Microdosing Kratom

To microdose kratom is to refer to the act of taking very little kratom.  In this blog, we’ll discuss what microdosing is generally, and then get into how it ties into the traditional use of kratom.

Cross Category Perspective

Microdosing, in the context of its original use, is associated with taking small doses of psychedelics. These psychedelics are generally serotonergic, such as psilocybin or LSD.

To microdose, one takes a sub-perceptual amount of that substance. In psilocybin containing mushrooms, for example, a microdose entails taking just a little under 5mg of psilocybin.  In relation to how much this is in the dried fruiting body of a psilocybe variant mushroom, it varies wildly. Variables such as harvest time, size, species, and growing techniques will affect the potency of the mushroom body. Thus determining what amount of the fruit body to consume for a microdose is next to impossible.  

In terms of LSD, generally a psychedelic dose begins around the 20-25 microgram mark. That means that anything below that, with the unique variants of each user’s physiology taken into consideration, constitutes a microdose.

The intention for microdosing psychedelics is to get the benefits that one sees from high-dose psychedelic experiences, in “micro” quantities. These benefits include openness, appreciation, creativity, anti-depressant effects, as well as increased attention. The effects are not only limited to those, and are still being researched to verify the replicability of these results.

Tiny Tokes

Microdosing has spread widely since its founding in the psychedelic community. Recently, microdosing as a trend has been embraced by the cannabis industry.  To microdose cannabis, generally one will take a very low dose of a cannabinoid orally.  Low doses, again, are below that of the perceptual level in which psychoactivity becomes apparent.

The THC variants, such as delta-8 and delta-9-THC, the sub perceptual dose, taken orally, will greatly vary between users. But, those without tolerance, will generally find the sub-perceptual amount of delta-9-THC to be less than 1 or 2 milligrams.  For delta-8-THC, this amount could be 20% greater, at around 3 to 5 mg.

In regards to the other naturally occurring cannabinoids, the psychoactivity is much less pronounced. Because one doesn’t have a threshold to stay below, microdosing becomes less enticing. You are not trying to avoid any of the potentially unsavory or anxious effects that some get when taking THC. That said, the sub-perceptual dose for CBD, CBN, CBG, etc. will vary between 10-100mg depending on the person. In general, rarely do conversations about microdosing encroach the use of already non-psychoactive substances.

Cannabinoids are conducive to microdosing because they have been shown to have numerous benefits.  These traits are all present at the “macrodose” level, but exert similar effects when microdosed as well.

Microdosing Kratom

With these facts in mind, let us now move on to kratom. Kratom is much less studied than either of the psychedelics I listed above or the cannabinoids. (These substances, psychedelics and cannabis, are even themselves greatly understudied when compared to other beneficial and therapeutic substances on the market.) Because of this profound lack of research, many facets of these promising compounds are still being fleshed out.

Toxicity generally occurs with any compound at high doses. Usually the toxic effects will be located in the stomach, kidney, or liver. This route is called first pass metabolism, and is a complicated but incredibly important aspect of pharmacology. Toxicity is exerted by anything and everything.  Water at sufficiently high quantities can be toxic to the point of being deadly.  As Paracelsus said, the difference between a medicine and a poison is the dose. It is the dose that makes the poison.

So, the intention of microdosing kratom is to have some of the benefits of kratom, without any psychoactivity. This augmentation is already very light, milder, we’d say, than a cup of coffee. That being said, the current threshold for a euphoric-leaning serving of kratom is around two to three grams steeped as a tea. To go below this is to take a serving which would not be discernible from a non-kratom tea. 

Traditional Ties

The purpose of microdosing with anything is that it will exert sub-perceptual, beneficial physiological effects. Kratom, because of its understudied nature, has not yet had its microdosing effects elucidated. But because it falls within the category of a natural, traditionally used psychoactive substance with a long history of avoiding any sort of toxic problems in its history of use in Thailand, it would be reasonable to assume that benefit could be derived.

In fact, the traditional use of kratom in Thailand would be akin, in a lot of ways, to what we are classifying as “microdosing”. In the midst of a long, hard day of work, many a Thai farmer consumes kratom. They will grab onto a kratom leaf from one of the many naturally growing kratom trees within their reach. The leaf is plucked at random and stripped of its central vein. Then it is rolled into a small tube and folded over. This small quid, about the size of a mini candy bar, of kratom leaf will be inserted into the mouth. First it is chewed once or twice, moved about the mouth from cheek to cheek with the tongue, and discarded. It is chewed and spat within five or six seconds.

Micro Means Less Potent

There are several reasons to believe that this pattern of use is akin to microdosing. One, it would appear that the fresh kratom leaf likely has very little, if any, of the most potent alkaloid that science has so far detected in kratom — 7-hydroxy-mitragynine (7-OH). 7-OH is the oxidative degradation byproduct of mitragynine, the most abundant commonly detected kratom alkaloid. This degraded byproduct is upwards of 30 times more potent than mitragynine. So a little 7-OH goes a long way. It is hypothesized that the degradation that results in the formation of 7-OH primarily results from the sun-drying technique that modern kratom farmers use to dehydrate their kratom before shipping. 

With this in mind, it makes sense that the farmer who chews on the fresh leaf, even if he absorbed all the available alkaloids, is getting a less potent experience than someone who had chewed on the same amount of dried leaf.

Is Kratom Stronger As Tea?

Secondly, the fresh leaf has the least amount of surface area as when compared to the other kratom preparations.  The most common preparation is micronized powder. This is the most common way of receiving kratom because, simply, it is the most economical way to ship it in bulk.  Dried kratom sheds a majority of its weight in water lose. This, obviously, makes for a cheaper shipping price.  With that, it is powdered to the finest grain possible, ensuring that there is no wasted space in the shipping container.

