23 Oct

Kratom soap: a bit of background and how to guide

SoapKit

If you’re not in on the secret yet, natural health care products are often much healthier and effective than their mainstream counterparts. You’ve maybe heard of coffee soap or green tea soap and maybe even wondered if there was anything really to it, or if it was just another excuse to drive up the price by a few bucks. Well, as it turns out, it’s not just that anyway…

Loaf Cutter

Green tea and coffee, as it turns out have effective antioxidant properties not only internally but externally and topically. The secret to green tea’s antioxidant potency is mainly due to the EGCG that’s found as one of the constituents of green tea leaf. As it turns out, the kratom plants leaves also contain a constituent similar to EGCG but even more potent as an antioxidant. According to a 2014 study in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention: “These findings revealed that the medicinal and nutitional values of mitragynine obtained from ketum leaves that growth in tropical forest of Southeast Asia and its analogues does not limited to analgesic properties but could be promising antioxidant and anticancer or chemopreventive compounds.” This coupled with a study that showed an extract of kratom to delay the growth of papilloma in rodent skin are hopefully just the beginnings of looking into this plant’s antioxidant, antibacterial and potentially anticancer benefits as a component of topical skin care products.

Soap Molds

For those interested, you begin with the clear glycerine soap base that’s provided in the Top Shelf soap making kit. Melt the soap base in a double boiler on the stove top and stir until all the pieces are evenly melted. At this point, you can begin to add your color base. Be careful not to add too much, you can discolor your mix. Add your oils slowly, a drop at a time using a pipette or glass bottle dropper.  1tbsp of fragrance oil or 1 tsp of essential oil or blend of undiluted essential oils can be added per pound of raw soap base used. A teaspoon of coconut oil, shea butter, argan oil or beeswax can be added for further skin protection.  Now pour your the completed blend into your molds and leave until dried. remove them from the mold and wrap immediately. Most soap molds should tell how many ounces they hold, but the average bar comes to about 4 ounces.

When cool, gently pull the mold away from the soap and push on the back side of the mold to release. Wrap soap in plastic wrap or wax paper. Make sure you wrap it right away or it can pick up moisture from the air and cause air bubbles that bead on the surface which can make the consistency unpleasant for some people. Stay tuned, coming up next week we’ll have a more in depth look at kratom’s topical and antioxidant properties.

13 Oct

What do you mean water bugs! Cutting through the mystery and controversy behind Maeng da

maengda

“แมงดา.”
thai-water-beetle-maeng-da

Yes, that’s right, I said แมงดา. That’s the Thai word “Maeng Da” which in addition to being the name of the giant water bug (AKA the water scorpion, as if “giant water bug” wasn’t horrific enough). The Maeng da water bug, in addition to being one of the few bugs more disgusting than a palmetto, is also the secret to “nam prik,” a flavoring in Thai food. But wait, I thought Maeng da was a a name for a strain of stimulating Thai kratom? Yes, it is, but it also happens to be the colloquial name for the (terrifyingly titled) water scorpion.
So hold up, hold up, hold up, you mean to tell me that all those people referring to Maeng da as being “roughly translated to pimp’s grade kratom” are full of it? Not exactly, see that’s the thing, evidently if you drop แมงดา in the translate box the Thai script there comes out in English as “pimp.” No joke. Pimp.

So Maeng da then can refer to a disgusting vermin that doubles as a Thai delicacy, a specifically bred variety of horned kratom grafted and grown by the world’s first legal kratom plantation as they term themselves, or simply “The Plantation,” and also a derogatory term for a pimp, it being synonymous with cockroach.

So, as far as kratom is concerned, “true Maeng da” is a  variety of old growth kratom trees, red and green veins that have been grafted together.They typically have broad, spiky “horned leaves.”  Maeng da is often referred to as “genetically altered” which adds more confusion to an already confusing picture. Genetically altered doesn’t necessarily mean genetically modified. The simple practice of grafting to create a hybrid plant is an ancient method of producing new genetic variants of botanical species.
hornedleaf

To make matters even more confusing, though all “true Maeng da” are the mutated Rifat variety with the horned leaves, not all horned leaf is Maeng Da. True Maeng Da and Bali kratom come from “the Plantation” previously mentioned.

