Michael Carr is originally from Philadelphia, PA and now resides in Jacksonville, FL. Michael has been sober for 10 years and has credited kratom with helping him stay off of benzos, painkillers, and other prescription drugs. He formerly sold kratom through a vape shop and is currently growing a Rifat tree in his yard. He plans on cultivating more kratom in the next year.
Kratom Science: Thanks for talking with us, I appreciate it!
Michael Carr: I appreciate what you’re doing, I really do. More people need to be acclimated, educated, informed about this amazing tree. And I think that the way you’re doing it is a huge stepping stone in a slew of different stepping stones that are all going to lead to the same place. With any luck, it’s gonna help a lot more people.
KS: So you’re from Florida?
MC: Well, I’m from Philadelphia but I live in Florida now. I’m in Jacksonville.
KS: What do you do down there?
MC: Right now I work for a trucking company. I do their dispatch for some of the drivers. Along with that I do some photography as well.
KS: When did you first start using kratom and why?
MC: The first time might be a few years back, maybe four, maybe five. I used it for a little bit, then I stopped taking it. About two and a half years ago I started helping a buddy of mine open up his vape shop, local to where I’m living. And I started it from the ground up. I did all his marketing for him, his advertising. I started selling kratom. I started taking it again and I haven’t stopped since.
KS: Why did you start taking it again?
MC: For many reasons. I deal with anxiety, depression. I have fibromyalgia so I deal with pain. I have post traumatic arthritis in my collarbone so I take it for that as well. Mainly, anxiety and pain. There’s a whole slew of other things it helps with. So it’s kind of an all-around perfect plant. I take it for inflammation. I also take it because it simply makes me feel good. It brings me back to life. I’ve dealt with a lot of nonsense in the days behind me. And I guess a lot of that nonsense is stuck in my subconscious mind. I might not be thinking about it all the time, but it’s there. It comes to life in its own dark way. So it even brings me back to life. It turns me back into me again, you know? And I love it for that because, if it weren’t for that, I’d be hiding in my room somewhere scared of the world, not being able to do anything. That’s a person I don’t want to go back to. I used to be on the benzos, I used to be on the painkillers, the anti-depressants. You name it, I was probably on it. I don’t take any of it now.
KS: That’s awesome.
It speaks volumes for this.
KS: What was the event that led to the post-traumatic arthritis?
Oh, I broke my collarbone when I was 16 years old. And I snapped it right in half, so it was a complete break. And because of that it never healed right. So they call it post-traumatic arthritis. I was running down a hill in Philadelphia near my house in a place called Burr Home Park. My buddy fell, I fell on top of him, and my buddy who was about 280 pounds fell on top of me. So I got sandwiched in between two of my guys, and snapped my collarbone right in half.
KS: How does it help with the depression and anxiety specifically? Kratom helps to get me motivated – kind of like coffee but it works better. Is that how you experience it in relation to depression?
MC: Definitely, yeah. Depression comes with a whole shitload of different symptoms. But you’re spot-on with what you said. When you get that first cup of coffee in the morning, you get a little boost of energy, like “Damn I can do this. This is gonna be a good day.” But that only lasts for a little bit. The kratom is like that, but it’s more intense, and it’s longer lived.
KS: You said you’ve been sober for 10 years. Did kratom help you get off drugs?
MC: Well, I guess you could say in a sense that it did. Because I was taking Benzos, I was taking Xanax and Klonopin for anxiety. I was taking Tramadol and Percocet for pain. I was taking antidepressants. But the main thing it got me off of was Benzos and painkillers. I don’t have to take them anymore. And that’s huge. That’s fuckin’ huge right there man.
KS: Did it help you stop drinking alcohol as well?
MC: Well I don’t drink. I haven’t drank in 10 years. But I would say that if I was still drinking, knowing myself in the past, that this probably would help me tremendously being able to stop drinking. Because I know me, I know how I am. So I think right now if I was back into my drinking days, and what I was doing, and how I was feeling, this would take over and allow me to live my life without having to drink to make my own life disappear. You know what I mean? That’s why people drink. You’re addicted, but you’re trying to get away from life. Trying to escape reality.
KS: Yeah. At first it’s a fun thing but after a while it becomes numbing. Would you say you have an addictive personality?
MC: Oh yeah. I do.
KS:There are people who take kratom every day. They might be dependent on it for pain, etc, but I don’t feel it’s addictive in the common use of the term . I drink coffee every day but it’s not something that’s going to get me into trouble.
MC: Absolutely. I’m not gonna go robbing stores because I need money for kratom. You know what I mean? This is not gonna happen.
KS: I really think it should be on the supermarket shelves next to the coffee and tea. Kids probably shouldn’t have it, but kids could drink all the coffee they want and they don’t because it’s such a boring thing – it’s not a party drug. No one makes kratom tea to get high and party.
MC: No, not at all. You make it to get through your day, to feel normal again, to stay off of those things you might not want to be on. And like you said, it’s a coffee on steroids.
KS: You mentioned your mom was a scientist. What kind of science does she do?
MC: She does humane taste, touch, and smell tests on both humans and animals. So it’s all humane. It’s not like they’re testing perfumes. They’re not injecting mice with chemicals. So … Purina Dog Chow. When they first started making some of their different types of dog foods they went to people like my mother who created a specific type of dog food, and then tested it on dogs to see if they would enjoy it.
KS: Does she have opinions on kratom?
