“In certain regions of southern Thailand, from the south of Surat Thani province to the border of Malaysia, village elders and parents of young brides, often arrange marriage of their daughters to males who chew kratom and avoid males who use ganja. Parents believe that kratom users are hard working, while marijuana users are lazy. This belief is also compounded by the fact that male workers say that the daily use of kratom gives them a strong desire to do work.”
Some 710km south of Bangkok and 105km off the coast of the Thai mainland, lies the exotic tropical island paradise of Koh Samui. Koh Samui is one of the three main inhabited islands in an archipelago of 60-80 islands, most very small in size and uninhabited. Mountainous terrain of limestone and granite reaching 636m covers most of Koh Samui. Dense vegetation and numerous streams are common, and the island has two beautiful waterfalls (Hin Lad and Na Mueng) on the coast. Temperatures range a pleasant and constant 25 to 34C. The island, the second largest in Thailand has a human population of about 45,000 gentle souls, most of whom derive their income from farming or fishing. With coconut trees blanketing much of the interior from the hillocks right down to the beaches, copra production is an economic mainstay (approximately 2 million coconuts are shipped each month to Bangkok). Other important economic activities on Koh Samui include fishing, rice, durian (a popular Thai fruit), bananas and other fruit cultivation, and tourism. Indeed this island offers of sort of safe haven for the many Western tourists that come to partake of the magic mushroom omelettes and Koh Samui smoothies in a sanctity and free environment, without fear of police intervention.
Koh Samui is a Garden of Eden, complete with the forbidden fruits. Not only are an assortment of psychoactive fungi (‘gold caps’ and ‘blue meanies’) mushrooms found here but also numerous other plants capable of altering consciousness. For here one can find also Betel nut (see perspective image), Baby Hawaiian Woodrose Seeds (see perspective image), and Kratom or Thom as the locals commonly refer it to. While Kratom is well known in Thailand, the plant is just beginning to develop its adherents in the West for its energetic yet fine opiate-like high. Kratom -- Mitragyna speciosa -- is a visually stunning tree indigenous to central and southern rainforest regions of Thailand. This aborescent tree reaches heights of 30m and 4m across. Branches of brilliant glossy green leaves extending into an array of beautiful yellow flowers. The genus was named Mitragyna because its stigmas on these resembled the shape of a bishop's mitre.
Mitragyna species are used medicinally as well as for their fine timber through the areas they grow. But most importantly --- the plants’ leaves are used by peasants, laborers, and farmers who use the plant to overcome the burdens of their hard work and meager existences. It appears that Thai men prefer the leaves of kratom while the women prefer to chew betel nut, also common in Thailand. Female users of Kratom are apparently quite rare. The use of kratom by the Thai peoples can be traced to use among primitive Thai’s although the facts of this have never been determined. Nonetheless such indigenous tribal use in nearby Kuala Lumphur (Malaysia) has been found. What is clear is that the Thais and Malaysians use it to cope with long hours of daily work and stress. The plant’s effect is narcotic-like (similar to opium) while at the same time it has the stimulating properties of cocaine. Yet it is less physically and psychologically addicting. Thais also use Kratom as an opium substitute during the summer and fall months when opium is not available. Kratom has few (other) medicinal uses, although it is sometimes used as a folk medicine to treat diarrhea and to prolong sexual intercourse by combining Kratom with cannabis.
The use, possession and sales or planting of trees was made illegal by the Kratom act of 1943. Reports indicate that the Thai military often eradicate the trees by burning them down when found. However, the law was found to be not effective, since the tree is indigenous to the country. In Thailand, kratom is classified along with heroin and cocaine, carrying the same strict penalties. In fact, one ounce of extract is punishable by death. However, I have seen leaves sold in public on the street in many resort areas of Thailand along the gulf of Thailand and on the Andaman Sea side of Thailand. And it is quite available. There is even an eighty foot high tree on the campus of a major university in Bangkok, but when I asked about the plant at the Botany Department of that particular university, I got a cold shoulder from the tenured staff of the plant lab.
The primary method of ingestion is to chew fresh leaves of the kratom plant, also known as thom, ithang and kakuam. The former epithet thom is used more in the southern region of Thailand towards the Malaysian border.Chewing the fresh leaves of the plant is the preferred method of ingestion in Thailand and most users prefer to chew the fresh leaves and say it is the best method for extracting the alkaloids into their systems.
WHAT’S THE HIGHLIKE?
Effects come on within 5-10 after use, often lasting for several hours. Users often tend to describe their selves as happy, strong, and active, and say that they have a strong desire to do work. And during this work period, they say their minds are calm during their early inebriation.
Other methods of ingestion include grinding up and eating fresh, dried, or reconstituted dried leaves. Some villagers use the leaves in cooking and often add salt to try and prevent constipation. Drinking fresh warm water usually follows consumption of the leaf and coffee has been mentioned as a substitute for water to bring on the onset of the effects in a faster mode. Sometimes the leaves are dried, powdered and smoked or consumed in a cup of a tea. When chewed fresh, the large center vein of the leaf is removed before chewing and discarded by users.