Kratom 101. Part 1 - Strains, Regions, Vein Colors & Placebo

Two things influence the structural formation of any given kratom plant: genetics and environment. The plant’s genetic makeup, also called a genotype, acts as a blueprint for growth: it allows a spectrum of physical possibilities, but it is up to the environment to induce these characteristics. The physical expression of a genotype is referred to as a phenotype, which is simply defined as the traits that the environment pulls out from the plant’s genetic code. We refer to the different phenotypes as “Strains”. Everything from color, shape, smell, and effects production are affected by the environment. 


Our article will help you understand the kratom plant a little better, from its beginnings through today’s modern cultivation and marketing techniques. By the end, you will understand that there are indeed defining characteristics for every strain, but each plant is as special as a snowflake as it uniquely expresses genes according to its environment.


  “Strains” are not exactly a truthful definition to explain the different kinds of kratom. Kratom can produce differing results, but the way the market categorizes them, is severely misleading. The different phenotypes can change the end result, but, the industry has no current accurate way of organizing those erratic reactions. Don’t let any standard explanations of kratom lead you away from the truth. We here at HappyRootz have removed the common strain names. The market likes to boast name likes: Vietnam, Malay, Thai, Indo, Borneo, Bali, Maeng Da, etc. 


The strains: Vietnam, Thai, Borneo, Indonesia, Bali, Malay and many more “strains” don’t exist. They aren’t real bro. In the American market you are forced to believe in these fairy tales because of the wild west of our labeling culture. 


Let’s expound on the topic shall we? In Vietnam, Thai or Malay, it is illegal to export kratom. In Thailand you get an immediate two years (up to 10) in prison, in Malaysia you can get 4 years in prison (up to 10), and in Vietnam you can receive up to 5 years for exporting kratom. So, if your vendor sells you these, how did he get them? If he/she is carrying true Vietnam, Malaysian, or Thai kratom, there could be countless phenotypes in each of those regions, so a bland “Malay” title is just not accurate. On top of that, if they really did receive product from those areas then technically they are drug traffickers. Conspirators in a global drug trade. I use the word drug, not because of my feelings in the matter. I use the word because those countries define the plant as just that. So exporting out of those countries would be illegal drug trafficking. It’s common sense. Some of these vendors are claiming ignorance, when in fact they are lying to you.  


People don’t realize how serious this problem is. As a “kratom community” we are trying to separate ourselves from the criminal world. So why is it that we boast about receiving kratom from countries that have deemed this plant illegal? If a vendor causes a demand that puts other families at risk, is that good? If I ask for real Malaysian kratom from some Malaysian dude, then that means a group of people will conspire in Malaysia to harvest, dry, mill, and export the product. Putting all parties at risk. Someone’s family member can go to prison because we wanted a leaf that isn’t as different as the market is portraying it. Also, to note, when purchasing in bulk, the “illegal strains” are just as much money as the other strains on the market. Which insinuates the product isn’t coming from a “high risk” zone. Call me an idiot, but if there is a big smuggling operation connected to a product, wouldn’t it demand more money for purchase?! The vendors are fibbing.


 Now, I want you to get out a map and look up where Indonesia, Borneo, and Bali is at. Now think to yourself WHY there is “strains” named after those areas?! Is it because the Genotypes are different? No, they are not. How bout the phenotypes? Well, yes they can be, but they are not catalogued by anyone. And sure as hell not based off of some loose terms like Indo, Borneo or Bali. Heck, people in Bali, don’t even really know about kratom. Kratom doesn’t even grow in Bali. Kratom in Bali is virtually non-existent. We are all the victims of a lie that continues to grow because we aren’t stopping it. Borneo, Indo, and Bali are just terms to get your juices flowing. It works off of your mentality as, “the next best thing” or the “grass is always greener”. The market has you completely manipulated. Our estimates are less than 1% of all the kratom in the market, is labeled truthfully via regions. And that’s a generous number.  


Let’s talk professional. The “experts”. Those who claim to know what all the “strains” do, making comprehensive lists about certain strains “doing this” and “doing that”, well, those people are actually hurting the consumer. Each new post only muddies the water. And, on top of all the “know it alls”, you have companies who just create non-sense web pages in order to have good results in the search engines. The companies trying to capitalize on the SEO (search engine optimization”. Web designers that don’t know crap about kratom but are flooding our internet with fake news. 


Let’s talk “Maeng Da”. The completely fabricated internet hoax. There is no such thing as Maeng Da. 


Years ago, finding myself bored, I walked into a headshop in downtown Bangor. I looked over at two men in a headshop. A customer that seemed giddy and a cool pot head cashier. The clerk was bagging up this material that looked like green dirt. Like a ninja, I crept on over to the transaction to eavesdrop.  


