Just one online search using the keyword ‘Kratom’ will result in thousands of pages of information on hundreds of different strains, blends, and formats.
There are lots of different Kratom strains out there. Even a brief peek at our own line-up of Kratom powders and capsules is enough to make anyone wonder, “What’s the difference between all these strains?”.
The answer is complex, but it’s worth understanding if you’re truly going to get the most out of Kratom.
In this article, the Kratom experts at Kats Botanicals are here to help by explaining exactly how and why Kratom strains are differentiated. We will be exploring the life cycle of a typical Kratom plant, and we will show you how important the harvesting and drying processes are in order to produce a desirable final product.
A Primer on Kratom Leaf Harvesting
The Kratom plant is harvested, dried, and processed in a wide variety of ways, and it’s these unique techniques that contribute to the differences found in most Kratom strains.
Generally speaking, there are three categories of Kratom leaves used to classify most Kratom strains.
The term ‘vein’ refers to the leaf venation patterns found on the underside of the Kratom leaf.
- Younger Kratom trees can have leaf veins that are lighter in color (White Vein).
- As Kratom trees mature, their leaf veins can begin to blend in with the color of the leaf itself (Green Vein).
- The most mature Kratom leaves can have reddish or brownish underside leaf veins (Red Vein).
Key Point: It’s important to note that not all Kratom tree leaves undergo this leaf vein coloration process to a ‘T’. There are numerous variables that can determine the color of Kratom leaf veins including genetics, soil type, nutrient absorption, and sunlight received during the Kratom tree’s life cycle.
When Kratom leaves are harvested at specific times during the lifespan of the Kratom tree, timing is everything. A White Vein Kratom leaf might become a Green Vein Kratom leaf in just a few months, and given enough time, that green-veined leaf can progress into the Red Vein category within another year or two. The vast majority of Kratom leaves are red-veined at the time of harvest, and it’s the post-harvest treatments applied to them that determine the final color hue of the powder and its associated alkaloid profile.
Because of just how crucial it is that Kratom leaves are tracked as they grow, Kratom cultivators have developed highly accurate harvesting schedules that produce the desired amounts of White Vein, Green Vein, and Red Vein kratom.
Remember, the Kratom tree has been grown on dedicated plantations for hundreds of years, and in that time, Kratom farmers have had plenty of opportunities to learn from trial and error!
To Destem or Not to Destem
Another common practice used by Kratom farmers is allowing the attached stem to remain intact after harvesting the Kratom leaves from the tree. Testing has shown that Kratom leaves that are harvested with their stems attached develop slightly different alkaloid profiles compared to Kratom leaves that are pruned from the tree without their stems remaining.
Interestingly, it can actually be desirable for the stems not to be left on the leaf during harvesting; it all depends on the knowledge and experience of the Kratom cultivators.
Post-Harvest Kratom Leaf Processing
After the Kratom leaves have been harvested at just the right time (categorizing them as White Vein, Green Vein, or Red Vein), the next step is to either begin the drying process or initiate the fermentation phase.
Kratom Leaf Drying
If a Kratom strain is going to be immediately dried and spared any fermentation, the harvested leaves are typically spread out into a uniform layer and allowed to dry in one of two environments:
Indoor, fan-assisted drying. Large, dark holding rooms are used to keep the harvested Kratom leaves from being exposed to any direct sunlight. Industrial-grade fans are used to circulate the indoor air and to expel evaporation as the leaves dry.
Indoor drying requires rigorous attention to detail and a hyperfocus on sanitation. Without the right moisture management practices in place, mold and mildew may develop.
Outdoor drying. Kratom leaves that are allowed to dry outdoors are carefully spread out into thin layers and left to the elements for 24-72 hours. Because sunlight brings swift death to mold and mildew spores, outdoor Kratom leaf drying is often cleaner and easier to manage, but not always.
Weather conditions must be monitored and the harvested leaves must be agitated every few hours to ensure consistent sunlight exposure to the entire crop yield.
It’s very common for harvested Kratom leaves to be given both indoor and outdoor drying treatments. The length of time the leaves spend in either of these conditions weighs heavily into how potent the resulting crushed powder will be.
