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Kanna - Sceletium tortuosum

Kanna is known as the dried plant material of Sceletium tortuosum, a plant indigenous to South Africa. The material is smoked, chewed or snuffed.


Hunter gatherers, who lived in what is today known as South Africa, used the plant for well over 1000 years. It was mainly used to calm fear and depression of warriors returning from battle; today known as Post Dramatic Stress Disorder. The use of a plant named Channa or Kanna has been documented over 225 years ago, reporting that the Hottentots used it as a vision inducing drug. The root was chewed and caused their animal spirits to awake, made their eyes gleam and their faces display joy and laughter. Even the simpliest circumstances would make them giggle and their brains were full of enjoyable ideas. Overdoses cause loss of consciousness and delirium.

Kanna is also related to the equally named eland antelope, a holy animal widely featured in South African rock art. When the dutch arrived in South Africa, they changed the name to "Kaugoed", meaning "Something good to chew".

The idiom name Kanna is nowadays applied to Mesembryanthemum: M. expansum and M. tortuosum, but the plant itself has never been definitively identified. The alkaloid containing roots, leaves and stems of those species are smoked and chewed in the outback of South Africa and cause a sedative effect, similar to cocaine, leading to laziness. Over two dozens of Mesembryanthemum species are known to contain alkaloids.

In 1662, a trader and explorer named Van Riebeck started to trade with local tribes for it, after he found out about the effects of Kanna on distressed and stressed persons. The Governor of the Dutch Cape Colony, Van der Stel noted in 1685, that natives would travel far to obtain the best samples and pay high prices.

Barely known by Westerners in the past, it is now becoming an alternative treatment. Today, with the problems of depression and anxiety in Western society, the demand for Sceletium tortuosum as a safe and effective natural medicine is reaching new heights.


There are about 1,000 species of Mesembryanthemum found in the dry parts of South Africa, with about two dozen varieties, including the two described here, believed to be members of a separate genus, Sceletium. All of them belong to the family of carpetweed, Aizoaceae and are considered relatives of the pokeweed, pink, and cactus families.


Chemical analyses revealed vastly different alkaloid types and levels, including, but not limited to: 4'-O-demethylmesembrenol, mesembrine and mesembrenone, and tortuosamine.


Kanna has a mood enhancing and fear decreasing effect and alleviates tension and stress. It also has an appetite curbing effect and causes an euphoric state of mind in intoxicating doses, but is not hallucinogenic. There are no documented reports of severe side effects, nor does long term use lead to deprivation apparition when the use is discontinued.

Medical use

People suffering from depression can benefit from Mesembrine, because it enables the brain to work with lower levels of serotonin, allowing natural levels to rebuild.

A number of psychiatrists, psychologists and doctors have achieved excellent results by treating mild to moderate depression and states of anxiety with Sceletium capsules and tablets. Even the lay public can use it to enhance the mood and to alleviate tension and stress.

Kanna has, when chewed in sufficient dosage, an anesthetic effect in the mouth, similar to Kava and is used as a numbing remedy in preparation for tooth extractions. Or, in smaller doses for children with colic. Tea made from Sceletium has a positive effect on alcoholics and can disaccustom them from alcohol.


Dried herb, powdered herb or a tincture.


The dried plant material is traditionally chewed and the juices swallowed, but it is also used to make teas and tinctures, inhaled as a snuff or smoked. The Hottentot and Bushmen tribes of South Africa sometimes add other herbs to it.

Doses: 20 mg are sufficient to produce a significant effect when used as a snuff. 50-150 mg mixed with chewing gum or placed under the tongue provides a more gentle effect. To be taken once or twice a day, after breakfast and/or after lunch, 200 mg can be added to a cup of tea.


Elevates the blood pressure. Nausea and headaches occurring in case of an overdose usually pass quickly. A severe overdose can cause anxiety and palpitations.


Very few people experience side-effects. The reported side-effects include:

Mild headache Slight nausea, no vomiting Soft or loose stool without cramping Temporary increase of anxiety or irritability an hour after initiating treatment, which resolves after an hour Insomnia: can be avoided by lowering the dose or taking the product not later than midday A feeling of sedation: corrected by taking the product as a single 50 mg dose at night NO severe adverse effects have been documented


Kanna in combination with alcohol and/or cannabis will enhance each other's effects.



Kanna - Sceletium tortuosum