2024 Undergraduate Research Showcase

A Standardized Method to Quantitate Bioactive Alkaloids in Kratom

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Student Presentation

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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Owen McDougal


Kratom or Mitragyna speciosa, is a plant that has traditionally been used as an ethnopharmacological aid in Southeast Asian cultures to relieve stress, fatigue, and pain. Kratom has gained popularity in the West for its dose-dependent effects, serving as a stimulant in low doses, or as an opioid with sedative effect in high doses. Extensive kratom use has been shown to induce a variety of negative side effects that include nausea, liver damage, and seizures. Kratom has been banned in several countries, however, in the United States kratom products are commercially available, they are not regulated, and quality control evaluation is not required. In the current study, we sought to evaluate the variation in alkaloid content across kratom products. We hypothesized that bioactive alkaloid content in commercially available products may vary significantly due to inadequate quality control. To test this hypothesis, we have developed a standardized method to quantitate five of the most abundant alkaloids in kratom via high-performance liquid chromatography and triple quadrupole mass spectrometry. Expected dosages of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine were found to be inaccurate from the product label, and significant variation of the other six alkaloids were seen between products. The amount of mitragynine in the powder and capsules varied from 4.05 mg/g to 6.80 mg/g across products, most product labels indicate the average dose of mitragynine to be 13.6-15.0mg/g. The use of this analytical method to measure alkaloid content in kratom products can inform consumers of the amount of bioactive components they are consuming so that inadvertent overdose and death may be prevented.

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