As anyone who's tried more than a few kratom brands can tell you, it's that not all Mitragyna speciosa is created equal. Sure, kratom strain effects are generally described as subtly stimulating in small amounts, and relaxing and analgesic in larger doses, but some kratom products surely impart more pronounced stimulating, relaxing, or analgesic effects than others. Doubtlessly, the freshness of the leaves used, and methods of cultivation and processing factor into the potency and effects of kratom products on the market. However, the specific kratom strain used has a lot to do with the overall "feel" of the kratom consumed.
Researchers have identified at least 25 alkaloids in kratom leaves, of which mitragynine, 7-hydroxymitragynine, and mitraphylline are considered the most pharmacologically significant. It also bears mentioning that these alkaloids typically only comprise roughly 1% of the chemical content in kratom leaves. Some strains possess a higher ratio of certain alkaloids, making them better suited for a specific consumer's tastes and needs. For example, a red-veined Borneo kratom strain (with a high mitragynine content) would be ideal for a kratom user who desires more sedative and pain-relieving effects, whereas a white-veined Thai kratom strain (with a high 7-hydroxymitragynine content) would be the better choice for a consumer interested in a jitter-free alternative to coffee.
Given that kratom hasn't been popular in the West for very long, few credible and authoritative online sources of information exist. Most of the source material used for this article was taken from manufacturers' and vendors' sites, and the details provided regarding kratom strains is often inconsistent and contradictory. Some kratom companies take their roles as purveyors of fine kratom very seriously, and others are clearly in the business to make a quick buck, and probably couldn't tell the difference between Maeng Da and ground nutmeg. To add to this confusion, many strains of kratom (e.g., Thai, Vietnam, Malaysian) allegedly originated from countries which prohibit the possession, sale, and export of kratom. Unless US-based companies are smuggling kratom out of these countries, most of these strains are likely grown and cultivated in Indonesia, which--until recently--was the only Southeast Asian country that didn't ban the export of kratom.
We have compiled a listing of the most common kratom strains on the market, along with some relevant terminology. We apologize in advance if any of our patrons find this information to be inaccurate or misleading; all of the definitions listed are based on aggregates of numerous online sources. Though Super Fun Cave takes a great interest in kratom (we carry over a dozen different brands of the stuff), we're certainly not qualified plant biologists or ethnobotanists. If any of our patrons catch any errors in the text below, by all means, please let us know!
BALI: better-known for relaxing and pain-relieving effects than stimulation and duration of effects.
Bali kratom derives its name from the Indonesian province of Bali, which is comprised of a large island, the Isle of Bali, as well as several smaller islands off of its coast. According to several sources, kratom trees don't grow in Bali; however, as Bali is a major tourist destination, kratom grown (mostly) on the neighboring island of Borneo initially came to the attention of Westerners via Balinese markets. The term "Bali" quickly gained currency amongst importers as a generic trade name for kratom. This misnomer has stuck, even though many vocal kratom aficionados claim to prefer "Bali" to other strains.
Most kratom marketed as "Bali" tends to fit the description of red-veined Borneo kratom: dark leaves (or more commonly, powdered/crushed leaves) with effects that are typically on the relaxing and analgesic side of the spectrum. For a more thorough profile of this strain, peruse the following entry on Borneo kratom strains. If you'd like to try some Bali Kratom that's worth getting excited about, we'd recommend Kratom Therapy's Bali Kratom, available in both capsules and powdered leaf form.
BORNEO: effects vary greatly between different regions and leaf veins. Red-veined Borneo, or Bali kratom, is a much more prevalent strain than the white-veined variety, and is renowned for its relaxing qualities.
Kratom sold in the West as "Borneo" kratom is grown and cultivated on Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. Kratom strains marketed as "Borneo" usuall fall into two categories: red-veined and white-veined. The color of these leaf veins is said to be indicative of their respective alkaloid contents: red-veined Borneo kratom (often marketed as "Bali" kratom) apparently has a distinctly higher-than-average amount of 7-hydroxymitragynine, the alkaloid primarily responsible for kratom's relaxing and pain-relieving effects. The less common white-veined Borneo kratom is conversely the more stimulating of the two strains, owing to its higher mitragynine content. A few online distributors offer green-veined Borneo kratom, which supposedly provides a balance between white-veined and red-veined varieties.
INDO: effects vary, though Indo strains are often nicely balanced between uplifting/stimulating effects, and relaxing and analgesic qualities.
Considering that Sumatra and the Indonesian portion of Borneo (Kalimantan) are probably where most kratom sold in Western markets is cultivated, this descriptor seems a bit meaningless. Nonetheless, many manufacturers sell "Indo" strains of kratom, which are often marketed as distinct from Malaysian and Thai (including Maeng Da) strains. This generic term is often used to describe considerably different strains native to the Indonesian archipelago, such as Riau, Bali/Red-veined Borneo, and White-veined Borneo (or even a blend of these strains).
MAENG DA: considered one of the more stimulating kratom strains, albeit with a relatively short duration of effects.
