24 Mar

The current state of Kratom research




A botanical cousin of the common coffee bush with hundreds of years of indigenous use as natural medicine that not only has immunostimulant properties but in addition to being a possible mood booster, antidepressant and effective analgesi has more antioxidant power than a cup of green tea. It’s the mitragyna speciosa, a bush indigenous to the jungles of Southeast Asia where it’s known as kratom, ketum, ithang or some other name depending on the region. Kratom has hundreds (if not thousands) of  years of safe and effective human use in the region where it’s found and over a century of research, including an isolate of the plant being synthesized as early as 1921.
Kratom has been researched globally and to a great degree. A US patent was granted June of 2013 for a number of “Hybrid opioid compounds and compositions and their  pharmaceutical compositions, as well as to methods of treating pain in humans using the hybrid compounds and mixed opioid salts.” Both mitragynine and the derivative  mitragynine-pseudoindoxyl are referenced in the patent multiple times. This and multiple works of scholarship in regards to the use of kratom and it’s chemical makeup and physiological effects go as far back as to 1836.

Recent interest in kratom as a means of chronic pain management, alternative energy source and general health tonic and panacea led to Forbes picking up the story. David DiSalvo of Forbes’ continued the story as “The Kratom Experiment Begins” in February of 2013. The “experiment” (which was covered at his “Daily Brain” section at his private blog) was evidently a success: “Initially it provides a burst of energy very similar to a strong cup of coffee.  Unlike coffee, however, the energy I derived from Kratom was longer-lasting and level.  My experience with coffee is that the initial burst is strong but it tapers and descends rapidly, leading to the well-known caffeine crash. The energy from Kratom, on the other hand, would often last for three or four hours, but was subtle enough that at no point did I feel like I was jumping out of my skin. I also did not experience an energy crash with any of the Kratom products I sampled.”

Lloyd Billingsley,  policy fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Californiais also a believer. He writes in the Washington Times: “Scientific research should continue. Federal and state officials need to be open-minded, see where the scientific research leads, and consider all the evidence. […] Banning kratom or banning its ingredients, as Indiana has done, is the wrong message at the wrong time.”

As we’ve shown, there is quite a bit of human history and much of that has been legitimate research that has been carried out since the resurgence of interest in Mitragyna speciosa korthals by Dr. E.J. Shellard in the 70’s and on.


A 2011 study in the journal “Phytomedicine” reports that mitragynine  “significantly reduced the released of corticosterone in mice […]. Overall, the present study clearly demonstrated that mitragynine exerts an antidepressant effect in animal behavioral model of depression” and did so ” without any significant effect on locomotor activity.” In other words, the rats were not incapacitated physically or cognitively. Considering the fact that kratom contains constituents that can relieve anxiety, block adrenergic receptors, the same ones responsible for the surge of neurotoxic corticosterones released during the “fight or flight” syndrome, the compounding health benefit to someone who experiences deleterious physiological as well as mental symptoms of depression and anxiety.


According to the article “ Behavioral and neurochemical characterization of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) extract” by Stolt, Schroeder, et al.  kratom “contains several alkaloids and is used in traditional medicine to alleviate musculoskeletal pain, hypertension, coughing, diarrhea, and as an opiate substitute for addicts.”
Researchers Boyer, McCurdy and Adkins published their patent on kratom as an alternative opioid withdrawal means. Despite being shown to be helpful in treating mild, moderate or severe pain and mitigating opiate dependance and withdrawal symptoms, it’s own “abstinence syndrome” is considered no worse than that of caffeine withdrawal with similar symptoms (mild headache, lethargy, etc.). For the same reason it’s being looked into for it’s mood lifting properties (owing to it’s action on the dopaminergic and serotonergic system) the scientists feel that “may also be useful for the treatment of other addictive drugs besides opiate derivatives.”

Unlike traditional opiate and opioid medications addiction potential and also danger of overdose due to respiratory depression are a factor, along with lowered price of treatment that could contribute to kratom being used as an effective alternative to addictive and unhealthy “doping” through either prescription pain management or replacement management therapy.


Studies on zebrafish further confirm the ability of kratom to lower anxiety, blood pressure, relieve disturbances in the corticosterone pathways. These are the same pathways responsible for the, at times painful, “fight or flight response” that is one of the central issues in the experience of PTSD.

In addition alkaloids found in kratom have alkaloids with antihypertensive, calcium channel blocking, anti-adrenergic, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety activity that could contribute to relief from sufferers. The more analgesic, sedating and pain-killing red-veined leaf material would most likely be most beneficial for PTSD sufferers.
With the Veteran’s administration interested in experimenting with MDMA for PTSD some folks are arguing that the much safer and more widely studied plant matter of the mitragyna speciosa (kratom) should be tested.

