Journal of Natural Medicines

, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 340–344 | Cite as

The botanical origin of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa; Rubiaceae) available as abused drugs in the Japanese markets

  • Takuro Maruyama
  • Maiko Kawamura
  • Ruri Kikura-Hanajiri
  • Hiromitsu Takayama
  • Yukihiro GodaEmail author


Kratom is the leaves of Mitragyna speciosa (Rubiaceae). Recently, kratom has been sold in street shops or on the Internet in Japan for the purpose of abuse due to its opium-like effects. In this study, we investigated the botanical origin of the commercial kratom products using the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequence analysis of rDNA in preparation for future regulation of this product. In addition, a previously reported method to authenticate the plant, utilizing polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) was applied to the same products in order to estimate the method’s accuracy and utility. The ITS sequence analysis of the commercial kratoms revealed that most of them were derived from M. speciosa or closely related plants, while the others were made from the same tribe plant as M. speciosa. The reported PCR-RFLP method could clearly distinguish kratoms from the other psychoactive plants available in the Japanese markets and also from related plants. The authentication method is considered to be useful for the practical regulation of the plant due to its wide range of application, high accuracy and simplicity.


Kratom Mitragyna speciosa rDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) Polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) 



We thank Ms. Latifah BT. HJ. Idris for kindly supplying the kratoms from Malaysia. This research was supported by grants from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan.

Supplementary material

11418_2009_325_MOESM1_ESM.tif (298 kb)
Supplementary material (TIF 298 kb)
11418_2009_325_MOESM2_ESM.tif (945 kb)
Supplementary material (TIF 945 kb)
11418_2009_325_MOESM3_ESM.xls (13 kb)
Supplementary material (XLS 13.0 kb)


  1. 1.
    Takayama H, Aimi N, Sakai S (2000) Chemical studies on the analgesic indole alkaloids from the traditional medicine (Mitragyna speciosa) used for opium substitute. Yakugaku Zasshi 120:959–967PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Takayama H (2004) Chemistry and pharmacology of analgesic indole alkaloids from the rubiaceous plant, Mitragyna speciosa. Chem Pharm Bull 52(8):916–928PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Matsumoto K, Horie S, Ishikawa H, Takayama H, Aimi N, Ponglux D, Watanabe K (2004) Antinociceptive effect of 7-hydroxymitragynine in mice: discovery of an orally active opioid analgesic from the Thai medicinal herb Mitragyna speciosa. Life Sci 74:2143–2155PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Maruyama T, Kawahara N, Fukiharu T, Yokoyama K, Makino Y, Goda Y (2005) DNA and chemical analyses of commercial fly agaric-related products. Shokuhin Eiseigaku Zasshi 46:49–54PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Maruyama T, Kawahara N, Yokoyama K, Makino Y, Fukiharu T, Goda Y (2006) Phylogenetic relationship of psychoactive fungi based on rRNA gene for a large subunit and their identification using the TaqMan assay (II). Forensic Sci Int 163:51–58PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Maruyama T, Kamakura H, Kikura-Hanajiri R, Goda Y (2008) Authentication and ultra performance liquid chromatography (UPLC)/MS analysis of magic mint, Salvia divinorum and its related plants. Yakugaku Zasshi 128:179–183PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Sukrong S, Zhu S, Ruangrungsi N, Phadungcharoen T, Palanuvej C, Komatsu K (2007) Molecular analysis of the genus Mitragyna existing in Thailand based on rDNA ITS sequences and its application to identify a narcotic species: Mitragyna speciosa. Biol Pharm Bull 30:1284–1288PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Kitajima M, Nakayama T, Kogure N, Wongseripipatana S, Takayama H (2007) New heteroyohimbine-type oxindole alkaloid from the leaves of Thai Mitragyna hirsuta. J Nat Med 61:192–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Thompson JD, Higgins DG, Gibson TJ (1994) CLUSTAL W: improving the sensitivity of progressive multiple sequence alignment through sequence weighting, position-specific gap penalties and weight matrix choice. Nucleic Acids Res 22:4673–4680PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Razafimandimbison SG, Bremer B (2002) Phylogeny and classification of Naucleeae s.l. (Rubiaceae) inferred from molecular (ITS, rbcL, and trnT-F) and morphological data. Am J Bot 89:1027–1041CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Sang T, Crawford DJ, Stuessy TF (1995) Documentation of reticulate evolution in peonies (Paeonia) using internal transcribed spacer sequences of nuclear ribosomal DNA: implications for biogeography and concerted evolution. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 92:6813–6817PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Phillipson JD, Hemingway SR, Ridsdale CE (1982) The chemotaxonomic significance of alkaloids in the Naucleeae s.l. (Rubiaceae). J Nat Prod 45:145–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Japanese Society of Pharmacognosy and Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Takuro Maruyama
    • 1
  • Maiko Kawamura
    • 1
  • Ruri Kikura-Hanajiri
    • 1
  • Hiromitsu Takayama
    • 2
  • Yukihiro Goda
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.National Institute of Health Sciences, Division of Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry and NarcoticsTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Graduate School of Pharmaceutical SciencesChiba UniversityChibaJapan

Personalised recommendations