Kratom, Mitragyna speciosa, is arguably the most popular plant in the Mitragyna genus. But this genus comprises more plants, such as Mitragyna hirsuta or Mitragyna diversiflora. And not all of them grow in Asia. In this article, we will explore the genus Mitragyna and the species that it comprises.
The Rubiaceae Family
The Mitragyna genus is a genus in the Rubiaceae family. You will often hear that kratom is in the coffee family. To be more precise, kratom is in the same family as coffee. And that family is the Rubiaceae family.
The Rubiaceae family groups over 600 plants genera that grow in warm and tropical climates all around the world. Their main characteristics are:
- Entire and simple opposite leaves
- An inferior ovary
- Interpetiolar stipules
- Tubular sympetalous corollas
While most of the Rubiaceae plants are shrubs, you can also find trees, herbs or even lianas. Apart from coffee and kratom, other well-known plants in the Rubiaceae family are gardenia and cinchona (which contains the alkaloid quinine).
The Mitragyna Genus
The genus Mitragyna groups tree species native to tropical and subtropical Africa and Asia. So, although kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) grows in Southeast Asia, other species of the Mitragyna genus are not even from Asia.
There are some discrepancies in the number of species that this genus comprises. According to some sources, there are up to ten species in the Mitragyna genus. However, other sources claim the genus Mitragyna only groups seven species and the others are synonyms of other plants. Nevertheless, the general consensus seems to accept only seven Mitragyna species.
Mitragyna trees are usually large with leaves that can be medium or large. They have spherical inflorescences (groups of flowers) with bracteoles around them.
The Mitragyna species contain alkaloids and other chemicals that can have therapeutic benefits. Hence, Mitragyna trees have been part of local folk medicine for centuries. So, it is not unusual to find regions in Africa or Asia that use trees in the Mitragyna genus to cope with many ailments and issues.
Trees in the Mitragyna Genus
As we mentioned above, the Mitragyna genus officially comprises seven trees:
- Mitragyna speciosa
- Mitragyna hirsuta
- M. diversifolia
- Mitragyna inermis
- M. rotundifolia
- M. tubulosa
- Mitragyna parvifolia
Each of these trees has its own set of characteristics. Let us explore them!
Most Popular Species in the Mitragyna Genus
While the Mitragyna genus comprises seven spices, not all of them are equally popular. In the case of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), it has become a natural remedy for millions of people. But both Mitragyna hirsuta and M. diversifolia are now alternatives to kratom in places where this product is not legal. As per many kratom users, these two Mitragyna plants can also be good substitutes during kratom breaks to fight tolerance.
Commonly known as kratom, Mitragyna speciosa is arguably the most widely known tree in the Mitragyna genus. It is an evergreen tree that grows in Southeast Asia. Kratom has become popular thanks to its effects, which include pain relief, euphoria or stimulation. These effects are due to kratom’s main alkaloids: mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Despite its promising benefits, kratom is a controversial product and is even illegal in some states and countries.
Another Mitragyna tree from Asia, M. hirsuta is gaining popularity as a kratom alternative in places where kratom is not legal. However, Mitragyna hirsuta does not contain mitragynine. Its main alkaloid is mitraphylline, which also has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. Mitragyna hirsuta is also known as Kra Thum Khok.
You may know Mitragyna diversifolia as M. Javanica. Again, another Asian tree that also has similar effects to kratom. Its main alkaloid is mitrajavine. This alkaloid also activates the opioid receptors, just like kratom does. However, users agree that M. diversifolia (or Javanica) is not as potent as kratom. This tree is also very popular in Thailand, where people use it as an alternative to kratom.
Other Plants in the Mitragyna Genus
Kratom and its popular alternatives are not the only Mitragyna species. There are other plants in this genus that are also very interesting and may have therapeutic effects. Would you like to learn more? Then you can keep reading below!
- Mitragyna Inermis: If you thought that Mitragyna trees were exclusive to Asia, you were wrong! Mitragyna inermis is a tall tree native to tropical Africa. Traditionally, M. inermis has been a remedy for malaria in some African regions. But different studies suggest that this plant in the Mitragyna genus could also have neuroprotective, cardiovascular, and antimicrobial properties.
- Mitragyna Rotundifolia: M. rotundifolia has antioxidant compounds in its bark and leaves. This means that M. rotundifolia might prevent oxidative cell damage and reinforce the human defensive system. Its traditional uses include treating fever, malaria or pain.
- Mitragyna Tubulosa: Native to Peninsular India, this Mitragyna species is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat fever and relieve the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. In some regions, it is also known as Helamba.
- Mitragyna Parvifolia: The last of the Mitragyna species is native to South Asia. M. parvifolia grows in Sri Lanka and India and has many common names, such as kaim, kadamb or kalam. Though parvifolia is not well-known in the Western world, in South Asia it is a common remedy for pain, fever or cough. It is also used in Ayurvedic medicine.