MC: Yeah she knows that I take it and believe me she was around in my drinking and drugging days. So she knows me at my very worst. I was not a person that she wanted to be around, mother or not. Nowadays it’s different. When it comes down to it, she’s proud of me. She understands why I take the kratom now, and she agrees with it. And for her to agree with something like that, it speaks volumes.
KS: So you’re growing Rifat Trees?
MC: Yes. Well there’s two forms of kratom – there’s Bumblebee and Rifat. Rifat is the more pain relieving and sedating while the Bumblebee is more energetic, mood enhancing.
KS: Is Rifat the red strain?
MC: Yeah it’s a Thai. It’s a red vein Thai. There’s a guy named Claude Rifat who was a botanist from Switzerland. He’s the one that actually grew basically the first Rifat plant outside of Thailand. And if you look into it, Rifat is very rare and it’s very sought-after because it’s very high in mitragynine, which is one of the main alkaloids. It’s wind resistant. It’s rain resistant. It can go in direct sunlight. It’s easier to grow than any other form of kratom, if you look at the data in comparison to the Bumblebee form. When it comes to the drying, different types of drying can preserve, oxidize, or destroy alkaloids. The Rifat is a very strong, very deep rooted plant so to speak. And it’s very resistant to a lot of things. So I’m growing one right now. It’s about almost a foot tall. It’s beautiful. But we’re about to re-pot it again, and then it’s gonna root pretty deep. So it should be about three or four feet tall in another six months.
KS: Are you growing that indoors or outdoors?
MC: She’s already outside.
KS: Is Florida a good climate for kratom? Do you think there could be acres of kratom trees in Florida? It would be great to have some domestic kratom.
MC: Well the guy that I got this plant from has a tree on the side of his house probably about 25 feet tall now. It’s two years old. He’s got about 13 plants on his property right now. I would say Florida, for this plant, is a great area. Because it’s very resistant to wind and water and temperature and it loves direct sunlight. I’ve watched my tree sprout six new leaves in the last two weeks, and grow upwards of three and a half to four inches almost. It’s amazing.
KS: That’s awesome. I’ve heard that it takes three years for the alkaloids to start working in the leaves, etc.
MC: Well they say it does take a few years for maturity. But I was also told by somebody that as soon as the stem reaches eight millimeters in girth that it is actually at a point where you can begin to pick the leaves and actually use them as a medicine. And eight millimeters is pretty tiny, it’s not big at all. And that’s just the stem, mind you. I can send you photos of this plant and keep you updated as it’s growing, so you can see it progress and grow. It’s pretty amazing to watch. It amazes me every day. It’s always different.
KS: Definitely! That would be great. We’re definitely interested in anybody who’s growing it, especially in the United States.
If you had five minutes to teach somebody how to grow a kratom tree, what would you tell them? Where do you get the seeds even?
MC: That’s a good question. I have not gotten my hands on seeds. The plant that I have was grown by my buddy who’s an herbalist. So he started the tree, and then I got it from him. I had it from growth, about a month old. From what I’ve heard, it’s very difficult to get these trees to seed. That’s why he only has what he has. With that being said, it’s just a very hungry tree. They love water. They just drink tons of it. So I just make sure it’s watered. I keep it outside in the sun. And that’s it. I keep it in regular potting soil, nothing fancy. I let nature do its thing. I don’t intervene. I just let nature take its course, and I watch it grow every day.
KS: So we have this whole kratom movement of people from all political persuasions. I think one of the things we all agree on is that kratom should be regulated so we all know what we’re buying. Do you agree with that?
MC: I sure do, absolutely. I get from reputable companies myself. I know that they’re being tested. I know what’s going into my body. In another year from now, I’ll be cultivating my own in my backyard, and drying my own, and consuming my own.
KS: Do you get the powders currently or do you us the raw leaf that looks chopped up?
MC: I get the powder form myself. I haven’t tried the leaf yet.
KS: I guess when you grow it that’ll probably be the easiest way. Chop up the leaves and throw it in a pot.
MC: Yeah, or just chew it.
KS: Are there any strains that you prefer over others, like red or white?
MC: I usually go with a green or a white. What I take is kind of a mixture of red, green, and white. That’s my main one that I take right now. It has 50% green, 25% white, and 25% red. And the other one I take is primarily reds, I use that for the pain. I’ll mix those two together and do one teaspoon of each.
KS: Strains seem to be different depending on the vendor. Are the strains really that different or do you think it depends on the company and where the trees were grown..?
MC: Well most of it depends on the drying process because the drying process is what makes it red, green, or white. And it depends on where it comes from… Indonesia, Thailand. And it depends on who you’re getting it from. It’s always gonna be different, that’s why I find the companies that I find. I make sure they’re legit. I know they have good stuff. I stick to it. No need to change it. If it’s not broke don’t fix it.
KS: Is there any political situation going on currently with kratom in Florida?
MC: No. There was one representative trying to get it banned in Florida…
KS: The one in Leaf of Faith? [Rep. Kristin Jacobs]
MC: Yeah. She didn’t give a crap about anything but getting her name out there. She got what she deserved, which was nothing. She got nowhere with it and she will not get anywhere with it.
KS: The other thing I ask everybody is have you had any side effects from taking kratom?
MC: No. Honestly the worst thing that happened to me is a got constipated for a few days. And I just popped a laxative.
KS: Yeah, a lot of people have that. Most of the side effects from kratom seem dietary, the kind you could get from coffee or lots of other foods.
MC: But that’s just life. That’ll happen with a boatload of stuff. So that’s nothing to me. I don’t even consider it a side effect.