CBD and Kratom - two natural health supplements have been in the news of late, because of their mutual run-ins with the federal authorities in the United States. But what exactly are they and what do they have in common?
What is CBD?
CBD, otherwise known as Cannabidiol, is one of over 100 molecules found in the cannabis plant and industrial hemp called cannabinoids. It is non-psychoactive and is the subject of much scientific research, due to its purported anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure and anti-anxiety properties.
CBD is thought to indirectly stimulate the body’s endocannabinoid system, a vast communication network of receptors and cannabis-like chemicals called endocannabinoids. Its modus operandi is to bring about balance or homeostasis to all systems in the body and is involved in regulating everything from mood, appetite, sleep, pain, reproduction, and our immune system.
Most CBD extracts on the market are derived from industrial hemp, which contains less than 0.3% THC (the cannabinoid that causes the high feeling). However, they are still considered ‘whole plant’ extracts as they contain other active compounds in the plant, such as minor cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. Common forms of taking CBD include oils, tinctures, capsules, vaping, creams, and suppositories.
CBD is considered safe and non toxic. In fact just this November, the World Health Organisation released a report stating it could no find no risk of addiction, abuse or toxicity.
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What is Kratom?
Related to the coffee plant, Kratom is a tropical tree and has been used traditionally in South East Asia and Africa as a pain-reliever, a stimulant and an ease to opiate withdrawals. Its principal active compounds are the alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitra-gynine (7-HMG), both of which have been shown to have pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects in preclinical studies on animals. While not classed as opioids, they partially activate the mu-opiate receptor, as well as binding to the delta-opiate receptors.
At low doses Kratom is said to be stimulating, while eliciting the reported analgesic effect at high doses. It is available as dried or crushed leaves, powder, capsules, liquids, and resin.
Kratom’s safety profile is somewhat unclear. Some Kratom side effects have been noted at high doses, such as dizziness, nausea, tachycardia, seizures, and liver damage. But crucially compared to opioid drugs, it does not suppress the respiratory system, meaning that fatality from Kratom overdose is unlikely. In fact, most of the reported fatalities have been when Kratom was detected in autopsies alongside other drugs, suggesting a lack of knowledge about potential drug interactions and dosages.
So, let’s take a look at just what CBD and Kratom have in common:
1. The DEA Are Not Their Biggest Fans
Both CBD and Kratom have had their fair shares of run-ins with US Federal Agencies.
Last year, the DEA announced that CBD should be classed as a Schedule I drug with no therapeutic value and carrying high risk of abuse, as it is a derivative of the cannabis plant which has been stuck in the Schedule I category for the last 50 years.
According to the DEA, classifying CBD as Schedule I status means they can more accurately track scientific studies into the cannabinoid. However, a Schedule I status effectively shuts down much of its research. So go figure!
Kratom and the DEA have been engaged in a merry dance over the last couple of years. Back in August 2016, the federal agency placed Kratom in Schedule I as an emergency measure due to concerns about its recreational use, psychoactive properties, misuse, and some reported Kratom-related fatalities.
However, with approximately 5 million people in the US using Kratom for issues like chronic pain, a huge public outcry ensued, where even Congress got involved. Advocates maintained that Kratom is safer than prescription opioids and that the deaths outlined were in cases where Kratom had been consumed with other substances. So just 2 months later, in an unprecedented measure, Kratom was removed from the Schedule I list, pending further investigation.
While a massive relief for Kratom users around the country, it may just be temporary stay of execution. In November 2017, Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), issued a public health advisory on Kratom outlining concerns about its “deadly risks.” He warns that the FDA will be intercepting and destroying Kratom shipments in the future.
2. Some People Think CBD and Kratom Could Be Answers To The Current Opioid Addiction Epidemic
Chronic pain is a universal problem, but in the United States it has spawned its own related epidemic - that of opioid and prescription painkiller addiction.
According to CNN, 19 people die every minute in the US from accidental prescription drug overdose and the distribution of morphine, the main ingredient in popular pain medications, increased by 600% from 1997-2007. Not only that, it’s thought that prescription painkiller addiction can lead to the use of other opioids such as heroin, with a 2015 CDC analysis finding that people with a painkiller prescription addiction are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin. High time then that other non-addictive treatments for chronic pain are found.