Maeng da has been prized for years for it’s high mitragynine levels and the fact that it’s both analgesic and energizing.  In addition to the mystery behind it’s name and origin there are even stories that it was used in the 16th century by Thai warriors before going in to battle. In between popularity in and out of Asia and conflicting reports there are several factor that add a layer of mystique to this, one of the most popular varieties of the diverse Mitragyna speciosa.

01 Oct

From Borneo to Bali: Breaking down the kratom region differences

In the past few years there’s been quite a bit of a buzz surrounding the kratom bush, mitragyna speciosa. Kratom is a plant that grows in Southeastern Asia that is a member of the Rubiacea family, from which the coffee plant hails. Kratom has been used traditionally for hundreds of years as a minor stimulant like coffee  to help power through a tedious work week or for pain management and other mild to moderate conditions as well as a mood lifter.

There are many varieties of kratom but unlike coffee, each one has a unique alkaloidal makeup that is responsible for slight variations in it’s actions and benefits. Many kratom vendors tout several styles of kratom with hyped names that don’t even describe the two most important varietal differences. When it comes right down to it, there are two primary things that will affect alkaloidal difference in kratom and since it’s the alkaloids in the plant that are responsible for the effects then different strains will have slightly different experience. You can basically demarcate kratom by separating it into [here’s where we’ll link to “what’s the deal with kratom vein colors story”] leaf and vein color (red, green, white, yellow, brown, black) and the geographical origin of the plant.

Kratom researcher E.J. Shellard was one of the first scientists to explore kratom and it’s many alkaloids and their activities. By the 70‘s his research already suggested that kratom may have varietal differences that are based on it’s region of growth and the vein colors. These differences in alkaloids are responsible for difference in potency, effect, duration and whether the strain is more energizing, sedating or analgesic (paint-relieving).

In addition to vein color and region, of course harvesting methods, drying methods and the health and genetics of the plant itself have a great deal to do with potency and effects but the basic vein and regional variation. In other words, the long answer is, potency and alkaloidal profile are dependent on a wide variety of variables that could cause two leaves from the same bush to have radically different alkaloidal make-up when tested due to how and when they were harvested, the health of the branch and leaf they were plucked from, the drying methods used and how fresh the leaf powder is when tested as well as storage conditions in the duration. Since vein color and regional differences (due to myriad factors including, but certainly not limited to, nutrient content and other variations in the soil, humidity and rain, amount of light and genetic differences based on years in varied conditions).

As far as regional diferences go, kratom, like kava is known to have vastly different alkaloidal makeup depending on climate and soil differences that affect the genotype of the plant. Kratom originating from Malaysia (often known referred to in shorthand by vendors as Malay), Thailand (Thai), Indonesian (Indo), Sumatra, Borneo, Bali, Riau, Kalimantan, Cambodian, and Vietnamese are commonly found, for instance.

It’s been said, and rightly so, that for the connoisseur understanding the sometimes subtle, sometimes overt differences in strain types amongst kratom or kava strains is not unlike being a connoisseur of fine wines.

Since in Thailand kratom is illegal and importation is restricted in Malaysia, much of the commercial kratom available today from vendors online comes originally from Indonesia, harvested from primary and secondary forests of the deep jungles of Southeast Asia. Some of the most potent kratom comes from Indonesian  trees in Sumatra, Borneo and Kalimantan. Exceptional kratom grows in Papua but due to it’s remote location, wildcrafting from this area is difficult and hasn’t become popular commercially yet.

In general, Sumatran strains are white veined leaves and when powdered are a light green color, so long as the kratom ground was freshly powdered. Borneo kratom is generally a darker green, primarily due to it’s red veins which also account for the powerful sedating and painkilling power of the Borneo leaves or, for instance, Bali leaves are some of the most sedating and pain-killing of all strains and hit hard and fast but don’t last as long as some other strains. Borneo and Sumatra in addition to being in the natural greenhouse of the jungles with peak humidity are also very near the equator which means maximum sun which allows for more potent kratom leaves. Malaysian leaf is generally mild in taste, resembling coffee’s flavor somewhat and tends to promote an upbeat mood. Malay is also one of the longer lasting strains. In addition to regional differences the major deciding factor in regards to alkaloidal make up has to do with vein colors. For more on that topic check out our article “What’s the deal with vein colors.”