Used for centuries by people in its native Southeast Asia, the herbal substance known as kratom has arrived on U.S. shores in recent years. Proponents argue that kratom shows promise as a natural means of combatting opioid dependency, particularly in relieving the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

Despite evidence that the botanical substance, derived from a plant that is a member of the coffee family, shows great promise in overcoming a number of health conditions, federal regulators and state governments have moved to ban the importation, sales, and use of kratom. In the San Francisco Bay Area, however, kratom is still relatively easy to find.

Pushback Against Regulations

In 2016, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced that it was proposing a complete ban on the importation and sale of kratom. The agency opened a public commenting period to gauge consumer reaction to the announcement and was met with an overwhelming outcry against regulation of the substance. Over 90% of respondents to the commenting period indicated that they wished to continue to have access to kratom and its derivatives.

In more recent news, reports of a nationwide salmonella outbreak linked to kratom supplements moved the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue warnings against further use of kratom products. Again, public response to these warnings and regulatory crackdowns has been overwhelming. Some defenders of kratom have claimed that government agencies are merely trying to protect the financial interests of pharmaceutical companies by creating ban legislation. Others simply focus on the health benefits of the substance, such as its ability to relieve withdrawal symptoms or to reduce the chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and other serious health issues.

Kratom in the Bay Area

Herbal retailers in the Bay Area have sold kratom products for a number of years; in fact, many herb shops and apothecaries in the region now offer workshops on the history and use of kratom products in a safe, health-sustaining atmosphere. Retailers and kratom industry advocates continue to fight for continued access to this natural ethnobotanical, helping people overcome serious health concerns without the dangerous side effects of opioid-based painkillers.

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