I made my way over to the cashier a little late. The dirt was in the pocket of the already leaving customer. But, the weedhead cashier took advantage of my interest. After the buyer stepped out the door the cashier said, “do you know what kratom is?” I responded, “what is that? Is that some sort of spice.” The employee giggled and said, “No. Go google kratom, then come back and buy some.” I kind of shrugged it off as I walked out of the store, but the intrigue rushed back. I sat on a bench and did just what he asked of me. I googled kratom. 


What I found in those digital footprints, was amazing. I couldn’t believe that my whole life I never knew about kratom. That day searching, I saw many posts, websites, and articles on this leaf. In my hasty research looking into the history of this plant, I found it littered with a strain we call “Maeng Da.” Every where I looked I saw the words ‘Maeng Da.’ I had no idea what ‘Maeng Da’ was but, with the internet telling tales of this amazing strain, I rushed back into the head shop to go buy some Maeng Da. 


The cashier was smiling as I walked in. He immediately said the magic words, ‘Maeng Da’? He started off by pointing at some boxes that carried the green dirt, and said “This is White Maeng da, this is Green Maeng Da, this is Red Maeng da, along with Red Borneo, and Red Bali.” He then began to summarize the popularity of the 5 strains he carried. With the ‘Maeng Das’ being the most popular. I immediately asked for the one he said was the most popular. Red Maeng Da. 


I finished paying 14 dollars for the 14 grams of kratom and hustled outside to take half the kratom out of the bag. I used it. My journey with kratom hasn’t left me since. But, the legendary ‘Maeng Da’ turned out to be a sham. I’ll tell you why.


 Becoming a vendor was an informative journey. Selling it was the best route a kratom enthusiast could take. I did so much research back then.  Before I became a vendor I had a brief stint working for a local kratom company. Again Maeng Da was by far the most popular strain the company sold. I was very successful selling kratom for that company, but, I ended my employment only 20 days after it started. I sold a lot of kratom for that company and as I was between jobs, I managed to get permission from my future wife to start my own company. 


This is where the research really got interesting. I wanted to know what all the strains were, what the veins were, and the most intriguing thing I wanted to know was, what the hell was Maeng Da? 


I ended up befriending about 15 or so Indonesian vendors (now currently at about 300+). I utilized a bunch of applications that translate English to Indonesian and vice versa. I became very good friends with 4 vendors (now about 30). 


During the beginning of my kratom buying journey, I tested out 15 or so Indonesian vendors. And, every single vendor carried the famous “strain”, Maeng Da. The name was still a complete enigma. From what I understood, strains were the names of specific regions where they came from, there is even strains named after specific kratom species, such as, “Elephant, Horned, etc.” I also ran into some strains named after the kratom farmers wives. A popular wife named kratom is “Zareena.” I just couldn’t understand, or fathom what made what name and how they differentiate each strain. 


With common sense on my side, I started digging more. I asked every single vendor/farmer this question: “What is Maeng Da?” All of them had the same answer. They all put it in a different way. But the every single person connected to kratom, that was from Indonesia, said the same thing. It is just a made up name. 


The answers were similar. Maeng Da is just the strongest strain a seller has. Not one vendor could give a good reason why they marketed a strain Maeng Da other than the allure of the cultural phenomenon. There was never one story about the origin. There was never a scientific reason. There was never anyone ever giving one solid reason or even clue that this strain even existed. 


When I ordered samples from vendors I would always get a “Maeng Da”. Sometimes I even got the regions title before Maeng Da. Such as “Jong Kong Maeng Da”, or “Sulawesi Maeng Da’


I took my research up even more. Armed with motivation to find out what the hell this mysterious ‘Maeng Da’ was.


I ran into articles claiming it was a farm raised plant, who had grafted the plant onto another plant from Thailand and grew a hybrid type of tree. I had a hard time believing that Maeng Da was a “Franken-Tree”. The article is one of the most popular articles out there describing the origin of Maeng Da. It is also one of the biggest piles of crap about the origins of Maeng Da. Just pure bulls@#@. But, there was one common thing in my hours of research looking for this plants origin. Inconsistency. Not one article made any sense to me. How could it be?


I began pressing the Indonesian vendors I knew. I wanted to know, just how they came up with every strain name they had. Well, your not gonna like what they told me. 


All the vendors tell me the same thing. Strains are made up. Period.


Yes, some do different things, to some people, sometimes. But, there is no way to tell them apart. There is no consistency.


The word “Maeng Da” is a actually a derogatory name. It means, “Pimp Grade” in Thailand. It is not a classy name. Its equivalent in America would be, “Fine Ass Hoe”. What it really means, is “Premium A$$.” And what premium usually indicates is, harvesting from the middle of the tree, older leaves, that are large, from an older tree. They are milled and then filtered. Most premiums should be dried inside a room with proper ventilation. That is also called “Super.” So if someone calls their strain a “Super Malay” That’s what they are trying to portray. Maeng Da just means premium.  


