Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a small tree that grows mainly in Southeast Asia, and has remarkable medicinal and psychoactive effects when its leaves are ingested.
People all over the world have started using kratom as a replacement for alcohol, prescription medicine, or other psychoactive plants.
As well as helping to increase focus, treat pain, and improve sex, kratom is also often used to reduce anxiety. People report using kratom to help manage daily anxiety or even depression, or to mitigate social anxiety in a similar way to alcohol.
Here we’ll cover the basics of kratom, and how people are using it to reduce their anxiety.
The Basics of Kratom
Kratom leaves are traditionally chewed or brewed into a tea in countries including Thailand and Malaysia. At lower doses, kratom leaves can provide a stimulating quality, which laborers use as a replacement for amphetamines or coffee. At higher doses, the leaves can be euphoric, sedative, and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety).
Kratom contains a large number of alkaloids, the most common one being mitragynine. The alkaloids in kratom strongly activate opioid receptors; although unlike most opiates, kratom also activates adrenergic and serotonin receptors.
It’s thought that kratom has an unusual mix of stimulating and sedative effects because it both excites the motor areas of the brain, and strongly activates opioid receptors associated with euphoria and relaxation (Rätsch, 2005).
In the West, kratom is usually ingested in the form of dried powder, which can be swallowed raw, made into tea, or packed into capsules. Its effects begin about half an hour to an hour after ingesting, and can last for up to six hours.
Kratom for Reducing Anxiety
A first glance across forums shows that kratom appears to have great potential in treating anxiety. It seems that kratom can really help people quit other anti-anxiety drugs, overcome daily struggles with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and re-build relationships:
“Before I found kratom, I was struggling with depression, generalized anxiety, and social anxiety. I was prescribed six different prescription medications I was taking daily, and two of them are very physically and mentally addicting. The medications made me numb. I still wasn’t happy in any way even though I was on all these prescription drugs.
I had no friends, I wasn’t able to connect with people, and was severely depressed. I also turned to opiates and cocaine so I could actually feel something. I was tired and I didn’t know how much longer I could manage living this way.
I started a new job, and at the same time started to use kratom. It was like night and day for me. I had absolutely no anxiety, I was happy, I was very outgoing, and quickly made a lot of friends. I easily tapered off of ALL of my medications in two weeks, and quit all hard drugs. At my job I quickly rose to one of the most reliable employees. I also found a girlfriend soon after.
I would catch myself smiling for no reason, which I hadn’t done in years. I became extremely health conscious as well as becoming a lot more mindful of things. I was able to start a keto diet, meditate on a regular basis, and started working out four times a week.
I have never been so happy and healthy in my whole life. I am in the best shape I have ever been. I was able to do the things that I used to love to do again. I developed a really strong relationship with my family, and they noticed a huge difference in me. I am making them proud for the first time in a long time.”
“Kratom definitely helps with anxiety… I was diagnosed ten years ago with an anxiety disorder and used to have a lot of panic attacks. I have been prescribed xanax and took three a day for the last ten years… since discovering kratom I’m down to just one xanax a day!”
“I have severe anxiety (GAD). I have had a standing benzo prescription for years, and I haven’t the need nor urge to touch them since I started kratom.”
“I have severe anxiety. Had GAD since I was a young teen. Kratom makes life worth living honestly. In the past I’ve used heavy opioids and benzos resulting in disaster for me. Kratom is a much milder and safer alternative to hard drugs.”
Although these reports are mostly highly positive, there are some people who report that kratom can actually induce panic attacks and anxiety:
“I had my first two panic attacks ever within the last month. I knew right away they were directly related to kratom. The second one was right after dosing this past Saturday afternoon. I knew at that moment that I would never dose again. Those two panic attacks were the scariest two experiences of my life. Now, four-ish days later, I’ve had no anxiety at all, and certainly no more panic attacks. The acute withdrawals are hell, but there’s no anxiety for me so far.”
“Before kratom I’d never had panic attacks, and I started having them and INCREASED anxiety. Now three weeks clean, with gnarly PAWS [post-acute withdrawal syndrome] I feel lied to.”
Keep in mind that people suffering from withdrawal after becoming heavily tolerant to kratom are much more likely to suffer anxiety during this time – so avoid taking kratom daily and keep an eye on any buildup of tolerance. Take a break if you think you’re becoming dependent.
