Read the first part: What is Kratom Extract Pt. 1 – To extract or not to extract
In our first article, we covered the basics of kratom extract: What is kratom extract? How are extracts made? What is actually in kratom extract? This article will continue where we left off, and dig a little bit deeper into what is actually in your average kratom extract and how the extract’s make-up relates to some typical kratom extract terminology. We will then talk about one of the most misunderstood, mismarketed, and misinformation-filled areas of the kratom market, kratom extract concentrations (those little X’s you see after many kratom product names). Once we have this additional knowledge under our belt, we will use it to identify some warning signs to look out for when venturing out to buy kratom extracts online.
Recall from our first article, that within each kratom leaf lie 25 different alkaloids. When we make a kratom extract, we collect those alkaloids while removing uninteresting plant material (cellulose, wax, etc). Not all kratom extracts collect all 25 of these alkaloids, however. Even those extracts that collect all 25 alkaloids may not collect them in proportions equal to their natural occurrence in the leaf. For example, 50% of the kratom alkaloids in a kratom leaf is mitragynine . For a variety of reasons, an extract may not be 50% mitragynine. Instead, the extract may consist of significantly more or less than 50% mitragynine, making its alkaloid profile different than that of natural leaf. This will happen in some extractions because certain alkaloids are easier to extract with one solvent (such as alcohol) while others are easier to extract with another solvent (such as water). So, if the person making the extract uses alcohol to perform the extraction, the resulting extract will have a higher concentration of those alkaloids that dissolve easily in alcohol (such as mitragynine) and less of those that are more soluble in water.
For many kratom enthusiasts, kratom extracts that contain all 25 alkaloids in the same proportions as found in the natural kratom leaf are the preferred types of extracts. In the kratom community, extracts with the same kinds and proportions of alkaloids as regular powdered are known as: Full Spectrum Kratom Extracts. As full spectrum kratom extracts match the alkaloid profile of the kratom leaf from which they came, they tend to be most similar to a concentrated version of regular leaf kratom. Non-full spectrum kratom extracts, on the other hand, usually concentrate one or few of the alkaloids present in Kratom while removing or minimizing others. The alkaloids present in larger proportions than usual in these non-full spectrum extracts are usually mitragynine or 7-hydroxymitragynine. Despite the fact that the majority of alkaloids in kratom show up in amounts of less than 1% of the total alkaloid content, many kratom enthusiasts feel the interaction of these secondary alkaloids with the primary alkaloids such as mitragynine make them inseparable from one another. While this may be up for debate, it is quite true that full non-full spectrum extracts tend to differ significantly from powdered or crushed leaf and this lends support to the idea that sum of alkaloids is greater than any single one alone.
Because many prefer ‘Full Spectrum’ extracts and their concentrated nature can often make some extracts difficult to work with, extracts are frequently mixed together with plain leaf Kratom into what is known as a kratom blend. It it thought that kratom blends achieve two goals. First, they make extract easier to work with by spreading a small amount of extract within a larger amount of plain leaf. Secondly, by mixing the extract within a plain leaf, one can ensure that the blends alkaloid profile contains all those found in plain leaf (because it is actually mixed in with the extract). For example, this Indonesian kratom blend ensures the blend contains all the alkaloids in kratom leaf by mixing a kratom extract with Indonesian kratom leaf. This enhanced bali blends a concentrated kratom extract within bali kratom leaf.
While the proportion and type of alkaloids present in a kratom extract is a distinguishing factor among extracts, another important distinction is the extract concentration. Kratom extract concentration is almost always labeled by an ‘X’ value after its name. Most of the misconceptions surrounding kratom extracts are due to this ‘X’-factor and inaccuracies about what it actually means. Some kratom vendors wrongly claim that the ‘X’ value relates to activity. That is, they claim that 1g of 10x kratom extract is 10 times as active as 1 gram of kratom powder. This is incorrect, and this unfortunate mismarketing of kratom extract has led many to decry kratom extracts as ineffective or fraudulent.
Instead of referring to the level of activity, the ‘X’ actually refers to the amount of plant material was used to make the extract. Therefore, a 1oz of 10x extract was created from 10oz of regular plant material. This is a subtle but important distinction. But wait, you may be thinking, if 10 times the amount of plain leaf is used to make the 10x extract doesn’t that mean that there are 10 times the alkaloids in the extract?
If the extraction process was perfect, this might be the case. Unfortunately, any extraction process is far from perfect. It varies greatly based on the solvent and mechanisms used to perform the extraction. Large amounts of alkaloids are unable to be recovered or are lost during the extraction process. Significant amounts of the alkaloids are unable to be extracted and significant amounts of ‘filler’ plant material are collected with the alkaloids. Depending on the extraction method, the profile of the alkaloids collected may be heavily biased towards collecting one alkaloid while leaving another behind. In short, the ‘X’ value can be close to meaningless. For two extracts with different ‘X’ concentration that used the exact same type leaf and used the exact same extraction method, the one thing that could be said with some level of certainty is that the one that used more leaf would have more of some alkaloid. Unfortunately, we would not be able to say which alkaloid that was, or if was even one we were interested in.
I know that this may be a bit disappointing. I know I was when I realized that the one element of kratom marketing which seemed to be straight-forward and easy to understand, that larger numbers are better than smaller numbers, was anything but. This does lead us to some advice we can use when seeking to buy kratom extract. The first rule of kratom extracts is that all extracts are not created equal. With few exceptions, such as a very common 15x extract which is carried by many vendors, it is very good practice not to assume that one vendor’s extract is the same as another, even if they have the same ‘X’ concentration. One vendor could use a good extraction process while another use a less desirable or cheaper process. The final products could be worlds apart despite the fact that they both concentrate the same amount of material.
Along these same lines, don’t necessarily trust the X value for the extract. It is very easy to fudge and it is quite likely that some unethical vendors do so as a higher ‘X’ will command higher price (if 10x is good just imagine 500x!). Could you look at a pile of dark powder and determine if it is 10x or 30x kratom extract? Maybe you could, but I know I couldn’t. Because of the ease of inflating concentration values along with their lack of meaning in the first place, you should also be wary of extracts that claim to have excessively high X concentration values particularly when those values go above 50x and into the 100’s. Another thing to look out for is for vendors that advertise the ‘X’ value of their kratom extract as being x times as potent. As we looked at earlier, the ‘X’ value refers to the amount of material used, not its activity. If a vendor is claiming otherwise, at best they are misinformed, and at worst they are being deceptive. In both those cases, the buyer should beware.
So, if you can’t compare extracts based on their ‘X’ value and you can’t compare extracts across vendors, what can you do? There is one thing you can do. The number one rule when buying a kratom extract from any vendor (or plain leaf kratom for that matter), to only purchase a very small amount at first. Make sure the quality is what you expect before spending significant amounts of money on a new product.