Decisions, decisions … It seems like every consumer product comes in dozens of different varieties, enough to give the most decisive person analysis paralysis. With hundreds of years of use and development behind it, kratom is no exception.
You have two major decisions to make with kratom — the color, and the strain.
While all kratom comes from the tree Mitragyna speciosa, trees grown in different regions (or under laboratory conditions) have evolved to different genetic profiles, which has resulted in different alkaloid profiles and different reported bio-effects. (Reminder — naturally-occurring alkaloids are the active ingredients in kratom.)
We refer to these discrete, identifiable genetic families as Kratom strains. While every harvest is different, different strains have developed a reputation for having different effects and alkaloid profiles.
Complicating the matter, each strain is usually available in different colors — red, green, white, and yellow, each with different properties.
Let’s look at some of the most important strains. Most strains are named after their geographic origin, but there are some notable (and even mildly scandalous) exceptions.
Grown on the Indonesian island best loved by tourists and expats, the Bali strain of kratom tends to carry a more reddish tone.
Kratom has been observed to interact with the opioid receptors in a similar fashion to addictive opiates like morphine and oxycodone, making it a popular alternative for pain management. Balinese kratom has been reported to have some of the most opiate-like effects, making it one of the best choices for pain relief.
Sumatra is the largest island within control of Indonesia. The Sumatra strain of kratom has been observed to create less pronounced bio-effects, but it produces those effects over a longer period of time, making it popular as an all-day solution.
Red Sumatra is popular as a sleep aid and stress-reliever, while White Sumatra is popular as an energy supplement and for creating a sensation of mild euphoria.
With territory claimed by three countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei — the island of Borneo contains some of the oldest rainforests in the world. The Borneo strain of kratom, available in red, green, and white varieties, has been observed to have sedative properties and is frequently used to relieve stress and anxiety.
“Indo” is short for “Indonesian.” Sometimes strains of kratom are referred to as “Indo,” but Indonesia is a huge country. As discussed above, different regions of Indonesia (Bali, Sumatra, Borneo) have their own distinct strains.
So what is “Super Indo?” It’s usually Indo that has been bred, or naturally developed, to have a higher alkaloid content, making it more potent. Depending on the dose, it has been observed to be effective as an energy supplement and a stress reliever.
While half of Malaysia is on the island of Borneo, the more populated (but still lush) half of Malaysia is located on the Malay peninsula.
Available in white, green, and red varieties, the Malay strain of kratom has been observed to have a good balance between stimulant and sedative bio-effects. Users report its efficacy for mood management, pain relief, focus, and energy.
This specialized strain of Malaysian kratom comes in a deep green color. At low doses, it’s observed to have positive effects on energy, focus, and pain management. In high doses, it has been reported to have sedative effects, perfect for the treatment of anxiety.
“Super Green” is a more potent strain of Green Malay, reported to have intense energizing and euphoric effects.
The strain of kratom native to Thailand is available in red, green, and white varieties. Red Thai is popular for pain relief, while Green Thai and White Thai have been observed to produce stimulant effects and a feeling of euphoria.
Maeng Da is actually Thai for “pimp.” This specialized, Thai-grown strain got its name for being “pimp-strength.”
Make of that what you will … Regardless, Maeng Da kratom has been deliberately bred to be long-lasting and potent.
Maeng Da can be found in red, green, and white varieties. It has been observed to act as a powerful stimulant, leading to increases in energy, sensations of well-being, and in some cases leads people to be chatty and talkative. Maeng Da is also popular for pain relief.
Thailand definitely has fun naming things. This Thai super-strain, known for its lower price point, is known for its potency, possibly owing to a higher concentration of 7-hydroxymitragynine (“7-OH”), one of the most powerful alkaloids commonly found in kratom.
Red Dragon is purportedly very effective in relieving pain and reducing anxiety. Users also report a strong stimulant effect.
Strains and Names
You may notice that the naming convention for kratom products usually falls into the pattern of “Color + Strain.” This is how we get “Red Sumatra,” “White Malay,” and so on.
The core colors of the kratom universe — red, green, and white — refer to when in the plant’s maturity cycle the leaves were harvested. The color designation actually refers more to the color of the leaf vein at the time of harvest, although each variety may present a color that resembles its name.
- White — Early in the leaf’s development, while they are still struggling past the bud phase. The grains may even be allowed to germinate before grinding in a process similar to malting. Cream or light tan in color, white kratom is known for a robust alkaloid profile, often with higher concentrations of 7-OH.
- Green — Midway through the maturation process, when photosynthesis has begun, giving it the deep green color. Usually has a balanced, versatile alkaloid profile.
- Red — Later in the growth phase, when the plant has fully matured. Earthy and brown, possibly with some reddish tints. The alkaloid profile is rich and mellow, heavy on the core alkaloid Mitragynine.
- Yellow — Yellow kratom actually doesn’t result from a specific growth stage — leaves at any growth stage can be made into yellow kratom. What sets it apart — and gives it the golden/coppery hue — is the small-batch sun-drying process, which causes the chlorophyll to break down. Because it is labor-intensive to produce, yellow kratom tends to be scarce and pricier. However, some users report more intense bio-effects.
With so many choices, it may be hard to know where to start. The best choice is to just pick one that sounds promising and dive in. If you don’t get the desired results, you can always try a new one. The good news is that with so many strains and varieties, any user with an adventurous spirit can find a kratom product that’s right for them.