DJ Ferrer

As with any new product to hit the market, the relative safety of kratom tea is a subject of intense debate. The plant from southeast Asia is causing quite a stir in the medical community as well as the addiction-recovery community, as its frequent users self-report great benefits, yet medical professionals seem threatened by it or suspicious of it. Which begs the question: is kratom safe to consume? Are there any short-term or long-term risks associated with kratom to be concerned about? There have been several studies over the past decade, and most show somewhat positive results, especially when compared with other substances in a similar category as kratom; despite this, the medical community and government are eager to cast a shadow of doubt over kratom and its potential benefits. But what do the studies actually say about kratom?

Kratom, By the Numbers
Not surprisingly, it is somewhat hard to pin down studies involving kratom, although they are becoming more available as time goes on. According to, Poison Control centers received around 1800 calls related to kratom between 2011 and 2017; interestingly, two-thirds of those calls were made between 2016 and 2017 alone, which seems to coincide with the rise of kratom’s popularity in the States as a whole. These calls to Poison Control can involve anything from someone panicking and believing they consumed too much, to vomiting, to actual overdose; when it comes to actual deaths, the numbers are mixed. One study showed 11 deaths in that seven year period mentioned previously – and only 2 can be wholly attributed to nothing but kratom, as the other nine people engaged in polysubstance use and were on a cocktail of substances, which could have had their own negative interactions with each other, entirely separate and aside from kratom. From that same website: “While there is some potential for dependence and addiction, there is convincing evidence that the potential for either is very low.”[1] According to CDC studies, 152 deaths can be “linked” to kratom use, but the vast majority of those cases (87%) involved polysubstance use, and therefore also cannot be solely attributed to kratom.

Kratom and kratom tea is often used to treat pain, as an alternative to opiates; therefore, it is not out of place to compare the relative safety of the two, and whatever issues kratom may have, it does not come close to the crisis that is the opiate industry. During the same period examined earlier – 2011 to 2017 – anywhere from 40,000 to 70,000 people died from opiate overdose each year. The most current year that data exists for, 2021, shows over 107,000 people died from opiate overdoses.[2] In just one year. Despite solving many of the same health issues that opiate solve, the potential for overdose and addiction is so low in kratom that it is outright disingenuous to compare it to opiates.

That being said, there are ways to consume kratom that minimize the chance for adverse reactions; most users who report adverse effects consume the product in a manner that is unhealthy, IE they take gas station pills filled with kratom powder, or they outright swallow the unbrewed powder mixed with orange juice, a practice known as “toss and wash”.

Why Method Matters
Kratom consumed as an unbrewed powder is the least healthy way to consume it. It is harder on the kidneys and the stomach, and users will more frequently report nausea and stomach upset after a “toss and wash”. They also report acne outbreaks, oily skin, and other minor but inconvenient dermatological issues. More importantly, users do not gain the full spectrum of effects, and dont make the most efficient use of the kratom, when simply swallowing the powder; not all of the alkaloids will be extracted in the gut. To extract the most alkaloids from kratom, and thereby gain the best effects, it must be brewed in a tea with citrus/citric acid and cinnamon. Both citrus and cinnamon help to extract the alkaloids from the plant matter and bring it into the water; all the best tea shops and brewers know to use these techniques, and it is the superior method of consumption, especially from a safety standpoint. The brewed tea will be absorbed best, and with the least strain to the gut.

An Open Mind, with an Eye on Safety
Armed with this knowledge, what is the typical kratom user to do? As we learn more about kratom and its long-term uses, it is on the community to be responsible with it; only consume brewed kratom tea from shops and vendors that use third-party labs to test the efficacy and safety of their product. Whether you have a favorite tea bar, or like to brew it yourself, kratom has a lot to offer; vendors like offer top quality product that is guaranteed tested in a third-party lab.