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Study Discovers Kanna Is More Than Just An SSRI

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Could kanna’s ability to boost mood hold potential not previously realised? Initial research suggests this could be the case.

There are many herbs out there, all with little known and interesting effects on the human body. One such is kanna, a South African herb that has traditionally been used for centuries by indigenous tribes to help treat fear, anxiety, and depression in warriors returning from combat. There is very little research into herbs like this available, as they tend to go unnoticed by the scientific community. However, for those who like to use herbal remedies, kanna’s potential has not been ignored, and it is now growing in popularity.

This popularity has now grown to the point where it is hard for scientists to ignore. Sure, kanna is not taking the scientific community by storm, but slowly and surely, it is now being investigated for its therapeutic potentials.


Standard thinking is that kanna acts as a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, or SSRI for short. As serotonin is closely linked with such conditions as depression and anxiety, prescription SSRIs are often used to regulate serotonin levels in order to boost mood. The mood-boosting qualities of kanna are well known to those who use it, as well as to those who have conducted initial research into the phenomenon. However, until recently, the specifics were not fully investigated

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While initial findings have theorised that kanna works as an SSRI, research published in the Journal of ethnopharmacology suggests things go a little deeper. While it appears kanna does perform a minor SSRI role, this is secondary to kanna actually acting as a Monoamine Releasing Agent, or MRA for short.

As the name suggests, an MRA increases the release of monoamines within the brain. Monoamines are a group of neurotransmitters that include serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. So not only is kanna preventing the reuptake of serotonin by the brain to boost levels, it could be actively causing the release of more.

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The research in question observed the effects of kanna on both human and mouse brain tissue. After 30 mins of exposure to the active ingredients within kanna, readings were taken. It was found that kanna downregulated serotonin transporters – similar to the way SSRI antidepressants do – and also upregulated monoamine transporters, suggesting a double action.

Researchers concluded, “that the serotonin reuptake inhibition activity ascribed to the Sceletium plant, is a secondary function to the monoamine-releasing activity of high-mesembrine Sceletium extract“.

While kanna is unlikely to become an instant treatment for depression, it does offer us some very interesting insights into the way the brain can be manipulated, and how kanna could hold a key for future treatment methods. One thing is for sure, results are positive and more research is warranted - first investigating these action in more detail, followed by in-depth clinical trials. It all has to start somewhere, and this could be it for kanna. Who knows what secrets kanna holds?

If you want to find out more about kanna, we have a detailed information section covering all you need to know.



Written by: Francisco
Francisco is a 20-year-old writer and photographer. His love for cannabis made him decide to pursue it in a professional realm. With a purpose of reducing the stoner stigma, Francisco writes positive and progressive articles.

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