Micronizing the dried leaf atomizes it into millions of fine pieces. This is to say that each little grain of the leaf can touch the water, or stomach membrane. The more surface area that is is exposed to a solvent–in this case water–the quicker the extract homogenizes into the solution. This is simply a well documented physical and chemical phenomena.  With fresh leaves, their surface area is limited to the exterior.  

A Brief Analogy to Better Understand Natural Product Extraction

Imagine a jigsaw puzzle. When the pieces are separate, you’re able to see more of them, all of their thin, cardboard edges.  That is a bit of surface area, just like the thin edges of the powdered kratom. When the puzzle is finished and a complete image, then those edges are hidden in the whole, except for the absolute edge of the puzzle. With leaves, the same is true: as a whole it has minimal surface area, while powdered it has the maximal.

Powdered leaves, while the easiest to ship, are not good to make teas with.  In fact, we’d go so far as to say it is the worst way to make a tea.  First off, it is so small that it permeates through the paper of tea bags. (And it goes without saying that you cannot use a steel mesh tea steeper.) And if you do try to make a tea with it using coffee filters or tea bags, you’ll end up with a cup full of gritty sludge.

This is why Top Tree uses premium, hand crushed kratom leaves. It optimizes the surface area needed to get the alkaloids we want into the tea, without the feeling of dragging sludgy kratom sandpaper across your tongue.

All this talk of kratom leaf surface area and size is to say that the kratom farmers who traditionally chew the whole, fresh leaf for only a few seconds are coming into contact with very little of the leaf’s surface area. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that the amount of alkaloids absorbed in this process is little, or, “micro.”

A Low Tolerance

Third, and least obvious, is how consistently, over years and years, a traditional kratom user will use the same amount of leaves on a daily basis.  To us, this implies that the amount that is consumed is not great enough to cause an upregulation of the respective receptors, and therefore does not impart, at least obviously, a tolerance.

This is a crucial, yet often overlooked, aspect of microdosing.  When done correctly, microdosing should allow the user’s neurochemistry to reach a homeostatic level. Meaning that by the time you take kratom again, the alkaloids from the previous microdose would have already been expelled and the brain would have either not, or only very minorly, upregulated the receptor types assigned to each alkaloid.

With this traditional anchor in kratom microdosing, it is easy to see why we are confident touting the benefits of it without first deferring to studies. In fact, microdosing kratom is the best way to introduce yourself to kratom.  

A Caffeine Overdose to Warn Off Excess

After trying kratom tea at different serving sizes, you might decide that you like the psychoactive effects (as well as the more sharply felt physiological relief) that come from having more. Great!  By titrating up to the amount that is best for you, you will have avoided accidentally taking too much, which, while harmless, can be unpleasant. Simply add a 3g plain crushed leaf tea bag to your tea blend to increase the potency!

A personal anecdote. When the author of this post was still in his youth, he was introduced to espresso while working at his parent’s café. In the context of this story, he was being taught how to make espresso, which is an art and is never perfected on the first attempt.  In an effort not to waste the delicious espresso he was making as part of the training, he drank all of them.  With about 11 double shots, or (1 shot roughly equals 60mg of caffeine, 22x60mg) 1320mg of caffeine in him, the author remembers feeling a brief rush, followed by a horrendous stomach ache, brain fog, and general anxiety. While this wasn’t, per say, dangerous, it is correct to consider this an overdose.

An “overdose” of kratom can be similar to that of an overdose of coffee. It is remarkably safe, but still demands caution. Simply starting low and working your way up is an easy way of improving your overall experience.

Kratom Leaf Tea vs Powder

What makes kratom tea stand out is that it is incredibly hard to brew a tea strong enough to be equivalent to the overdose this author felt following his excess espresso consumption. Taking kratom via the toss and wash method, as well encapsulated powder or extracts, does make it much easier to reach an uncomfortable level. For this reason, among many others, we recommend that you consume kratom the traditional way, as a tea, or, when available, as a chewed fresh leaf.

In the spirit of the traditional use of kratom, our newest blends recommend a shorter steep time, and they come with less kratom (4 of our 5 new blends are 50% kratom; one is 40% kratom). This ensures that you are deriving the benefit of microdosing kratom, while also getting the best flavors (and, in some cases, effects) from the supplementary herbs in the tea.

Kratom Tea Blends

Our morning loose leaf blend, Golden Apple Spice, is 50% White Maeng Da crushed leaf kratom. The herbs in the blend are green tea, apple pieces, cinnamon, rose & safflower petals, and natural flavors. It makes for a great early morning brew to warm you up as the sun is still rising. We have a Mint Chocolate Rooibos loose leaf blend, which is better suited for when the sun is setting.

Along this vein, all of our new blends in tea bags have 1.5 grams of crushed leaf kratom in them, and another 1.5 grams of herbs. We offer: Passion Fruit White Maeng Da Morning Blend, Peach Afternoon Bali Blend, and Peach Red Maeng Da Evening Blend. And if you’re looking for a more potent brew, we didn’t leave you hanging! Simply add a 3g plain crushed leaf tea bag to your cup to step it up a notch!

A Final Reminder That Less is More

If microdosing isn’t enough for you, all you need to do is simply add one of our plain, crushed leaf kratom tea bags into your brew, and you’ll be all set to have as strong a cup as you’d like!  But again, we recommend that you start slow and small, and gradually work your way up to the serving size which works best for you!