Kratom is the common name for Mitragyna speciosa, a tropical evergreen tree native to the marshy jungles of Southeast Asia. The tree grows wild in central and southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and elsewhere in the Pacific Rim, where it has been used as traditional medicine since at least the 19th century.
The psychoactive compounds of kratom are found in the tree’s broad green leaves, which are picked, dried in the sun, and brewed as a tea, or crushed and mixed into water. The effect of the substance is often compared to both opioids and stimulants and is lauded for offering relief from pain, depression, and anxiety.
Kratom advocates regard the substance as an invaluable aid for mental and physical health, but it’s also used as a recreational drug. Though it’s been used in traditional contexts since at least the 19th century, kratom’s global popularity has grown in recent years.