The History Of Kratom For Religious Purposes
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I've written many articles on the pharmacology of kratom, the effects induced by different varities of it and more, yet the entheogenic or religious use of it has hardly been mentioned. Here goes my first ever article on the religious history of one of our favorite plants, Mitragyna speciosa. Many people are unaware that it has in fact been used during socioreligious ceremonies for quite some time. It's ethnobotanical use is as integrated in regions of the southeast Asia much like Kava is in Vanuatu and surrounding islands. It has been used in entheogenic mixtures made by many cultures around the world for some time. It's often been combined with Cannabis and other powerful psychoactive plants for such purposes.
It's been speculated that the genus Mitragyna was given to the tree by the Dutch botanist Korthals. This is because the leaves and stigmas of the flowers look much like a bishop's mitre. A mitre is like a headband or "turban" worn by bishops and certain abbots in the traditional Christian religion. For this reason, I speculate the symbology of its name having to do with the historic spiritual applications associated with its use. In Thailand it's used as an alternative to hemp and opium. Opium has been referred to throughout history at times as the "hand of god", indicating religious usefulness.
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It's no suprise a tree such as Kratom, which can make someone feel so content, grateful, and estacitc about the surreal and awesome creation that is our reality would be associated with religious or spiritual experiences. Likely because of this, it has been used in certain Bhuddist traditions as well. In fact, if we look at plants throughout history which have been used in religious or ceremonial use, they are almost always psychoactive or even more so psychedelic. Perhaps the fact that we as biological beings can utilize these miraculous plant phytochemicals to stimulate our spiritual selves is no coincidence. Perhaps they are a sort of spirit food that we require in order to truly function as happy and sane individuals.
As far as Kratom use in Bhuddism goes, it was prized by monks to assist them in building positive energy or a sense of intense elation in order to transcendant happiness with the Gods Some forms of Bhuddism don't believe in the use of drugs, yet beliefs vary among different cultural variations. It's often argued though that Kratom is not a drug. Mitragyna speciosa is not the only psychoactive plant that they adored and used though. They also use the narcotic lilly of the nile, also know as Blue Lotus. So we can see there is certainly a variation in beliefs within their way of life.
Every single chemical in the plant plays a role in these religious experiences described throughout history. Polyphenols for example, have been shown in vitro to show major potential in anti-aging and neuroprotective activities. Many people believe that DMT is the spirit moldule, and sense it exist in our minds, the premise is that our mind is the portal to our spiritual self. Because of this, the fact that Kratom may play a role in actually protecting the human mind seems further evidence that it actually has some sort of divine purpose. Maybe one day the mainstream perception of such substances in the west will change. Maybe we will begin to value plants and see them more than just medicine or drugs, and more as a form of internal church that we can visit any time we wish and use to grow and evolve.
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References & Other Resources:
 Mitre definition https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitre
 Rätsch, C. (2001). Marijuana medicine: A world tour of the healing and visionary powers of cannabis. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
 NA. Japan-guide: Buddhism. N.P, N.D. Web. November 23, 2011.
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