For thousands of years the cannabis plant has been used to treat pain. But recently, CBD has created significant interest due to its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving potential, without any psychoactive side effects or risk of addiction.
So far preclinical research has found CBD to reduce pain and inflammation in animal models, however clinical trials on humans are still lacking, much in part to the cannabis plant’s restrictive scheduling. But as anecdotal reports continue to mount, it is only a matter of time before more human trials for CBD and chronic pain take place.
One of Kratom’s traditional uses has been its use for pain relief, which comes as no surprise when one considers it activates the opiate receptors. However, there are comparatively few scientific studies compared to CBD, with the majority only published since 2012. One such study on mice examining 7-hydroxymitragynine, one of Kratom’s active compounds, found it to have ‘potent analgesic activity when orally administered’.
Like CBD, there are many anecdotal reports of chronic pain sufferers using Kratom successfully to treat chronic pain, and thanks to their public outcry, the DEA’s bid to dump Kratom into the Schedule I was foiled. But concern remains about Kratom’s safety profile when mixed with other substances.
3. CBD and Kratom May Help With Drug Withdrawal
In South East Asia and now in the West, Kratom is being used to treat the effects of opiate withdrawal. A study conducted in Thailand by the International Drug Policy Consortium found that the “effect of Kratom on the body reduces pain from withdrawal symptoms and helps manage detoxification” in long term addicts of drugs as varied as heroin and alcohol.
CBD is also being investigated as a way of reducing wanting and craving in addiction, with research carried out into its use in heroin, cocaine, tobacco addiction and even cannabis misuse. So far, the results look promising, with scientists believing that CBD helps to normalise glutamate transmission and endocannabinoid signalling, which often deregulates during addiction.
4. CBD and Kratom May Enhance Mood
CBD is thought to have anti-anxiety effects in humans, because of its partial activation of the 5HT1-A serotonin receptor. Not only that, a limited number of studies in subjects with social anxiety showed that CBD reduced anxious feelings and improved performance in a simulated public speaking test. CBD is also thought to promote new brain cell growth in the hippocampus area of the brain, which processes long term memories and emotional responses.
While CBD’s lack of high means that is not used for recreational purposes, Kratom’s mood enhancing ability is one reason it has made its way into the legal high circuit. At low doses, Kratom is considered a stimulant as it increases productivity and even produce feelings of euphoria. However, it’s thought that Kratom’s potential lies further than just as a party drug. A study in the Journal of the American Chemical Society found that the opiate binding alkaloids in Kratom showed effectiveness in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
5. The Pharmaceutical Industry Will Make Their Own Synthetic Versions of CBD and Kratom
We live in a paradigm where in order for a pharmaceutical drug to come to market, it must first go through rigorous research culminating in the 3 stage, double-blind, placebo clinical trials, all of which costs over $2.5 billion. If a drug company is going to spend this kind of money, it has to be certain of its returns, and must ensure the drug can be patented.
With botanical medicines, this is rather difficult. How do you take out intellectual copyright on a plant that has been around for millions of years and that anyone can grow in their backyard? A solution for pharmaceutical companies is to make a synthetic version or find a way to isolate and purify the active components. Such is the case of GW Pharma and its a pure, standardised CBD drug, Epidiolex, which is predicted to be approved for rare types of epilepsy in 2018.
Something similar is happening with Kratom, where the pharmaceutical industry is using Kratom alkaloids to manufacture synthetic opioids and several patents exist for drugs based on Kratom extracts.
Some suggest the DEA’s bid to scheduling Kratom is to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry’s interests are protected. Sound familiar?
So in this tale of two botanical extracts, it’s easy to see the uphill battle they both face in remaining accessible to the public as whole plant extracts. More unbiased research is required, and the only way to do this is by making sure they are never classified as Schedule I substances and that producers do their utmost to offer the public the best quality, cleanest CBD and Kratom products they possibly can.
We’d love to hear from you; our readers. Have you tried CBD or Kratom? What have been your experiences? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.