In the Scientific American article dealing with kratom in 2013, previously mentioned, kratom researcher Boyer explains that: “Kratom also has serotonergic activity, too—it binds with serotonin receptors. So if you want to treat depression, if you want to treat opioid pain, if you want to treat sleepiness, this [compound] really puts it all together.”

Anti-cancer and anti-tumor

In 2014 in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention scientists Goh, Koh, Mordi, et al. concluded that “the medicinal and nutitional values of mitragynine obtained from ketum leaves that growth in tropical forest of Southeast Asia and its analogues [is] not limited to analgesic properties but could be promising antioxidant and anticancer or chemopreventive compounds.” In the article “Evaluation of Antioxidant and Antibacterial Activities Activities of Aqueous, Methanolic and Alkaloid Extracts from Mitragyna Speciosa” it was shown that mitragynine methanolic extracts slowed the growth of papillomas in lab rats and both studies led researchers to conclude that further research on the anti-cancer, topical and anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties of kratom should be more fully understood through continuing research.


As recently as December of 2015 a patent application by Paul and Mei Bigliardi was published referencing kratom’s possible efficacy in treating fibromyalgia. Even more recently, in the January 2016 edition of the scientific journal Peptides another link between fibromyalgia and mitragyna and “endogenous opioids” was explored.
From the Cambridge University laboratory in 1921 to Japan in the 60’s, Pharmaceutical company Smith, Kline and French in the 70’s until it was rediscovered by Malaysian and Thai researchers in the 80’s and 90’s. A major turning point was when Karl Jansen and Colin J. Prast published a study from the University of Auckland to the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. The researchers concluded that the primary alkaloids in mitragyna were suitable antitussive, analgesic and hypothermic agents as well as being able to be a safe substitute for methadone or opiate or opioid pain killers without the addiction or respiratory depression issues.

A chorus of cries within just the last handful of years can be heard in the research community in regards to the need for further exploration into the multiple therapeutic benefits of kratom. From analgesia and anxiety relief to it’s anti-cancer and anti-tumor propensities, a more potent antioxidant than green tea, possible natural antidepressant and immunostimulant among others. As with many other methods and means of traditional medicine, a resurgence in interest in the study of this plant seems to be taking place, but hopefully this is just the beginning.

16 Mar

Tips for proper kratom storage



Regardless of the herb and regardless of it’s end use, whether it be a tea, a dye, paper pulp, or any of the nearly endless things you can do with plants, chances are long term storage will be a concern. For the most part you want your herbs to be fresh, pristine and potent as they can be. In this article we’ll be covering tips for kratom storage but though there will be some information specific to kratom leaf powder most of this information will carry over as general rules you can use to keep your foliage as fresh as possible.

Since time immemorial plants have been treasured and revered and used for aesthetic purposes to color the environment through their sight or smell, as medicines and as primary materials for many of the things we use daily. Even today so many pharmaceuticals are in some way sourced from plants or are variants of natural plant extracts that a whole field of science, Pharmacognosy, is dedicated to the study of plant based medicines. Take that into the account that flower shops and flower arrangers, landscapers, perfumiers and more, so not a whole lot has changed in that sense.


One of the simplest and one of the oldest methods of keeping herbs safe is in apothecary bottles or medicine bottles. These are glass bottles with a hermetic seal. Mason jars will work in a pinch in this case, they work on the same principle of creating a barrier to seal out oxygen in order to aid preservation of some plant product’s freshness and potency.

Oxidation is one of the worst enemies of the dried plant product. Honestly, oxidation is a pretty bad enemy of a lot of things. If you ever wondered why “anti-oxidants” are good for you it’s because they can slow or reverse the action of oxygen which has a caustic effect on the body and much more. Consider the fact that rust’s scientific name is iron oxide and you’ll get a bit of a handle on the long term damages oxidation can cause on organic and inorganic materials. A hint about storing herbs long term, don’t use a larger container than you need to because the more space for air there is the more oxygen there is to gradually work on your plant matter. Vacuum sealing is a better method for extra long term storage and oxygen absorbers can also assist in slowing inevitable oxidation.

UV rays and heat are also damaging to dried plants. A good work around for this is using a refrigerator. With kratom and many delicate tea flowers like chamomile, you also want to make sure to keep them from strong odors. Keeping your refrigerator clean and some baking soda to absorb and neutralize foul smells will help here.  One of the last concerns is humidity. Humidity can cause plant matter to mold or grow musty and even a humid environment over time can be enough to begin the process.

Keeping your kratom properly stored isn’t expensive but may actually end up saving money and foliage freshness.