The only way the farmers differentiate “strains”, is by the region of growth. The region is what gives the leaf its characteristics by forcing the Genotype to produce differing Phenotypes. For example, in Hulu Kapuas, circa 2015, they were pretty new to the kratom game. They had old cash cow die. All the Rubber and Palm Oil farmers jumped to Kratom. Why does that matter? Well, a palm oil crop will ravish the earth. After 20 years of harvesting Palm Oil at maximum harvest the earth left behind is severely damaged. So, if you have a plantation kratom plant growing over palm oil graves, that kratom will be a little different then say a wild kratom plant that hasn’t had the soil hurt by a very damaging crop such as Palm Oil. I’m not saying that all farm grown kratom from Hulu Kapuas is bad. As a matter of fact, I love some farms in Hulu and, wild Hulu Kapuas is one of my favorites out there. But, if you happen to land some farm raised Hulu Kapuas that has housed a Palm Oil crop before the kratom was planted, chances are it isn’t as good as a farm that didn’t have damage done to the earth by the previous harvests. There is some great Hulu out there, and I’m not saying that all farm raised kratom from Hulu is bad. I’m simple making a point that the region, weather, soil, species, age of the plant and climate all changes the 40+ alkaloids in the plant. 


Each of those alkaloids are interdependent with each other. And there is no magic number that makes Maeng Da. As a matter of fact, kratoms alkaloids are so symbiotic that no one can figure out what makes it work. There are various ways to test Mitragynine and 7-Hydroxymytragynine in labs and you have some vendors claiming to have very strong numbers from lab tests. but, even that doesn’t mean s#$%.


Think of Maeng Da being a song, and the alkaloids are the symphony. There are many different ways to play that song. Science really has no clue why each song sounds the way it sounds. Meaning that, science has no clue how a different set of alkaloids can create one feeling in someone versus another in someone else. Any vendor telling you that they have the only real Maeng Da is a dirt bag liar, or just uneducated. There is many ways to have a “Maeng Da.”


Most Maeng Da’s are taste tested by farmers before being titled Maeng Da. I’ve heard some farmers can just smell, look, and taste the “Maeng Da strength.” There is no scientific method that titles your strains.  


The reason these lies have spread, is because most vendors don’t give a sh#@ what they are selling you. As a matter of fact, most don’t test for contaminants. So they could care less where it came from. They are living in the age old saying, “ignorance is bliss.” They ask for a specific strain and most of the farmers just give them whatever they have, mixing strains to make a new combination of alkaloids.


Now, let us talk “strains”.


If an American has a foreign vendor who does not network with any other vendors and they only live in one region, lets say, Papua New Guinea, he can only grow “Papua” kratom, right? Now you might have 4 different phenotypes. And, those phenotypes can supposedly be separated by 3 different colored stems (veins). So, at most, a farmer who does not network with other farmers can only have a couple handfuls of “strains”. There is no way for a farmer to grow, “Bali” in the Sulawesi islands. 


You will rarely find an indonesian vendor carrying “a few” products. Most experienced vendors in Indonesia have bypassed educating naive Americans, and just sell them the damn leaf, no matter the name. We are at the mercy of Indonesian sellers that are in a huge competition with one another to grab the sales of American vendors. Do you honestly think that most of these Indonesian vendors hold integrity as a number one priority, or something far more meaningful, like money.


If you told a vendor that you would only buy Bali, Malaysian and Thai kratoms. It’s funny. Most vendors magically have all those strains. You could make up a name on the spot and the seller would comply and come up with that product. It must be magic.


Let’s recap, the only difference between a strong Bali and a Maeng Da is the damn title. If you wanted a Bali strain from the farmer in Sampit, Indonesia, how the hell did you magically just get a kratom from Bali?  


Some salesman, don’t hold integrity high on their standards list. Some will cut the throats of there brethren, and say anything to make the sale. The most popular phrase when asking about a specific strain is, “I can make any strain.” I used to pass that brash statement off as an English to Indonesian translation error, but, farther into my journey I found out they were dead ass serious. They literally say yes to anything.


Does anyone really know what makes a “strain”? Do we really know the different phenotypes of kratom? No. Nobody does. It’s simple at HappyRootz, we don’t list the foreign vendors BS. We just name it something similar to what it does for the majority. Why list the same bland lies? Why continue representing it as something it isn’t?


Would it be easier to sell it like everyone else? Absolutely. If we kept slapping on the same name and used different products, most people wouldn’t even notice. Heck, I know vendors that do this. I know 5 or 6 that are “AKA Approved”. It’s a shame but the market isn’t exactly roses.


