Up the magic tree | Bangkok Post: lifestyle

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Up the magic tree

The krathom plant is both therapeutic and addictive, but should it be classified as a herb or a drug?

  • Published: | Viewed: 6,637 | Comments: 3
  • Newspaper section: Life
  • Writer: Sukhumapornk Laiyok & Kong Rithdee
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At the back of his house by a canal, the old man takes us to see his home-grown krathom tree. Standing more than 2m tall, the plant sprouts green leaves of different sizes, the biggest larger than a person's palm, their shape vaguely resembling those of the bodhi tree. Nearby, goats bleat and cows moo, mixing with the occasional roar of passing long-tailed boats. 

"I've chewed krathom leaves since I was young," says the 63-year-old Muslim man who lives in an eastern suburb of Bangkok. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he adds that every morning before he starts work on his farm, where he raises cows and goats, he takes a krathom leaf _ Mitragyna speciosa, an intoxicating plant _ and chews it fresh.

"I would chew three or four more during the day. They help me stay fresh and be able to endure the heat. They also help sooth your throat when you have coughing fits. The leaves also have healing qualities when used with animals.

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