Kratom Strains In A Nutshell: How They’re Different & Why It Matters

This can be a hot topic🌡️ — some staunchly oppose the concept. We’ll cover it anyway. Take it or leave it.

By Dan Simms Last Updated: August 22, 2023
Last Updated: August 22, 2023
Artwork by dikigiyat

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned kratom user, finding the right strain for your needs can be challenging — partly because of the sheer number of varieties available.

In this article, we’ll discuss popular kratom strains, the differences between them, their effect profile, and more.

What Is a Kratom “Strain”?

When it comes to kratom and other botanicals, the term “strain” is thrown around often, but many people don’t understand what it means.

The term strain is used to differentiate between two plants that are genetically identical but have a different chemical makeup. It might help to think about how we use the word strain when discussing marijuana: there are countless popular strains — like Northern Lights, Pineapple Express, and OG Kush — that all belong to the same genus and species: Cannabis sativa.

Although these strains have the same genetics, they vary in their levels of THC and other cannabinoids, terpenes or flavors and odors they produce, their physical characteristics, growth patterns, and more.

Kratom strains are similar — they all share the same genetics, but the chemical makeup of each strain depends on growing conditions, soil conditions, location, elevation, harvesting practices, and more.

Two strains can have different levels of the 40+ alkaloids contained in kratom. Specifically, the levels of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine usually have the most significant impact.

Mitragynine is a stimulating alkaloid that provides a surge of energy and increased focus and concentration. It has the qualities to produce feelings of well-being and even euphoria. 7-hydroxymitragynine has been found to have sedative and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. However, further research is needed to fully understand its effects and potential therapeutic uses.

How Are Kratom Strains Named?

Most kratom strains — excluding blends — are named with a color and either a region where it was harvested or some physical characteristic that describes the tree it came from.

You can use both descriptors to understand what kind of effects the kratom will have on you.

Kratom’s Color: What Does It Mean?

There are three primary colors of kratom — white, green, and red. There is also yellow kratom available, though it is just white kratom that has been processed differently after harvesting.

Farmers harvest kratom leaves at different stages of their life cycle, resulting in different colors. Harvesters typically pick white kratom early in the leaf’s life cycle, red kratom when the leaves have fully matured, and green kratom at some point between the white and the red. Many believe that the harvest’s timing affects the levels of available alkaloids.

We’ll break down the differences in expected effects by kratom color below.

What Is White Vein Kratom?

White vein kratom is harvested early on, when levels of mitragynine are said to be highest, and the volume of 7-hydroxymitragynine has yet to develop fully.

As such, white strains are typically stimulating and provide some nootropic effects. Even in larger doses, the lack of 7-hydroxymitragynine in white strains makes them less potent as pain relievers and sedatives.

White strains are more likely to cause anxiety,  mainly because of the stimulation.

What Is Green Vein Kratom?

Green vein kratom is harvested when the leaves are at the peak of its growth cycle. At this point, the levels of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are considered well-balanced.

Because of this, the effects vary heavily based on your dose of kratom. Smaller amounts typically allow the mitragynine to take center stage, causing stimulating and nootropic effects.

Larger doses of green strains make 7-hydroxymitragynine the focus, so they tend to be relaxing and can relieve anxiety and mild pain. If you take substantial amounts or get a particularly potent green strain, you can find relief from moderate to severe pain and even intense sedation.

Given their flexibility and the fact that they tend to be the least overwhelming, green strains are usually the best option for beginners — but this is not to say that experienced users don’t enjoy them.

What Is Red Vein Kratom?

Red vein kratom is harvested late in the leaves’ maturation. The leaf veins get a dark reddish hue, and the levels of 7-hydroxymitragynine typically outweigh the available mitragynine.

7-hydroxymitragynine is the alkaloid in kratom known for its relaxing and pain-relieving effects. As such, it’s no surprise that red vein kratom tends to be best for winding down after a long day, reducing anxiety and feelings of stress, and providing the most potent pain relief of any of the kratom strain colors.

Red vein kratom is said to be the most popular because a significant number of people use kratom for pain and anxiety relief.

What Is Yellow Vein Kratom?

Yellow vein kratom is just white vein kratom that is processed differently after harvesting. There is some debate as to what makes yellow vein kratom different. The most commonly-held belief is that the drying process is done outdoors in the sunlight, which has some effect on the alkaloid levels.

Other theories include the following:

  • Fermenting white kratom
  • Harvesting the leaves even earlier than they would be to make white vein kratom
  • Blending different colors of kratom

In any case, yellow vein kratom is said to be even more stimulating than white vein kratom, and the effects are often more intense. Most users agree that yellow kratom is great for those looking to relieve their anxiety and enhance their ability to focus.

Geographical Regions in Kratom Strain Names

In addition to color, most kratom strains get their names from the region they’re from. Most people believe kratom from different regions has varying alkaloid levels due to the growing conditions, creating a unique experience.

Below, we’ll provide information about some popular regional kratom strains.

Bali Kratom

Bali kratom hails from the Island of Bali in Indonesia. These strains tend to have higher concentrations of 7-hydroxymitragynine than mitragynine, so they’re usually more relaxing and better for pain relief.

Hulu Kratom

Hulu kratom — also called Hulu Kapuas kratom — comes from the Kapuas Hulu Regency in Indonesia, located in Western Kalimantan. Hulu kratom is usually more stimulating and ideal for mood improvement. Even red vein Hulu kratom is significantly more energizing than relaxing, making it a popular option for daytime pain relief.

Indo Kratom

Indo kratom refers to kratom harvested in Indonesia, which means it can encompass many  other strains from more specific regions. The term “Indo kratom” could refer to just about all kratom, so the name doesn’t give much away about the expected effects profile.

Jongkong Kratom

Jongkong kratom hails from the Jongkong region in Indonesia. The trees are located near the Hulu Kapuas river, which is considered sacred by locals. Jongkong kratom is famous for its mood-boosting effects, which are present in all colors.

Kali Kratom

Kali kratom comes from the Kalimantan province in Indonesia. The growing conditions produce an alkaloid profile that provides milder effects than most other varieties. Kali kratom is a standard strain recommendation for beginners, as the experience is rarely overwhelming.

Ketapang Kratom

Ketapang kratom comes from the Ketapang Regency in Indonesia, which is close to the Kalimantan Regency. As such, these two strains come from similar growing conditions and are comparable in intensity and effects profile. This strain has anxiety-reducing effects and can enhance the user’s mood and outlook.

Malay Kratom

Malay kratom comes from Malaysia, where the intense, hot weather, the humidity, and the soil conditions are ideal for kratom trees to flourish. This strain is particularly potent, and the effects vary greatly among the colors. Green Malay is one of the most popular strains, relieving moderate to severe pain while providing energy, making it perfect for daytime use.

Sumatra Kratom

Sumatra kratom comes from the Island of Sumatra. All colors are said to have an above-average potency, but White Sumatra is the most popular for its high levels of mitragynine. This strain is intensely stimulating, although high doses can also provide heavy sedation and serve as a sleep aid.

Sunda Kratom

Sunda kratom is believed to come from the Sunda Islands, located just off the Malaysian peninsula. This kratom is not nearly as widely available as most others, but it’s popular nonetheless because of its long-lasting effects.

Thai Kratom

Thai kratom comes from Thailand, where the Mitragyna speciosa plant has a long and dark history. Although the laws for kratom production and use in Thailand were very tight in the last decade, until the herb became legal again in 2021. The kratom from this region is highly potent and sought after.

Other Descriptors in Kratom Strain Names

Besides their geographical origin, a handful of other descriptors are used to differentiate some strains. We’ll discuss these other naming conventions below.

Bentuangie Kratom

Bentuangie kratom is created by fermenting red vein kratom leaves that have fully matured. The process is famous for boosting  the ratio of 7-hydroxymitragynine to mitragynine, making this strain a good option for managing pain and providing relaxation and sedation. It’s unclear precisely what “Bentuangie” means, but this strain has become a staple in the kratom industry.

Dragon Kratom

There is some mystery surrounding Dragon kratom and how it gets its name. Some believe blending a few different strains of a particular color can make Dragon kratom. Others believe there is a post-harvesting fermentation process involved. In any case, Dragon kratom is said to be more potent and longer-lasting than most other varieties.

Elephant Kratom

Elephant kratom gets its name from the shape and size of the leaves. For whatever reason, leaves from some kratom trees on the Island of Sumatra are oversized and shaped like elephant ears, hence the strain name. The alkaloid content — believed to be influenced by the cooler climate in the area — makes this kratom potent and desirable.

Horn Kratom

Horn kratom is found only in Borneo, and its leaves have unique spiky formations on the edges. Much like Elephant kratom leaves, it’s unclear why some trees in the region have these spikes. Horn kratom has above-average concentrations of alkaloids, and it’s known to be one of the most potent strain options available.

Maeng Da Kratom

Maeng Da kratom was harvested initially in Thailand, but companies now name any strain or mixture of strains with the highest potency. As such, Maeng Da kratom can vary quite a lot from company to company and farmer to farmer, but most users find intense effects from this variety.

How Do You Find the Right Kratom Strain for You?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of strain options available, especially if you’re new to kratom. However, with such wide variations in the different strains’ effects, finding one that suits your needs is crucial.

We recommend choosing the color that best suits your needs. A white vein strain will be best if you’re looking for stimulation or nootropic effects. If you want pain relief or sedation, red vein strains will probably be ideal. Choose a green strain for anxiety relief and mood improvement, or you just want a strain that can provide different effects based on your dose.

Once you decide on the right color, narrow your options by looking at a strain’s reputation, availability, and specific effects profile.

In the sections below, we’ll include common recommendations based on your desired effects.

Best Kratom Strains for Pain Relief

Kratom strains with high levels of 7-hydroxymitragynine are usually best for pain relief, which means red vein strains are your best bet.

