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.