Kratom and Social Anxiety
As well as general anxiety, kratom seems to help people overcome social anxiety. Even people without anxiety disorders sometimes suffer from social anxiety, and there are many reports of people becoming less shy and more confident after a dose of kratom:
“I routinely speak in front of large groups of people and executive level audiences. […] For day to day anxiety management, kratom works incredibly well.”
“Kratom is miraculous for my social anxiety.”
“It makes me a different person around people, way more confident. It also fixes a stutter problem I have where I’m not confident in what I’m saying so I kinda fumble over my words with insecurity. I absolutely love it.”
Kratom can even help people overcome performance anxiety, and make sexual encounters smoother and less stressful. Read our full article on kratom and sex here.
Is Kratom Safe to Use For Reducing Anxiety?
Kratom is overall a very safe plant. However, because it activates opioid receptors, frequent use can lead to addiction, and you can build up tolerance if you take it every day.
There have been no human studies into kratom toxicity, but studies in mice suggest you’d have to ingest more than 50g of kratom at once before it started to have any serious harm on its own. This is about 10 times a moderate/heavy dose, and you’d likely throw it back up before it could be harmful.
The biggest immediate danger of kratom is combining it with other sedatives or depressants, because the relaxant effects can stack up to knock you unconscious. And if that happens, there’s a danger of you vomiting while unconscious – since kratom can sometimes cause nausea at higher doses.
So to be safe when using kratom, make sure not to mix it with:
- Other sedatives, like alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines. It’s also best to avoid stimulants, because there’s a chance the stimulants and kratom will fight against each other and mask their effects – and when one wears off before the other you could become overwhelmed.
- Anything that will increase your risk of vomiting or unconsciousness, like ketamine or nitrous.
- Certain types of MAOIs react badly with opiates and can cause fatal seizures, so check with your doctor about kratom.
- Tramadol has been known to cause seizures when mixed with opiates.
Some people who’ve started taking kratom have reported that it can actually cause panic attacks and anxiety. There is a particular risk of experiencing anxiety during withdrawal, if you have become dependent on kratom (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS). Be aware that there is always a risk of having a negative reaction to any plant medicine, and stop taking it if you encounter any serious harmful effects.
Which Kratom is Best for Anxiety?
Different kratom strains have different effects. People report that some strains of kratom are more euphoric and stimulating, while others have more powerful anxiolytic and sedative properties.
Although different strains will feel different, there is no consensus on which strains are best for anxiety. It seems to be down to personal preference, so you’ll have to experiment! Bali, Maeng Da, Thai and Indo are popular varieties to start with.
Kratom varieties are often further divided into groups based on the color of their stems. As a kratom tree matures, the stems and veins will change from red, to green, to white; and traditional wisdom is that at each of these stages, the composition of alkaloids in the leaves is slightly different.
It’s commonly said that Red Vein kratom is the best option for treating anxiety, while White Vein kratom can sometimes be too stimulating. Green Vein kratom sits somewhere in between. However, people report anti-anxiety benefits with red, white, and green versions, so it’s just going to be a case of experimenting! Red is definitely the best place to start for those who are unsure.
How to Take Kratom
There are many ways to take kratom, and the one that’s right for you will depend on what you’re looking for from the experience. Read our full guide on the best ways to take kratom here!
We’ll assume you have dried kratom powder, rather than fresh leaves, as this is the most common way for kratom to be delivered online.
To start out, ask yourself how sensitive you are to other opioids. If you don’t have experience with opioids, consider how sensitive you are to coffee; if you’re very sensitive to coffee, you’re also likely to be sensitive to kratom, so start with a lower dose.
A good starter dose is two grams of dried kratom powder. If you’re using the capsule method, with size 00 capsules, this will be roughly 4 or 5 capsules.
Remember it may take an hour for the effects to appear, so be patient before redosing yourself.
If you’ve tried two grams and it didn’t do it for you, work your way up a gram at a time until you find your sweet spot!
Most people taking kratom for anxiety report that lower doses, even doses below your typical perception, are generally more helpful – as high doses can start to have too much of a bodily effect and can even bring on anxiety themselves.
Keep in mind that repeated use (i.e. every day) will build up an unhealthy tolerance, so try to space out your kratom sessions.
Is Kratom Legal?
Kratom is illegal in some countries, including the UK, New Zealand, Denmark, Poland, and Sweden. However it is legal in the US (except for Tennessee, Vermont, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin), and legal in Canada as long as it’s not marketed for human consumption.
Always check your local laws; never just assume something is legal where you live because it’s legal in most places.
If you want to get your hands on some, you can buy kratom from reputable online retailers.
Raätsch (2005) The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants.