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How To Grow Mitragyna Speciosa
Everybody should have a kratom tree. Some say that it will take several years before your tree is mature but that doesn’t take into account the fact that the age of your cutting will be the same as its parent plant. The parent plant is also the same age as its parent, all the way up to the original seedling. So if you purchase a Rifat clone (clone is just another term for a cutting! People sometimes confuse cloning with tissue culture, which is another more sophisticated method of cloning, but the term clone is used for any asexual propagation of vegetative plants.), it is the same age as the first seedling that was originally planted many years ago.
When it arrives take it out carefully and if you live in an arid environment then transition it to the change. Its been wrapped for a couple days and it’s coming out of a 100% humidity environment, so taking it out into dry air can shock and dry the leaves out. The transition is easy; create a dome of some sort to maintain humidity, and take the dome off a little bit more each day for a few days till it’s completely off. Or just leave the originally bag that’s packaged on the plant, or some other large plastic ziplock bag, and poke a couple holes it. Each day poke another hole, until a week later it’s completely opened and exposed to its new environment. Now transplant your plant into its new home, that being a pot/bag of soil. Use a high-quality soil with a high content of perlite/pumice for drainage is preferable, although it would probably grow in a variety of soils as long as fed and watered properly. Keep the soil wet, but not saturated. The trees can sometimes be found in swampy areas so keep this in mind, just don’t go too far if trying to replicate that. The soil you purchased should have instructions on it for when the nutrients in it will run out (typically 2 to 4 weeks) and at this point you will have to fertilize. Use all natural fertilizers. They are relatively cheap, you can probably buy yourself an all purpose bag of organic nutrients for ten bucks, and I personally think they turn out healthier plants than synthetics. Make sure the fertilizers you choose are either all-purpose or specifically for vegetative growth. Feed according to the manufacturers instructions for trees, but at first always err on the side of caution and start with quarter strength or less.
My favorite all natural vegetative fertilizers are derived from fish; fish emulsion, which is great as a liquid, and fish meal if using as a top-dress.
Thailand kratom culture
Most people in Thailand compare kratom to everyday, harmless habits such as coffee. Seafaring and laborers on rubber plantations are some examples where kratom can be found to be a part of life. The leaves can be purchased for baht1 to baht3, making it cheaper than coffee and energy drinks, another reason it is ideal for poor workers. Kratom is used by southern Thailand residents not only as a stimulant for hard work, but also in local customs. Cultural performances, ceremonies, and even teashops are all traditions where kratom can be found to be a part of.
Thailand’s National Household Surveys found in 2007 that kratom is the most widely used drug in their country. It’s been part of Thai culture for at least thousands of years, but its popularity rose around the 1930's. Before this, it was only associated with the lower working class; one of the terms for kratom was “Poor man’s marijuana”. Peasants chewed the leaves all day while working in the fields, and still do to this day. In southern Thailand one can find some provinces with 70% of the males using kratom.
A Kratom habit in Thailand is respectable compared to a cannabis habit, which Thai people look down upon. They believe marijuana makes people lazy, therefore they have much more respect for the kratom chewer, who is a hard worker. What else is interesting is that young people in Thailand are not drawn to kratom use (except for “4 by 100”). Most Thai kratom users say they started around the age of 25, and their reason is almost always the same, that they wanted to become a harder worker. In fact in Thai society there is a cultural stigma against marrying a marijuana smoker, and when it comes to the act of marriage, parents prefer their daughters marry kratom users over cannabis smokers. They feel that their daughter is in the hands of a hard worker who has an intense drive to make more money, and this associating of kratom with hard work is the opposite on how they feel about cannabis.
Men are the traditional users of kratom leaves, as the Thai National Household Surveys show that only around 10% of kratom users are female. Women traditional chew betel nut instead, which is considered a human carcinogen by the International Agency for the Research on Cancer( IARC). This practice, like that of chewing kratom, has been around for thousands of years.
Muslims in the southern provinces, especially those of Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani, use kratom as an alternative to alcohol, as the rules of their religion don’t allow drinking.
Thailand’s kratom trees are disappearing
Eradication efforts by law enforcement has been extremely successful. This has led to some southern provinces losing almost all of their wild kratom trees, most notably Pattani, Naratiwat, and Yala. Kratom does not grow very fast as it is a tree, therefore efforts to eradicate it can have a huge impact. In fact there is a black market for kratom in southern Thailand that didn’t exist in recent history, and it’s 100% due to the cutting down of kratom trees. Southern Thailander’s once had an abundance of leaves to supply their villages, and now much of it is smuggled in from Malaysia (Arrests for importing Malaysian kratom into Thailand increased by 39 times between 2008 and 2012! The price for a kilogram of kratom in Malaysia is 200 baht. It is imported into Southern Thailand where it is worth 600 to 1200 baht) or brought down from northern Thailand. Indeed Kratom is actually the most expensive at the southern most part of the Thailand, where it was once known for its native kratom trees, and it becomes cheaper as one moves north. Transnational Institute’s research tells us that people in these now almost kratom-free provinces still regularely take the leaves as they always have, but they chew noticeably less to account for having to pay for Malaysian kratom instead of harvesting their own. It is incredibly sad that the place where it is most known for being indigenous to and is an integral part of the local culture, southern Thailand, is no longer self sufficient in kratom leaves and gets almost all of its kratom from a foreign country.
