Kratom, an herbal extract made from the leaves of the plant known as Mitragyna speciosa, has recently gained attention in the Western world, particular in the circles of alternative medicine. Kratom is traditionally used for both its pain-relieving opioid-like properties as well as its mild stimulant-like effects and is considered by some to be an alternative to addictive narcotic painkillers. In some forums, kratom has been discussed both as a cause and as a solution for hair loss—but what does the research say, and if you’re dealing with hair loss, should you be looking into kratom at all?
Where is kratom from, and how is it used?
Kratom is made from the leaves of the tropical evergreen tree Mitragyna speciosa and falls into the broader coffee family. It grows natively in Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea, though it’s begun to be cultivated elsewhere due to its effects. M. speciosa is known as an ethnobotanical, or a plant that has a particular pattern of usage and an association with a region, culture, or ethnic group, often due to a restricted range in which it can natively grow. Though kratom extract has long been used by the peoples of Southeast Asia, it does not appear that the treatment of hair loss was a motivating factor.
To achieve the effects from kratom, the leaves can either be chewed directly or dried and ground up into a powder. The powdered kratom extract can then be placed into capsules for oral consumption, or the powder—though highly insoluble—can be steeped in hot water to make a tea.
What are the effects of kratom?
Kratom extract is somewhat unique in that it can exert opposing effects depending on the amount being taken. At lower doses, kratom exerts a weakly stimulating and energizing effect. At moderate doses, the effect of kratom begins to blend a sense of euphoria with pain relief. At higher doses, kratom begins to act as a sedative. The active ingredients in kratom extract are thought
Due to their long use in traditional medicine, ethnobotanicals like M. speciosa can often be sources of inspiration for modern medicine. However, there is currently little scientific research into the primary effects of kratom extract, and even less into any potential relationship between kratom and hair loss.
How might kratom impact hair loss?
The active compounds in kratom extract are thought to interact with one of the three major types of opioid receptors, the mu opioid receptor (MOR). This receptor is most commonly known for its interactions with the painkiller morphine. Given that we know stress and inflammation are contributors to hair loss, it may be possible that kratom indirectly affects hair loss in this way, but there is no definitive evidence to suggest that.
Some studies have investigated the effects of a different receptor, the delta opioid receptor (DOR), and its impact on the hair and skin. Administration of opioid receptor agonists—or compounds that stimulate the target receptor—like morphine have been implicated in enhanced wound healing. Additional studies that deleted the genes responsible for encoding the DOR showed a delay in the differentiation of skin cells and reduced wound healing. Given that hair loss is often caused by damage to the skin and scalp, it may be possible that compounds that interact with the body’s opioid receptors could impact hair loss.
Perhaps most interestingly, preliminary studies into the administration of low-dose naltrexone (LDN) demonstrated increased wound closure and the production of anti-inflammatory compounds known as B-endorphins. At appropriate dosages, it was hypothesized that LDN may be used to treat symptomatic alopecia, a common form of hair loss. Additional research demonstrated that human hair follicles selectively expressed the DOR in the anagen phase, and that an agonist for the DOR appeared to accelerate the telogen-to-anagen phase transition, leading to increased hair growth. Though the DOR agonist under review in the study was different from the active ingredient in kratom extract, as well as targeting a different type of opioid receptor, it did indicate that a similar class of compound may have a use in addressing hair loss and that further research is warranted.
So, Kratom and Hair Loss—Fact or Fiction?
When it comes to kratom and hair loss, the jury is definitively still out. There is currently no research to support that kratom has any beneficial or detrimental effect on hair loss, and unfortunately, that research may not be coming anytime soon: In 2016, the DEA moved to place kratom on the list of Schedule I narcotics, meaning that it has no accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse. Placement of a substance on the Schedule I list makes it incredibly difficult to obtain funding to study its effects. After public outcry, the DEA rescinded its recommendation, but its intentions have been made clear: Kratom is considered to be an unknown, unnerving substance which the government considers to have limited upside.
The preliminary studies we’ve discussed do appear somewhat promising; however, definitive research on the overall effects of kratom remains years away, with research into the specific effects of kratom on hair loss likely decades away, if at all.
If you’re looking for a solution to your hair loss, there are plenty of tried-and-true options out there—kratom represents an untested alternative, and though we can’t speak to its use for other ailments, we recommend pursuing a more traditional approach if you’re looking to address your thinning hair or hair loss. Here at Revela, our Hair Revival Serum can help get you the results you’re looking for with scientifically proven ingredients. We think our results speak for themselves.