We only can hope that quality and integrity come before the owners personal wants. This conflict of interest can create a serious quality control problem, and it does. I know first hand the sacrifices that have to be made. Sometimes you gotta cut ties with suppliers and throw away a large amount of product. It’s just part of the business. Here is another funny story showing you how easy it is to lie to you. We had a couple customers do their own tests (we didn’t condone these tests) on their spouses. Two sets of spouses decided to put different “strains” in the bag that their significant other swore by. It was “the only strain that worked”. They hid the original product, and replaced it every day with a new different product. One person did this to their spouse for a few weeks before telling them. and, when they told them, denial was the first response. But, when proof was presented they were beyond surprised they were duped. The other spouse did this to them for months. This went on for a while. The funniest thing is that sometimes they would make them try a different product and then the spouse would of course “hate it” and ask for the one they are used to. Asking for the “only one that would work”. Funny enough, then the spouse would put the same product (the one they supposedly didn’t like) inside the bag labeled as the product they were expecting. Emphatically every time they would remind the spouse that “see that is the one that works for me.” All the while the spouse was switching in and out many products. I can’t say I wasn’t instigating this. Because I was. I was fascinated. They were proving in real time what I already knew. A person can easily be fooled and we can actually improve a kratom experience with positivity. A placebo like effect. The power of positive thinking with kratom is definitely a real thing. 


As for the different kinds of species. There are 3 species of kratom: Hirsuta, Javanica & Speciosa You only want Speciosa. That is the one that is better suited to achieve what customers are looking for.


As for some other names like, Horned. Horned is not a plant type it is a sporadic happening on many trees. Or, Elephant. That is just a big leaf. Don’t believe the pictures of absurdly huge leaves.


Something to note, when you get Kratom it is most likely a different Phenotype than you have had. So, don’t be that person searching for a leaf that you had in the past. If it is gone forget about it. Don’t be that person.


Also, it is pointless to compare a vendor’s product to other vendor’s products. It’s somewhat pointless. It’s almost fruitless to compare any kratom experience to another kratom experience. Kratom is like a snowflake. Each leaf & experience is different. Try not to use other people’s experiences to identify what is best for you. It rarely helps, because people often react differently.


It’s like selling a candy bar saying 40% of people eat this will fall asleep, 40% of the people who eat this will get bunches of energy, and 20% of the people will receive no effect at all. It puts consumers and vendors in a tough spot. This is why some vendors lie and just start making silly claims. And, this is also why consumers end up spreading misinformation. They believe that what they experience is what you should experience. There is no answer here. But, in America nobody can accept that.  


When you ask stuff like: “Borneo’s make me tired. How about you?” It is convoluting the market.STRAINS ARE NOT CONSISTENT ENOUGH FOR QUESTIONS LIKE:

“What does Red Bali do to You? And should I take it for -fill in the blank-…”


Aside from some loose guesses. THERE IS NOTHING DIFFERENTIATING YOUR KRATOM. Science hasn’t stepped in and it doesn’t look like it can.


All the names are made up so we changed the method. We label “strains” ina way that makes it even easier for you. I know our way isn’t perfect and some people are just looking for a universal solution. But, that will never happen. Some folks also would choose to be lied to. 2020 was a year that we saw that in full force. 


Each supplier from Indonesia has a different way of naming strains. 


If there is a harvest in Putussibau by farmer A and he took leaves off 20 trees. Then farmer A will have different leaves red & green/white. Green and white are essentially the same leaf. It’s just a different shade as the leaf progresses through its growth. 


At first, after harvests they separate them by visible differences and sometimes chew the leaf to test it then separate it. But the main separation happens by the “bone” which is the vein. Reddish bones are made into one pile and green & white into another. Those veins do dictate an effect but to what extent is different with everyone. It is NEVER a sure thing.


Drying can also dictate the color on the label. Not the stem color.


After the harvested piles are sorted then the drying occurs. This is where coloring magic can happen. The powder can gets its final color from the way it’s dried. There are many methods of drying/coloring. There are no rules.


Every leaf that is dried in a well ventilated dark room, should be green. Just think of the color of the leaves surface area. It’s mostly green.


Red hued powder is a result of a drying technique, the green powder is a quicker dry and best happens in a big low temp oven. While the white is longer dry open to air in a darker room, so leaf loses its color without turning red. Red color is often achieved by sunlight but farmers also use fermentation to get color.


In the world of kratom, kratom is a mischievous one. Never can you expect the same results. Kratom powder is just like baking. Even the smallest changes can change the result. It’s a roll of the dice even with effects sometimes green leaves give slow feeling effects and sometimes red veins give faster feeling effects. These small differences tend to influence the names arbitrarily (ie: Bali, Maeng Da, Thai etc.). There is no scientific reason that strain names are applied.


Truth is…… most vendors are lying to you. Knowingly or unknowingly… sorry about that.

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