What Effect Does Kratom Have On the Liver and Kidneys?

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 Many people are concerned about the effects of the herb kratom (the powdered leaf of the tree Mitragyna speciosa) on their liver and/or their kidney functions. Chronic pain patients are often interested in kratom as a way to avoid the side effects of their current medications, which are often known to cause liver and kidney damage, so they are wise to approach any new herbal product with eyes wide open.
The liver, in particular, is our body’s filtering and detoxifying organ, among other functions, so we should be careful not to consume supplements that may add unusual challenges to its chores. Many chronic pain patients are already aware their prescribed medications may have caused some damage to their liver, so they don’t want to further burden this important organ.
There is not a lot of scientific research that has been done to determine what effect, if any, kratom use at moderate levels will have in healthy people. Much of the research appears to be set up to show what extremely high doses will do to laboratory animals. There appears to be a bias in much of the laboratory research, so — for this article — let’s look at the epidemiological evidence, the results large numbers of kratom users have had over one to fifteen years of use.

In countries, such as Thailand and Malaysia, where kratom has been in use for hundreds of years by as much as 70% of the population in some areas, it should be obvious if there is a typical detrimental effect to the liver and kidneys of the daily users. In reading the literature describing the cultural uses of kratom in southern Thailand and Malaysia, we have found no mention of liver or kidney disease among this population that drink kratom tea or chew the fresh leaves daily. On the contrary, these people seem capable of very hard work in difficult conditions of heat and humidity.

One of the big concerns that stops people with chronic pain from using kratom is the thought that it might be harmful to their liver or kidneys. These are valid concerns when considering any herb or pharmaceutical medicine. Let’s take a look at the experience of a number of regular consumers of kratom who have had their liver and/or kidney functions tested to see how they fared.

Bambi: “I have hepatitis C and autoimmune hepatitis and take kratom daily around 15-20 grams for chronic pain. I spent 16 yrs on opiates. My liver before kratom was causing monthly hospital stays, jaundice, hepatic encephalitis, and massively high enzyme levels. Since last March I have the lowest numbers I’ve ever had. My liver looks great.”

Elizabeth: “After one year of kratom use with kava, I had a physical and all levels are normal. I had seen a different doctor the following year and no different.”

Gary: “I’ve been using it (kratom) regularly since 2004 and have had both checked and they are both healthy.”

Jennifer: “I have been using kratom daily for about a year. I have never had my liver function tested, but had my kidneys tested yesterday because of long-term high blood pressure medication usage. Kidneys are perfectly normal!”

Renee: “I have been using Kratom for over a year, along with Enbrel and Arava for rheumatoid arthritis so I have my numbers checked every three months and all have remained in the normal range.”

Berns: “I had near-fatal liver problems last year and I get regular checks since then. I have been using Kratom for about.. 8 month? now, every day, multiple times. The test results show no negative effect of kratom whatsoever, just the opposite, some things even improved.”

Jenn: “My liver function has actually improved had 2 routine checks went from borderline problem (thank you Tylenol ) to complete healthy. And I take kava as well.”

Donna: “I just had blood work a few weeks ago and everything improved except glucose – I’ve been eating good, a lot of sugar…but my liver and kidney function is great.”

Lisa: “I starting using Kratom in March and my Dr has been following my liver/kidney function and I have not had any issues caused by Kratom. At times I have had medical procedures that called for opiates with Acetaminophen in them and still no problems. I have one drink (of alcohol) a year.”

Jeri: “Someone I know just went through 25yr addiction to major opiates with Kratom. They couldn’t believe it worked, and were so happy.

“But after about a week and a half, eyes turned yellow, abdomen swelled up, got majorly sick! Two trips to ER, liver failure! Severe infection, they didn’t know from what. He’s a dr./ needle phobe. He left hospital against doctor’s orders, before getting all test results. I’m so worried about him. Healthy his whole life. He took some antibiotics and seemed to feel better. I just wonder if it was the Kratom, or stopping the opiates, a bad batch, IDK. He’s not a water drinker AT ALL! Never drinks water! Hospital cat scan said they saw a bunch of matter in upper abdomen. I’m thinking it (Kratom) all just sat there, and didn’t digest or something.”

