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Learn about Kanna

Botanical name: Sceletium tortuosum
Other names: Sceletium, Kougoed

Kanna (aka Kougoed or Sceletium) is a succulent plant from South Africa that has been used for centuries for its mood-enhancing effects. The dried and fermented plant material was traditionally chewed as a ‘quid’, smoked or used as snuff. It can also be brewed as a tea. You may also wish to take a kanna supplement. 

The mood-elevating action of sceletium is caused by a number of alkaloids including mesembrine, mesembrenone and tortuosamine which interact with the brain’s dopamine and serotonin receptors. Mesembrine is a major alkaloid present in Sceletium. Mesembrine has been demonstrated to be a potent serotonin-uptake inhibitor (SRI). SRIs are most often used as antidepressants, as they increase the extracellular concentrations of serotonin (the ‘happy hormone’).

Some other kanna benefits: Smoking or chewing Kanna gives a buzzy euphoric feeling, which gently fades into relaxation. Brewed as a tea it uplifts mood, relaxes stress and anxiety. According to anecdotal reports, it can potentiate the effects of other substances. 

Kanna extract is being used by some psychiatrists, psychologists and doctors with excellent results to treat anxiety and depression. It may also improve cognitive function. 

Preparation: Never heat water up to more than a gentle simmer when making kanna tea, doing so will destroy the active compounds in the kanna plant. Squeeze the juice of a lemon into 1 ½ cups of water. Lemon juice will interact with the active ingredients of kanna and increase their solubility. Add 200 mg of kanna and brew for a few minutes. Then strain and drink.

Reference: Ray Thorpe, Happy High Herbs (2001), p 60., http://www.sceletium.org

Kanna Common Uses

Kanna Actions

Kanna Recipes

Kanna Precautions

Some may occasionally experience mild headaches, slight nausea, soft stools and insomnia. Avoid if taking antidepressants such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors or other psychiatric drugs.

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