Kratom Leaf Fermentation
Instead of being immediately sent through a drying step, some freshly harvested Kratom leaves will be packed into burlap bags and left to ferment in a dark, indoors environment.
The Kratom leaf fermentation process is more often applied to Red Vein Kratom leaves, but any vein category can be a candidate for fermentation. This step slightly modifies the biomolecular makeup of the Kratom leaf, thus modifying the alkaloid profile.
Fermentation literally transforms the densities and proportions of the naturally occurring phytochemicals contained in the Kratom plant. But, because the fermentation step takes more time and labor to manage, fermented Kratom strains are marketed at premium rates compared with Kratom strains that are not fermented.
Kratom leaf fermentation typically lasts between 24-72 hours. After this time has elapsed, the fermented leaves are allowed to dry indoors or outdoors, depending on the Kratom farmer’s preferences.
The Big Crush
By the time Kratom leaves have been harvested, destemmed, fermented (or not), and thoroughly dried, they’ve lost virtually all of their moisture content.
When they are in this desiccated state, they are primed for crushing into a finer and finer consistency until the desired granularity is achieved.
[Fun Fact: Kratom (Mitragyna Speciosa) plant leaves are often chewed whole by natives in southeast Asia. Alternatively, the dried leaves can be cut into a coarse amalgam perfect for steeping in a permeable tea bag. These practices date back to at least the early 1800s.]
The finer the Kratom powder is, the easier it can be mixed into a beverage and consumed. And, finer Kratom powder is more quickly and efficiently absorbed by the body.
Historically, Kratom farmers would use a mortar and pestle to crush dried Kratom leaves. Today, however, in order to meet the global demand for commercial-scale Kratom exports, Kratom cultivators use advanced agricultural machinery specifically designed to quickly and cleanly crush dried Kratom leaves into the finest possible consistency.
Pasteurization and Purity/Potency Testing
So far in the Kratom leaf processing cycle, you might think the hardest work is behind us. The truth is that the most important and time-intensive steps are yet to come.
Applying a uniform amount of heat to rid the processed Kratom powder of any potential microbes is a step known as pasteurization. Pasteurization is scientifically proven to be effective at eliminating 99%+ of microbial contamination that might be present in any Kratom powder. For more information on this crucial post-harvest processing step, check out our article dedicated to this subject.
Independent, Third-Party Lab Testing
Testing the processed Kratom powder for purity and potency is of paramount importance. This is done to accomplish two key goals:
- Scan for impurities like heavy metals and pathogens
- Determine the concentrations of plant alkaloids, especially Mitragynine and 7-Hydroxymitragynine
The very expensive laboratory equipment used to perform this testing phase includes highly specialized spectroscopic probes. This instrumentation is highly sensitive and can detect microscopic particles invisible to the human eye.
Any Kratom powder that is determined to be contaminated will be immediately sequestered and destroyed. Only certifiably clean, authenticated Kratom powder will make its way into the next processing phase: blending and packaging.
Blending, Packaging, and Shipping
After Kratom powder has been thoroughly screened and tested, it’s ready to be packaged for retail sale.
Before this is done, however, the Kratom processing experts at Kats Botanicals will take two or more different Kratom strains and mix them together to produce our signature blends. These include Digital Buddha, Above the Waves, and Spacebird, among others.
Blended Kratom often provides a more ‘full-spectrum’ Kratom experience that many Kratom users swear by. Our signature blends are products of years of experimentation; only the best and brightest among them have survived to the present day!
An important aspect of Kratom powder blending and packaging is compliance with industry-recognized material handling safety standards. Kats Botanicals is committed to only supplying Kratom powder and capsules that are made in accordance with the AKAs Current Good Manufacturing Program (cGMP).
This added quality assurance step ensures that the Kratom you receive from Kats Botanicals is as pure, potent, and contaminant-free as possible.
As you can see, a lot goes into bringing premium Kratom powder and capsules to market. We believe the effort is worth it, as so many people’s lives are enhanced by this incredible plant.
Now that you know more about how Kratom is harvested, dried, and processed, you can confidently explore the variety of strains that await you in our Kratom powder and Kratom capsules product categories.