Below are some of the most popular strains people use to relieve pain:

  • Red Maeng Da kratom
  • Red Borneo kratom
  • Red Bali kratom
  • Green Malay kratom (for daytime pain relief)
  • Green Maeng Da kratom (for daytime pain relief)

The recommended kratom dosage for pain relief depends on the severity and duration of the pain. For mild to moderate pain, try 2-5 g. More severe pain requires larger amounts, anywhere from 4-12 g. Regardless of the pain level, start with 2-3 g to see if it works, and increase the dose in small increments.

Best Kratom Strains for Anxiety Relief

The alkaloid 7-hydroxymitragynine suppresses the central nervous system and increases the production of the neurotransmitter GABA, which is the same effect created by anti-anxiety medications. Once again, red vein strains are best for this purpose [1].

Below are some specific strain recommendations from kratom users for relieving anxiety:

  • Red Thai kratom
  • Green Malay kratom
  • White Maeng Da kratom (ideal for promoting focus and concentration as well)
  • Red Maeng Da
  • Red Malay kratom

The most common dose for anxiety disorders is around 3- 4 g of raw kratom powder.

Best Kratom Strains for Stimulation

As mentioned above, white vein kratom is typically best for stimulation because of the high levels of mitragynine. This alkaloid causes an increase in adrenaline, which promotes focus and attention and makes the user feel heavily energized [2].

Below are some of the most commonly recommended kratom strains for energy:

  • White Maeng Da kratom
  • White Borneo kratom
  • White Elephant kratom
  • Green Malay kratom

To get a stimulating effect, most people find that taking a low dose of kratom (2- 4 g) will do the trick.

Best Kratom Strains for Nootropic Effects

Much like taking kratom for stimulation, nootropic benefits are linked to high concentrations of mitragynine.

Below are some of the kratom strains most commonly used to increase performance and boost cognitive function:

  • White Maeng Da kratom
  • White Elephant kratom
  • White Borneo kratom
  • White Bali kratom
  • Green Malay kratom

The recommended kratom dosage for nootropic effects ranges from 2–4 g.

Best Kratom Strains for Mood Improvement & Euphoria

The alkaloids in kratom work to relieve pain by binding to the opiate receptors present in spinal nerves. Opiate receptors can stop the pain signals passing from nerve cells once a compound like endorphins binds to them.

Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are the two alkaloids that bind to the opioid receptors and block the transmission of pain sensation to the brain, creating a relaxing and euphoric effect [3, 4].

All strains can provide mood improvement, but here are some of the most commonly recommended strains for improving mood, motivation, and outlook:

  • White Maeng Da kratom
  • Green Maeng Da kratom
  • Red Maeng Da kratom
  • Green Malay kratom
  • Red Bali kratom

When taking kratom to improve mood, the recommended dosage can range between 1-4 g or more. If you are struggling with depression or other mood disorders, we recommend seeking medical advice before taking the herb.

Best Kratom Strains for Promoting Sleep

Red vein strains have the highest concentration of 7-hydroxymitragynine in most cases, which is the alkaloid that depresses the central nervous system. As such, red strains are best for promoting sleep.

Below are some of the specific strains recommended for sleep:

  • Red Maeng Da kratom
  • Red Kali kratom
  • Red Indo kratom
  • Red Malay kratom

Taking medium to high doses of kratom (4-8 g) will provide the most sedative effects.

Best Kratom Strains for Reducing Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Kratom is widely known for reducing withdrawal symptoms in individuals addicted to heroin, painkillers, and opiates. Many people have reported that kratom’s effects are similar to those of opiates and have successfully used it to wean themselves off harder drugs while avoiding withdrawal symptoms.

The best strains for this purpose are red vein strains, which contain high levels of 7-hydroxymitragynine, the alkaloid that binds to opioid receptors and mimics the effects of opiates.

Some of the most commonly used strains for reducing withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Red Maeng Da kratom
  • Red Bali kratom
  • Red Borneo kratom
  • Red Thai kratom
  • Red Sumatra kratom

The majority of people who are using kratom to relieve opiate withdrawal symptoms will need to take high doses (5 grams or more).

Wrapping Up: Choosing the Best Kratom Strain for You

There are dozens of different kratom strains from different regions in Southeast Asia, all boasting varying levels of alkaloids and providing unique effects and side effects. Choosing the best strain for your needs should begin with assessing the effects you’re looking for and how intense you want your experience to be.

White vein strains are usually best for stimulation and nootropic effects; green vein strains provide a well-balanced effects profile; and red vein strains are often better for sedation, pain relief, and anxiety relief.


  1. Mun, M., & Wong, A. (2020). Kratom and phenibut: a concise review for psychiatric trainees. American Journal of Psychiatry Residents’ Journal.
  2. Vento, A. E., De Persis, S., De Filippis, S., Schifano, F., Napoletano, F., Corkery, J. M., & Kotzalidis, G. D. (2021). Case report: treatment of kratom use disorder with a classical tricyclic antidepressant. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12, 640218.
  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 sciences, 74(17), 2143-2155.
  4. Suhaimi, F. W., Yusoff, N. H., Hassan, R., Mansor, S. M., Navaratnam, V., Müller, C. P., & Hassan, Z. (2016). Neurobiology of Kratom and its main alkaloid mitragynine. Brain research bulletin, 126, 29-40.