[Editor’s Comment] There are so many questions about the second-hand testimony above that it’s hard to know where to place the blame for the jaundiced condition of this individual. We all need to adhere to some basic health practices in order to stay healthy. In this case, we hear of a guy who — although he’s taking large quantities of kratom powder to overcome the withdrawal from opioid pain medication — is not drinking any water. That, alone, is an indication that he may have other idiosyncratic behaviors that aren’t conducive to good health, such as eating vegetables and staying regular.

Twenty-five years of staying on narcotic drugs does not bode well for regularity — or a healthy liver. Our body likes for things it eats to keep moving: blood needs to circulate, lymphatic fluid needs to circulate, and the food we eat needs to be digested and assimilated. And the waste then needs to be excreted. How some interruption in the body’s normal rhythm in this individual could have caused an inflammation of his liver is something for his doctors to explain. My non-professional guess is that it had nothing to do with kratom, per se.

Connie: “I sought out Kratom, due to pharmaceuticals having damaged my liver. It took months to wean off the meds using Kratom and a few more using milk thistle and dandelion root to detox my liver (still using Kratom) and get the enzymes back to normal. It’s been another 6 months and my liver tests are still good. Thanks to Kratom I have the ability to parent and teach high school again. I’m no longer attached to my bed, swollen, depressed, miserable, and full of pain.”

Ryan Estevez, MD, PhD, MPH, a psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist in the Tampa area who has worked for years in emergency rooms, community health centers, and prisons, says: “I am well versed in both ‘good’ drugs that help people on a daily basis, and ‘bad’ drugs that are epidemically abused and create a tremendous burden on society. Kratom is [a natural herbal supplement] and not one of these ‘bad’ drugs (I have yet to admit anyone for kratom-addiction) and efforts to ban it are misguided and wasteful. The proposal of an absolute ban of Kratom perfectly illustrates what can happen when hype trumps science, as this plant has been benefiting millions of people for decades of time.”

Here are the conclusions (in part) of the Transnational Institute, which works with the United Nations to make drug policy recommendations:

  • Kratom is an integral part of southern Thai culture. Criminalisation of kratom is unnecessary and counter-productive given decades of unproblematic use.
  • In the absence of health and social harms, decriminalise use, possession and production of kratom…

In conclusion, from this small sample of kratom consumers — and the absence of complaints from the large numbers of others who regularly use the plant for medicinal purposes — kratom would appear not to present any significant threat to liver and kidney  function, as long as normal care is taken for personal health habits.

Author Paul Kemp writes often about the increasing use of herbs and nutritional supplements among chronic pain patients and others who have become disenchanted by typical pharmaceutical remedies.

Transnational Institute Briefing on Kratom

To Try Kratom for Yourself, Visit OnlineKratom

To Learn More, Visit AmericanKratom.org

 

 

Paul Kemp
I am a writer with a passion for freedom within a libertarian philosophy. I claim my rights and I accept personal responsibility for the consequences. I have watched the same mistakes being made time after time in our country and I hope to point these errors out and hopefully help to change a few of them. We have, as a society, turned too much control over our lives and diet to self-proclaimed experts, who have an agenda that is not in our best interest. To regain our health and freedom, we need to give these "experts" the boot and become knowledgeable about the crucial details of our own lives.

  • Carson Holt

    Great article. Where did you find the testimonials?

  • George W Hayduke

    Thanks for this article. Good info.

  • CG

    There are so many individuals experiencing abdominal pain after ingesting kratom that it’s that much more important for an in-depth study of the physiologic effects of its components. I’ve read some kratom proponents blame it on “not drinking enough water” to taking other drugs simultaneously. But the fact is we don’t know if some people are at risk for life endangering events from this cocktail of different drugs that comprise a kratom leaf.