Surat Thani, Trang, and Satun are examples of provinces where the authorities are not proactively cutting down kratom trees, and even tolerate it to a certain extent (up to one tree per household). In places such as these, one will usually find that people with a kratom tree on their property usually have barbed wire or some other form of protection for their tree.
Malaysian kratom culture
In Malaysia kratom is known as ketum or biak-biak and is part of the local culture. It is sadly banned. Reportedly kratom mixtures are rolled up in wild pepper leaves and chewed, and the concoction can include in it ginger, dried coconut, nutmeg, onions, and lime. When sold as a tea it is called air ketum (kratom water).
It is reported that Malaysian authorities are also cutting kratom trees down, and it’s possible that this is harming the biodiversity of the area. In 2003 Malaysia banned the alkaloid Mitragynine, and by August 2004 kratom leaves were also prohibited.
There aren't many reports of use outside of Thailand or Malaysia, but I have personally spoken to one person who is from Laos who remembers her grandmother telling her she would wrap betel nut in kratom leaves and chew it. Betel nut is the preferred psychoactive for females, especially when in their culture the males are consuming kratom.
If growing outside it’s best to put it in a greenhouse to keep the humidity up and to generally provide protection from the elements (although keeping the humidity high is not a requirement, the higher the happier). If you live in an area that has cold winters you will want to have that greenhouse (as too much cold is dangerous for your kratom trees.) Although if kept around 50 degrees F, it will just go dormant. If the temperature drops a few degrees below freezing, it may drop its leaves, then come back to life in the spring. Just be sure to protect it from the cold wind. As for heat, they love warm temps, and don’t seem to mind at all even when it’s over 100F. Otherwise if growing indoors and if one so desires, they can create a tropical environment 365 days a year, much like the Mitragyna speciosa trees get in their native lands.
If growing it indoors then investing in a humidifier would be a great idea especially if living in a dry area. Remember kratom’s naturally habitat is that of a tropical rainforest. You will have to put your new transplant wherever it will get a good amount of light, so supply your plant with a good source of artificial lighting. High Intensity Discharge bulbs, specifically high pressure sodium and metal halides, are the bulbs of choice for growing many indoor crops, and kratom growers should take notice. Metal halides will be the superior choice, as they have a higher amount of blue in their color spectrum, which is preferred by plants that are in vegetative growth. Because of their ability to spread the light’s intensity several feet, HID’s are great for tall plants, unlike flourescents, whose lumens dissipate very quickly within inches away from the bulbs. ‘Compact flourescents’ may work well for the first few months with seedlings and cuttings, but after that even these dissipate too much the farther away one gets from the bulb. One issue with HID’s is the light can be too intense, so make sure it’s kept very high up away from the canopy. A 400 watt metal halide at least 4 feet away from the canopy is probably ideal. See how they respond to the distance of light and adjust accordingly. Look out for red and brown spots, a sign the light may be too intense. The distance your canopy is from the bulb will become an issue when the plant becomes a tall tree, so prune it or tie it down to promote bushy, short growth. It’s probably best to have several, shorter bushes instead of one tall tree. This will make the most efficient use of the artificial light. Putting it by a window that gets lots of sunlight is also a great option for indoor growth. Another thing to consider when growing indoors is ventilation. If just growing a few plants then simply letting fresh air in with a window and a fan to spread it will suffice. But if one has several large plants and they want them growing at their full potential, then fresh air will have be to brought in while stale air is exhausted out of the room. Along with ventilation one also has to control the temperature. If living in the colder parts of the world, heating is easily done with space heaters. These steps in creating a tropical habitat indoors is especially for those that live in areas unsuitable for outside or even greenhouse growth.
