Kanna (Sceltium tortuosum)
Kanna (Sceletium Tortuosum) is a fairly easy-to-grow groundcover succulent plant with leaves in pairs and small white, yellow, or pink flowers that are thin and threadlike. Herb Stomp receives its pure, organic Kanna directly from a South African farm dedicated to the growth of Kanna and similar products. Kanna is also called Canna, Kauwgoed, or Kougoed, the latter of which literally translates to “chewable thing.” Herb Stomp offers both a coarse Kanna, which resembles tiny wood shavings, as well as Kanna powder, which may be a pale greenish-tan color.
Sceletium Tortuosum has nine alkaloids. The main two are Aptenia and Mesembrine (roughly 1% to 1.5% total). Mesembrine affects serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain — the body’s pleasure centers. Scientists believe mesembrine elevates mood but potentially interacts negatively with prescribed antidepressants (see Warnings below). Kanna is not a hallucinogen. The plant is typically harvested in spring or early summer, as alkaloids are at their highest concentration then.
Kanna has been the subject of limited scientific research. In 2013, researchers from the Netherlands and South Africa published a paper in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology about the effects of Sceletium Tortuosum on the amygdala and its connection to the hypothalamus. The double-blind study examined 16 subjects’ fear and anxiety after taking Zembrin, an extract of Kanna.
The research was successful and, for the first time, conclusively demonstrated that Kanna can effectively calm down the brain’s threat circuitry, lowering anxiety. This confirmed what many have found first-hand: Kanna has potential for use as an anti-anxiety and/or to improve mood
A 1996 paper about Kanna was also published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, titled “Psychoactive constituents of the genus Sceletium N.E.Br. and other Mesembryanthemaceae: a review.” This paper concludes Kanna does not have psychoactive properties but rather acts as a narcotic and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety or anti-panic substance), noting that more research is necessary due to Kanna’s interactions with pharmaceutical antidepressants (see below section).
WARNING! Kanna is believed to act as a Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI). In combination with common psychiatric medications including other SSRIs (such as Prozac) and MAO Inhibitors, it may cause injury if ingested.