    There are literally thousands of possible reasons for some people to have adverse effects, so it does no one any good to make unfounded speculations. As someone who had one of those adverse reactions, I really want to know what went wrong. After 3 weeks of debilitating abdominal pain & diarrhea, where I’m still struggling with eating & severe fatigue, I can first hand see that kratom can be dangerous. Yes, it could be contaminated product, or it could be some people are missing a specific enzyme system in their liver, or it could be interaction with the chemical components in other foods, whatever it is we need to know what’s happening and why.

    • John

      I think you must have gotten a bad batch or you have other health issues. There are only a handful of internet suppliers that have the track record and many reviews on the net that one could trust. I would steer clear of any physical “store” selling Kratom such as head shops. These pre packaged kratoms have been shown to have synthetic substances in them. I have taken Kratom for 6 years now and never more than 5g at once, and usually 2-3g per dose. I have never gotten so much as a stomach ache from it. You must take it on a light or empty stomach for it to be beneficial. With all that being said, everyone is different so I can’t say whether it affects you negatively or not. Peanut butter does the same thing to some people.

    • Reese Daniel

      Have you ever considered that kratom could be causing a herxheimer reaction? It is anti fungal and anti parasitical. When we take herbs or anti fungals and have an infestation of some sort and they begin to die off and enter the blood stream, it causes negative reactions within our bodies. Such as headache, nausea, fatigue, etc.

    • Drm4snw

      CG just from my personal experience and research. Many years and many strains and different way to I injest powder mixed with water, capsules with powder and teas that is what I have tried. I really enjoyed the tea even though it is not a very flavorful tea liked the on set of relief. I currently take and alternate 3 strains of Krstom and I take powder form mixed with water. It’s faster and cheaper than capsules. About a teaspoon and a half 3 times a day. Morning is super red Indo mixed with a green meng da this helps my morning pain and a boost of energy to get ready for work. Afternoon is straight shot of Green Meng da and wash it down with a tall glass of water and before bed it’s a straght shot of super indo with a tall glass of water. This is sedating and pain relieving. Now just a bit of history of my digestive system. I have a very weak stomach due to two weight loss surgeries. I found the tea to be more nauseating along with the capsules because of the slow on set and the capsules have to For some reason even though all strains of Kratom tastes worse than dirt, the powder shot with hot water chased with about 8-10 oz of luke warm water is by far the best on my digestive system I have no nausea at all. However I do get constapated often and take a natural stool softener and drink a lot of water and eat lots of green veggies and pretty healthy meals. Now in the past year I have noticed my eyes are red slot I use clear eyes and I feel like my skin if s yellow tone. I do need to drink a lot more water but other than that that’s my experience with Kratom. You may actually have an allergic Digestive reaction.

  • VLynx

    I’d like to point out that “pain medications” as a group are not hepatotoxic. If you are talking about opioids, then the only thing hepatotoxic about them is if they are combo drugs that include acetaminophen. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is hepatotoxic in (not very) high doses. The current FDA recommendation is not to exceed 3,000 mg per day of acetaminophen. I have personally seen a young man die because of ODing on a hydrocodone/acetaminophen combination (e.g. Vicodin, Norco, etc.) He did not wish to die. It was a “cry for help”. He woke up from the OD of hydrocodone, only to discover that the dose of acetaminophen he had ingested was fatal. Horrible to see—he felt fine for a couple of days before his liver failed. He died before he could get a transplant—their wasn’t enough time to find a match for him.
    Drug companies used to put acetaminophen in their opioid products so they wouldn’t be made Schedule II (requiring so much more paperwork and hassle). This was true of hydrocodone (before it was rescheduled as Schedule II in 2016 – maybe the drug companies will start making it without acetaminophen now?). It remains true of codeine compounds. This has led to many more deaths from overdoses than would happen if there were no acetaminophen in these drugs, as opioid overdose is easy to treat with naloxone, but acetaminophen overdose is hard to treat and frequently fatal.