Kratom has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its many touted benefits, including pain relief, improved mood, increased energy and focus, and mitigating opioid withdrawal.
However, as with any botanical supplement, kratom does carry a risk of side effects and allergic reactions in some individuals. In this article, we’ll explore what a kratom allergy is, its common symptoms, and steps you can take to address an adverse reaction.
What Is An Allergy?
An allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to a foreign substance that is typically harmless. The body misidentifies the substance as an invader and produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These IgE antibodies trigger the release of chemicals like histamine that cause allergy symptoms, which can be a concern for those managing kratom tolerance.
Common allergy triggers include pollen, pet dander, dust mites, foods like nuts or shellfish, latex, insect stings, and certain medications. Almost anything can provoke an allergy in a sensitive individual. Allergic reactions can range from mild to potentially life-threatening.
Like other supplements and foods, kratom too can potentially cause an allergic reaction in some people. Kratom is derived from the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree, which contains dozens of active compounds including alkaloids like mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. These substances or others in kratom may trigger allergy symptoms.
It’s estimated that about 1-3% of the population may experience minor kratom allergy symptoms, while severe life-threatening anaphylaxis is very rare. Reactions are more likely in those with pre-existing food or plant allergies. Using contaminated kratom products of poor quality could also increase allergy risks.
How Is Kratom Used?
Kratom leaves are usually dried and ground into a fine powder for consumption. This powder can be swallowed in capsules, dissolved in water to drink as a tea, or mixed with a liquid to take as a tincture. Some people also chew or smoke the raw leaves, often in Southeast Asia where the kratom tree grows.
When using pure kratom powder, adverse effects like allergies are more predictable based on the individual’s bodily reaction to the kratom compounds themselves. But some kratom products also contain additional ingredients, fillers or contaminants that could trigger allergic responses separate from the kratom. Using pure, unadulterated kratom leaf is best to avoid allergy risks.
Common Symptoms Of Kratom Allergy
The most common allergic reactions to kratom manifest as minor skin irritations and gastrointestinal upset. Symptoms typically begin within an hour after ingesting kratom and may include:
1. Flushed Discoloration of the Skin
Some individuals may experience redness or flushing of the face, neck, chest, arms or other skin regions after taking kratom. This is caused by dilation of the blood vessels near the skin’s surface. The flushing reaction is usually harmless but can appear alarming.
Hives, eczema or general red bumpy rashes are also not uncommon when reacting to kratom. The rash most often manifests on the face, torso, arms or legs. The irritation is caused by histamine release triggered by the kratom allergens. Antihistamines can help reduce rash symptoms.
Along with rashes usually comes some degree of itchy skin. The itchiness is amplified by the Histamine release causing skin irritation. Avoiding scratching is important to prevent infection. Apply a cold compress to find relief.
4. Discoloration Of Skin
In some instances, using kratom may cause temporary skin discoloration such as hyperpigmentation or darkening of existing moles. It is not fully understood why this occurs but may be related to the immune reaction. The skin color change typically fades over time.
5. Difficulty Breathing
The most severe reaction is slowed or labored breathing indicative of anaphylaxis. This is very rare but constitutes a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment with epinephrine. Wheezing, chest tightness, swollen tongue or lips, or fainting can also signal anaphylaxis.
For most, kratom allergy symptoms remain at the mild end, causing temporary discomfort but no serious threats to health. Still, it’s wise to discontinue kratom use and see a doctor if you experience any reaction lasting more than an hour or causing significant impairment.
What To Do About Kratom Allergy Symptoms
If you experience any concerning reactions to kratom such as moderate to severe rash, facial swelling, or breathing issues, seek medical care immediately. Mild symptoms can be managed at home with the following measures:
- Discontinue taking the kratom immediately. The symptoms should subside within several hours. Drink plenty of water to help flush out the kratom.
- Take an antihistamine containing diphenhydramine or loratadine to relieve itching and rashes.
- Apply a cold compress to the skin for 15-20 minutes at a time to soothe irritation.
- Avoid scratching rashes as this can cause infection. OTC hydrocortisone cream can calm itchiness.
- If facial flushing occurs, lay down and elevate the head to reduce swelling.
- Monitor breathing closely. Seek emergency care for tightness in chest, wheezing, or fainting.
- Once recovered, avoid taking that particular type of kratom in the future to prevent recurrence.
Talk to your doctor if the reaction was moderate-severe or if mild symptoms return with continued kratom use. Getting allergy tested can help identify the culprit. Other measures include taking antihistamines before kratom, starting with very low doses, or avoiding kratom altogether if allergy persists.
Pros and Cons of Kratom Allergies
There are a few pros and cons to consider regarding kratom allergies:
- Allergy symptoms tend to be mild and transient in most cases
- Discovering the allergy prevents future serious reactions
- Helps identify which kratom is problematic for you
- Motivates finding alternative supplements if needed
- Causes discomfort and interferes with kratom use
- May require avoidance of certain kratom types long-term
- Could signal sensitivity to related botanicals as well
- Rarely can provoke life-threatening anaphylaxis
- Requires vigilance each time kratom is consumed
Being aware of the signs of kratom allergy can allow for early intervention. Pay attention to any skin changes, digestive upset or breathing changes that occur when trying new kratom products. Seek medical guidance regarding using kratom if allergy is a concern.
For most people kratom is a safe and mildly stimulating botanical supplement derived from a tropical Southeast Asian tree. But a small percentage may experience allergic reactions ranging from mild rashes to very rarely anaphylactic shock. Typical allergy symptoms include skin flushing and itching, hives, and stomach upset.
Discontinue kratom immediately if any concerning reaction occurs. Antihistamines, topical creams, cold compresses and other supportive measures can relieve mild symptoms. Avoid re-using the problematic kratom type. Check with a doctor to determine appropriate next steps.
Being aware of your body’s response to kratom is key. While quite uncommon, kratom allergies can manifest and need to be addressed promptly. Pay mind to skin condition, digestive effects and breathing changes whenever trying a new kratom product. With prudence and awareness, kratom can be used enjoyably by most people.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes kratom allergies?
Kratom allergies are likely caused by one or more of the dozens of alkaloids or other plant compounds found in Mitragyna speciosa leaves. These include the main alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.
Are some types of kratom more allergenic?
Possibly, but more research is needed. Anecdotally, Red Vein kratom varieties seem to provoke more allergies, as do certain suppliers’ products. Using 100% pure raw kratom leaf is ideal.
Is it possible to be allergic to kratom but not opioids?
Yes, it is possible since kratom contains many compounds besides opioid-like alkaloids. One may be allergic specifically to minor kratom constituents unrelated to opioids. Always conduct an allergy test when switching botanical substances.
What’s the most severe reaction possible?
The most serious reaction is anaphylactic shock involving severely constricted airways that can prove fatal if untreated. Thankfully this is exquisitely rare. Mild rashes, hives and temporary redness are by far the most common manifestations.
Can you develop a kratom allergy spontaneously later in life?
Yes, allergies can form at any time, even to substances you’ve used before uneventfully. The immune system and one’s sensitivities are constantly evolving. Periodically re-evaluate how a botanical is affecting you.