Translated from Thai as "pimp" or "cockroach", this strain has arguably supplanted Bali as the most popular commercially-available strain of kratom in the west. Maeng Da is characterized by its dark green hue, and its potent (but comparatively short-lived) stimulating effects. Considerable debate exists between kratom enthusiasts taking issue with Maeng Da's reputation as the "strongest" strain of kratom; some kratom users claim that white-veined Borneo is more stimulating, and others argue that Malaysian kratom strains have more pronounced euphoric effects. As Thailand has long prohibited the sale and export of kratom, it's likely that kratom sold as Maeng Da in the West is actually cultivated in Indonesia, or--in some cases--isn't Maeng Da at all.
Super Fun Cave carries Maeng Da kratom by quite a few brands: Mayan, PEP, Kratom Therapy, Captain Amsterdam, and Experience, among others. Mr. Mephisto has his own personal favorite--though he's not at liberty to reveal which one. Suffice to say, they're all pretty good.
MALAYSIAN: effects vary, though in general, Malaysian strains are known for being particularly relaxing and euphoric, with a very long duration of effects.
Malaysia is yet another Southeast Asian country that has banned the sale and export of kratom. Though scant information exists online regarding Malaysian kratom's origins, Indonesia shares a land border with Malaysia on the island of Borneo, and it's hardly a stretch to imagine that kratom strains from the Malaysian side are being cultivated on the Indonesian side of the island. Kratom sold as Malaysian is said to produce very uplifting feelings and pain relief, and possesses a longer duration of effects than other strains.
If that sounds good to you, dear patron, we'd happily recommend Kratom Therapy's Superior Malaysian. If you'd like some kratom that goes the extra mile, try some "enhanced" (powdered kratom + kratom extract) Malaysian kratom from PEP or Kratom Infusion.
RIAU: most Riau kratom strains are advertised as providing a nice balance of stimulating and relaxing effects, with increased focus and mental clarity.
Riau is a province located on the central Eastern side of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and the Riau Islands (located to the East of the province of Riau) are a separate Indonesian province. Several online distributors of kratom currently offer a "Riau" strain of kratom that they claim is particularly relaxing, and is native to the Southwest (?) region of Sumatra. As is the case with most kratom strains, Riau is sold in red-veined, green-veined, and (least commonly) white-veined varieties.
SUMATRAN: white-veined Sumatran kratom is considered one of the more energetic of kratom strains, and red-veined Sumatran strains offer longer-lasting and more pronounced relaxing effects.
Sumatra is the largest island belonging entirely to the nation of Indonesia, and many sources indicate that it (along with Borneo) is where kratom sold in Western markets is chiefly grown. Some sources suggest that white-veined "Sumatra" kratom is the most energetic of kratom strains, though other sources argue that Thai or Vietnamese "Bumblebee" strains give it a run for its money.
SUNDANESE: it's unknown where kratom marketed as "Sundanese" or "Sunda" truly originates. Many vendors claim that this strain provides exceptional relaxation and pain relief.
Also known as "Sunda" kratom, this kratom is supposedly grown on the Indonesian island of Java. Little information can be found online regarding this strain, and several sources claim that kratom does not actually grow on Java--which may suggest that "Sunda" kratom is simply another "Bali" strain (a strain named after a place other than where it actually is grown).
THAI: like Maeng Da, Thai kratom is more well-known for its energetic effects, though it still provides adequate pain relief, and relaxation in larger amounts.
Thailand has prohibited the cultivation, sale, and export of kratom since 1943. Regardless, kratom use is still widespread in the Thai countryside, and holds great cultural significance within Thai culture. In light of the aforementioned ban, it's likely that "Thai" as well as "Maeng Da" strains kratom is actually cultivated in Indonesia.
In general, Thai kratom strains--particularly Maeng Da--are better-known for their stimulating effects than their sedative qualities. If you need an alternative to coffee or caffeine drinks, we'd recommend trying one our many brands of Thai kratom: Captain Amsterdam, PEP, Kratom Therapy, Kaboom, or Kratom Infusion (the latter two examples are enhanced with added kratom extract).
VIETNAMESE: numerous online reviews and comments suggest that Vietnamese kratom offers potent pain and stress relief, as well as significant stimulating effects. We're inclined to agree with this consensus.
The latest and most fashionable entry into the kratom market, Vietnamese kratom (often nicknamed "bumblebee") is selling like hotcakes, due to its fast-growing reputation for super high potency and long-lasting effects. Most available sources suggest that Vietnam has banned the sale and cultivation of kratom, so it's likely that this "Vietnam" strain is--like commercially-available Thai and Malay kratom--cultivated in Indonesia or elsewhere. One online distributor claims that Vietnamese kratom boasts 25% more alkaloids than most other kratom strains on the market. We haven't done any lab tests ourselves to determine the truth of this claim for ourselves, though we know from personal experience that Captain Amsterdam's Vietnam Kratom Premium Platinum strain is some very, very strong stuff.