Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine (7OH) are the major alkaloids mediating the biological actions of the psychoactive plant kratom. To investigate the structure-activity relationships of mitragynine/7OH templates, we diversified the aromatic ring of the indole at the C9, C10, and C12 positions and investigated their G-protein and arrestin signaling mediated by mu opioid receptors (MOR). Three synthesized lead C9 analogs replacing the 9-OCH3 group with phenyl (4), methyl (5), or 3'-furanyl [6 (SC13)] substituents demonstrated partial agonism with a lower efficacy than DAMGO or morphine in heterologous G-protein assays and synaptic physiology. In assays limiting MOR reserve, the G-protein efficacy of all three was comparable to buprenorphine. 6 (SC13) showed MOR-dependent analgesia with potency similar to morphine without respiratory depression, hyperlocomotion, constipation, or place conditioning in mice. These results suggest the possibility of activating MOR minimally (G-protein Emax ≈ 10%) in cell lines while yet attaining maximal antinociception in vivo with reduced opioid liabilities.