesia as well. If this is the case, then “Green Malay” is authentically from Malaysia. Borneo island is after all, partially owned by Malaysia on the northern end of the island. Either way, all evidence points to the fact that Thai kratom leaves are definitely are not being smuggled from Thailand. If most of Thailand’s kratom chewers are getting their kratom leaves from Malaysia, which according to the Transnational Institute and Thailand media is a fact, then obviously Thai kratom is not being exported out of the country, at least not in a large enough scale. They are either Thailand genetics grown in Indonesia, or people over there or here in the states are calling strains that meet a certain criteria, Thai. Considering the state of the global market concerning plant genetics, the former sounds plausible. It is worth noting that there is a legalization movement currently happening in Thailand right now, so hopefully the status quo of the people of Thailand relying on smuggled Malaysian kratom will soon change.
It's extremely important for people to protect the genetics of Mitragyna speciosa. The fact that Indonesia is the only country in the world that is legally exporting kratom leaves, should make people nervous. It is banned by all surrounding countries, areas where the species has been native to for as long as anyone can guess. At this point, our supply here in the US is relying on Indonesia to continue to benefit economically off of this tree, and to not follow suit of it’s neighboring nations. This plant has saved countless lives and it is now our responsibility to make sure the genetics are available for future generations. Let’s hope that large scale farmers in the US will soon attempt to create domestically grown sources of kratom. It’s not surprising we haven’t seen this happen yet, with all the controversy in the media not many investors will want to take that risk, not knowing what laws are on the horizon. But with the more legal victories we have, the closer we will come to that day where your package of kratom could be labeled “Grown in America”.
Kratom’s binomial name is Mitragyna speciosa Korthals (named by Pieter Willem Korthals), so happens to be in the same family as coffee, and its scientific classification is as follows:
Species: M. speciosa
Kratom can grow as big as 15ft wide, and 10 to 100 feet tall, though most don’t get taller than 50 feet. The leaves can grow to be 7 inches long and 4 inches wide. It’s an aborescent, non-deciduous evergreen, growing all year round, year after year in the tropical climates of Southeast Asia. The wetter the season the more leaf production, the drier it is the more leaves that will drop. The leaves shape is ovate-acuminate, and they can be light to dark green with a slight waxy or glossy appearance. When Mitragyna speciosa goes into flower it will have yellow clusters of 120 florets. Seeds rapidly degrade after being released from the plant, so germination rates decrease very quickly from that point on, and the seeds do not store well. The leaves from one tree can vary in potency and this is a direct connection to the environment. If it’s cold the leaves will be weak, and warmer temperatures will result in higher potency leaves. Cold also slows leaf growth and tends to lead to leaf drop. When it is warmer leaf production is at its best.
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