What is Kratom?
Kratom, known by its scientific name Mitragyna speciosa, is a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family and grows naturally in Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea. Dried leaf is ground into powder and consumed in many different ways, from teas to capsules to vape cartridges.
Similar to cannabis, there are many strains of kratom, each with their own unique chemical properties and benefits. Kratom contains chemical compounds that have both stimulant and opioid effects, making this a unique plant medicine that has been used safely for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Kratom Health Benefits for Women
There has been little scientific research studies on the effects of kratom on specific medical conditions in women, but anecdotal evidence for the health benefits of kratom on women’s health are huge. One thing to note is several surveys of kratom users have found women to benefit from kratom.
A recent study published in the journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence surveyed 2,700 kratom users, 60% being women, and found that they primarily consumed kratom for pain, anxiety, and depression. A survey of 6,150 kratom users by the Pain News Network found 51% used the plant for pain while 14% used the plant to soothe anxiety.
Both pain and anxiety are mediated by the opioid system. Preclinical research studies, which are research studies done on mice, rats, or other animals, suggests imbalances in the opioid system may contribute to many conditions that impact women. What’s becoming clearer and clear each day is that because kratom activates the opioid system, it may one day be the target of scientific studies for women’s health conditions.
Endorphins and the Opioid System
The opioid system is one of the main neurotransmitter systems in the body and brain responsible for communication between nerve cells. The opioid system regulates pain, mood, stress, and addiction, and is present in the brain, immune system, gut, and peripheral nervous system. The opioid system consists of endorphins and three types of opioid receptors including mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors.
Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter that activates opioid receptors in the brain and body, relieving pain. Endorphins, which are endogenous opioids, are produced and stored in the pituitary gland. Endorphins are to the opioid system what endocannabinoids, or endogenous cannabinoids, are to the endocannabinoid system.
Opioids are a type of alkaloid that bind to opioid receptors in the brain. Endogenous opioids, or endorphins, are made in the body. Natural opioids are derived from the opium poppy, and semi-synthetic opioids such as morphine, heroin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone are synthesized from naturally occurring opium products. Fully synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, tramadol, and methadone are made entirely in the lab and do not occur in nature.
Endorphin Deficiency in Women
Because the opioid system is a neurotransmitter system, having too much or too little of our natural opioids, endorphins, can be a problem for our health. Endorphin deficiency is real, similar to endocannabinoid deficiency, dopamine deficiency, and other neurotransmitter imbalances. Because women’s menstrual cycles alter hormone and neurotransmitter levels, including endorphin levels, they are more prone to endorphin deficiency than men.
Signs of Endorphin Deficiency
Endorphin deficiency can manifest as physical or mental health issues. Signs of endorphin deficiency include pain, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and sleep issues.
How to Boost the Opioid System Naturally
- eat raw cacao also known as dark chocolate
- eat plants that contain opioid-like alkaloids such as kratom
- exercise, in a group setting if possible
- orgasm, whether with a partner or by yourself
- laugh at a funny movie or TV show
- inhale essential oils
Kratom for PMS and Hormonal Imbalances
Levels of endorphins can drop the week before women’s period and for the first days of period flow, a time period often associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms like bloating, pelvic pain, headaches, insomnia, and moodiness. A research study using the Menstrual Distress Questionnaire (MDQ) found that women that did not experience PMS symptoms did not have a drop in endorphins. It’s possible that boosting the opioid system may help relieve symptoms of PMS.
Women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of PMS that includes severe depression, were found to have lower levels of endorphins throughout their menstrual cycle. It’s possible that restoring an endorphin deficiency may improve quality of life for women with PMDD.
Kratom for Menstrual Cramps and Period Pain
Endorphins activate opioid receptors to relieve pain and improve mood. Many women find period pain relief from doing cardio exercise and even yoga, which can be traced back to runner’s high and the release of endorphins. It’s likely that herbal sources of opioids can help women with monthly relief.
Kratom for Sleep
High levels of endogenous, plant-based, and synthetic opioids can activate mu and kappa opioid receptors to promote sleepiness. It’s important to choose the right strain of kratom, similar to using cannabis for sleep. Women who use kratom to ease into sleep report using higher doses of red vein kratom strains, as green vein kratom and white vein kratom are more energizing and not right for sleep.
Kratom for Mood
Endorphins are released during periods of pain and stress, as well as during rewarding activities like eating or sex. Women that are under chronic stress may feel less motivated to pursue rewarding activities, and thus release less endorphins. We know that exercise, which releases natural endorphins, is beneficial for women with depression.
Kratom for Labor and Postpartum Pain
In some parts of the United States, 20% of new mothers receive a prescription for opiate pain relievers which can lead to addiction, overdose, and even death. It’s known that 1 in 300 women who take opioids for the first time after cesarean birth will become persistent users of opioids, meaning either dependent for long-term or abusing the prescription. It’s important that safer natural options for relief be considered, including kratom.
Kratom for PostPartum Support
Pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period are full of rapid changes in hormones and neurotransmitter levels. It is well known that endorphin levels are boosted during pregnancy, then peak during childbirth to combat labor pain, and drop postpartum. Because over 10% of women struggle with postpartum depression in the first 3 months after childbirth, it is possible that changes in levels of endorphins may play a role.
A research study by the University of California at Irvine found some women who had elevated levels of endorphins compared to other women while pregnant were more likely to self-report symptoms of postpartum depression when the levels of their endorphins returned to normal. Clearly, more research on endorphins, as well as opioid treatment for postpartum depression, is needed.
While is not recommended that pregnant or breastfeeding women use kratom due to potential for the baby to be exposed to opioids that may alter brain development or body weight, women that are not breastfeeding and struggling after childbirth may benefit from gently boosting their opioid system. Kratom may provide for mood lift, fatigue, and sleep issues that new mothers commonly face.
Kratom for Menopause
Women who are going through menopause have lower endorphin levels than women who are premenopausal. Even more interesting is that endorphin levels drop even further right before a hot flash, and then rise for 15 minutes afterwards. Could natural opioids provide balance?
Women who have menopausal symptoms are more likely than women who are not in menopause to have chronic pain symptoms and be prescribed long-term prescription opioids. As prescription opioids have the risk of addiction, overdose, and death, safer options for relief should be considered, including kratom.
Using Kratom For Women’s Health
Kratom is still a well-kept secret and used mostly by college educated, white women. At AURA Therapeutics, one of our goals is to educate women of color about this plant’s potential to improve quality of life.
There are many way you can use kratom to improve your physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual health. While kratom has a long way to go in terms of research studies – it’s about 5 years behind CBD – new information continues to affirm its safety and anecdotal benefits.
Learning how to use kratom safely and incorporating it into your lifestyle can boost your mood, provide relief, and even help you rest better. It’s all about the strains you choose.
Interested in learning if kratom is right for you? Take our quiz to learn how to incorporate kratom products into your routine.