09 Dec

Handcrafting a mould and deckle for papermaking


Here at TopShelf we’re all about finding different ways to incorporate plants in our daily life  and that of course includes crafting. Today, we’re offering a tutorial on building a handmade wooden mould and deckle for papermaking that you can use along with our papermaking recipe that involves using green tea and kratom for a unique, organically inspired handmade paper suitable for stationary, cards, origami and more.

Papermaking, at it’s very basic level, is simple enough for a child to learn, but the artform of handcrafting paper is developed enough that it can take a lifetime to master but one of the hundreds of styles and techniques.

All you need is a blender, basin, some recycled paper strips and a mould and deckle.

“But what’s a mould and deckle?”

It’s a fancy way of saying two separate frames of the same size. One just happens to have some sort of screening attached to capture the pulp product that is suspended in the “slurry” (what you call pulp mixed with water) in your basin.  The other frame we call the deckle. The deckle forms the tight seam of the edge of your paper (this is called deckling).

There, now that you know some basic paper jargon and the idea behind how it works. Let’s get started.



A couple of picture frames, just the frames, no glass or backing.
Some sort of wire mesh like window screen which can be purchased in rolls at any hardware store (aluminum, not fiberglass)
Wood sealant (preserves your wood so you don’t have to worry about it warping after use)
Staple gun

First cut a swatch of your screen. Make sure it measures slightly larger than your frames (which should be identical in size and shape) so that a bit will hang over each end.

Staple your screen to the flush end of the frame.

Next you’ll want to trim off the edge of the mesh screen and you can weatherproof your papermaking tool with duct tape or wood-stripping tape or, for an attractive finish, use some wood sealant and varnish.

Now you’re ready to make paper.

Once you’ve set up your handcrafted papermaking tools you can start “pulling paper” the old fashioned way. Don’t forget to check out our handy paper recipe that includes green tea and kratom leaf powder for a unique, “rustic” look and a nice, mild earthy smell and hue to the paper.

07 Dec

Earth-toned handmade paper using green tea and kratom powder

Making washi paper

The art of papermaking goes back nearly as far as recorded history to  the Chinese and Egyptians. There are nearly as many traditions of papercrafting as there are cultures but one of the most popular styles to this day is the delicate rice paper  of the Japanese call “washi.”  Washi paper is, to this day, considered one of the finest and most durable of all handcrafted papers.

a zen-like process

On Teramachi street, among the various antique shops and tea houses you’ll find stores selling some of the finest washi in all the world including the shop owned by Kamji Kakimoto, proprietor of the oldest Washi shop in Japan. Kakimoto is a fifth generation owner of the familial business that began as bamboo dealers in the Edo period (1600 – 1868). In 1845 (just before what’s known as Japan’s “modern period” began) the shop began to deal in washi.

Kyoto is also famous for it’s green tea which, as we’ll learn today, can be used alongside kratom leaf powder in papermaking to result in a rustic, earthy brownish-green hue in the finished product.
Papermaking isn’t even as difficult as you might think and to get started you can either make your own mould and deckle using picture frames and window screen or pick up something like the handcrafted pine mould and deckle kits from http://www.woodendeckle.com (who we also owe inspiration for the green tea recipe!).

You can begin with recycled paper torn into 1 to 2 inch squares. Once you have about 4 cups of paper strips collected soak them in warm water from a half hour to a few hours (the heavier stock of recycled paper you’re using the longer you have to soak them). Add the paperstock to blender 3/4 full  of water. Blend the paper squares until the paper is liquefied and separated into it’s strands. This is your “pulp” product.

At this point you can add your pulp to a stainless steel bowl and add your green tea powder or tea bags and your kratom leaf powder. Add some hot water and let steep for several hours. Drain in a colander and add the pulp to your basin of water you’ll “pull paper” from.

A small tub or basin needs to be filled halway with water. Add two cups of your green tea and kratom steeped pulp. Now you’ve got what’s called “slurry.” The pulp-to-water ratio will determine the thickness and sturdiness of your finished product (more pulp, less water, thicker paper).

The deckle is placed on top of the screen side of the mould. With a gentle rocking motion  you capture slurry in the frame. Blot your paper with a sponge or blotter paper and lift the mould separating your paper sheet on couching sheet so it can dry. Once the paper has dried it should be tinted with green and brown flecks by the inclusion of the green tea and kratom powders and may even have a slight earthy, green tea and kratom scent to it.

For those interested in following through on this recipe who would like to attempt the process before investing money in a professional grade mould and deckle like the ones at WoodenDeckle we’ll be posting a tutorial on how to build your own mould and deckle from picture frames for “Tips and Tutorials Tuesday.”