One will have to take steps to keep bugs from eating your kratom leaves; preventing this will maintain the high health of your tree. There really is no reason to entertain synthetic pesticides as an option; the natural stuff works just as good without all of the health concerns for you and your plant. Horticultural oils can be anything from neem oil from the garden store, to food-grade vegetable oils found in your kitchen. Neem oil works best. It not only deters bugs from eating the leaves (bugs hate the taste of neem covered leaves and will refuse to eat!), but bugs that are exposed to it will not reach full maturity, putting a wedge in their reproductive life cycle. For this reason it is recommended that the gardener apply it multiple times (2 to 3 times per week for 2 weeks or so is a good rule of thumb) to account for bug eggs hatching after a spray. When bugs are not present, take preventative measures so you never do. This is done by giving the plants a good rinse with the neem solution every couple of weeks; as long as you keep strict with this, you should not have bugs. Using regular vegetable oils works, but I recommend getting creative by using things like sesame oil instead. Citrus and/or mint oils added to any oil solutions works great. Other alternatives are using all natural and horticultural soaps; these seem to be just as effective as horticultural oils. Hot pepper solutions are a great option if you have a serious bug problem and want to kill everything, followed by a regime of oils/soaps to make sure you never have the problem again! Simply buy some hot peppers and blend them with water to make your “pepper spray”. And bugs don’t just attack your leaves, they also can be found in the soil, especially soil that isn’t allowed to dry out all of the way, as is the case with kratom.
Always experiment with the way you grow your kratom trees. Growing Kratom outside of its natural habitat is new territory, and the next few years will offer test results from the many people out there growing kratom and reporting on what they’ve learned. The best ways to trigger flower, what the optimal hours of artificial light for vegetative growth is, and tricks on how to promote the different vein colors are just a few examples of things that need to be experimented with.
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. When we see all of the other names such as Bali, Thai, Vietnam etc., this is NOT a description of where the kratom originated from. They are all blends, made by the farmers in Indonesia. Why they have chosen names of the surrounding regions may have some reason to it (for example genuine Thai leaves are supposed to have more of a stimulating effect; the Indonesians make their "Thai" blend to offer similar results), but nonetheless it contributes to some major confusion for retailers/consumers.
The Transnational Institute and Thailand’s media have investigated the kratom trade. 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! Any rumors that Thai kratom leaves were being smuggled from Thailand to Indonesian can be put to rest because of these investigations. 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.
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.
The first Kratom ban: Thailand’s corrupt history
The following is only a historical record of events in Thailand.
Although kratom is illegal in Thailand, one cannot get treatment for kratom addiction as an option in the judicial system. This is because the 2002 Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act does not recognize kratom addiction as one that needs rehabilitation. So if they understand this fact, what negative health affects drew them to ban kratom in the first place? The Answer: None.
Thailand’s government used to tax and regulate opium. When the East Asian War broke out in 1942 they needed to increase revenue and recognized how kratom competed with opium. The alternative kratom didn’t cause financial ruin or have long term negative affects like opium addiction. Another option would have been for the government to tax and regulate kratom, but that wasn’t realistic because who is going to pay a tax on a plant that could be found, especially in southern Thailand, growing everywhere? So on August 3rd, 1943 they banned it with the Kratom Act 2486. In 1979 its status was changed in the Thai Narcotics Act as a schedule 5 drug, alongside marijuana. This was the least restricted out of all schedules, and the purpose of the redesignation was that the original Kratom Act’s penalties were too harsh. On January 7th 1943 Police Major General Pin Amornwisaisoradej, house of representative member from Lampang, said this:
“Taxes for opium are high while kratom is currently not being taxed. With the increase of those taxes, people are starting to use kratom instead and this has had a visible impact on our government’s income.”
Today Thai officials are starting to acknowledge that the reason for the ban was economical and not for public safety. Here is a quote from Mr. Surphon Patharapagorn, director of the ONCB division 9:
“It is fairly well established that the Kratom Act was put in place due to the government losing money from the taxation of opium. Local preference had moved toward kratom, hurting the opium market.”
Opium use has risen since the ban on kratom. Thailand’s very own Narcotics Control Board made a report in 2010 that stated that kratom is not socially dangerous or harmful, and not prone to abuse. A report by the Transnational Institute was made after 2010 desk and field research in provinces Hat Yai, Trang, Satun, Songkhla, Bangkok, and Surat Thani. Here is an excerpt from the report:
“Kratom is an integral part of southern Thai culture. Criminalization of kratom is unnecessary and counter-productive given decades of unproblematic use.”
The report goes on to make an excellent case for decriminalization. A bill was introduced by a Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri in 2013 in an attempt to decriminalize kratom. However it still remains illegal today. In fact from 2005 to 2009 we had a gradual 6-fold increase in kratom arrests. In 2012 a report stated that 5,897 people were arrested for kratom offenses, while opium related arrests were only 522. There were 832 for heroin and 2 for codeine. The discussion in Thailand to legalize kratom continues to this day.
Today in 2016 mitragyna speciosa is still illegal in Thailand, but you won’t be executed for possession of an ounce, as some rumors online would have you think. People that are arrested for kratom related offenses rarely go to jail, and when they do, the sentencing guidelines allow incarceration for no more than 2 years for production, import, export, selling, and possession with intent to sell. Possession and/or Use has a 1 year maximum jail sentence.
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