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About Kanna

Sceletium tortuosum (Kanna) has been used by South African pastoralists and hunter-gatherers as a mood-altering substance since prehistoric times. The earliest written records of the use of the Kanna plant date back to 1662.

Sceletium was an item of barter in the time of Jan van Riebeck, and there is documentation of trade from the Castle in Cape Town, South Africa. The traditionally prepared dried sceletium was often chewed as a quid after fermenting it, but it has also been made into teas and tinctures. Less commonly, it has been reported that Sceletium tortuosum used to be inhaled as a snuff, or smoked with the addition of other herbs.

Kanna elevates mood and decreases anxiety, stress and tension, and it has also been used as an appetite suppressant by shepherds walking long distances in arid areas. In intoxicating doses it can cause euphoria, initially with stimulation and later with sedation. Long-term use in the local context followed by abstinence has not been reported to result in a withdrawal state. The plant is not hallucinogenic, and no severe adverse effects have ever been documented.

Kanna Articles


Kanna Plant

From the Journal of Ethnopharmacology

The definitive word on this intriguing plant »

Medical Potential for Kanna & Mesembrine

An article on the medical potential of Kanna »

Tips & Instructions for Growing Kanna

Helpful tips about growing this beautiful plant »

Empathogenic Effects of Sceletium tortuosum

Famous report on Sceletium tortuosum by Van derGros »

Kanna and Meditation – a Personal Story

An interesting meditation practice incorporating Kanna »

More on Kanna

Kanna, or Sceletium toruosom, is a herbaceous plant native to South Africa. Kanna has been used by the San (South African Bushmen) as a magical plant teacher in ceremonies and for purposes of rain making, divination, healing, and communal trance dancing.

Kanna has the effect of relieving anxiety and stress at lower doses. At higher doses, it is an empathogen and euphoriant. Kanna can also act as an appetite suppressant. It is traditionally dried and chewed, but can also be smoked or made into teas or tinctures.

The alkaloids contained in kanna include mesembrine, which has ancedotally been reported to possibly be a potent selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) with very strong antidepressant effects. Although we make no claims to any medical value of Kanna, and Kanna is certainly not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease, it does appear as though it may at least act in a manner similar to many common antidepressant medications available through pharmaceutical companies at this time.

SSRIs, such as the mesembrine in kanna, block the re-uptake of serotonin into the neuron, meaning that serotonin molecules are present in the synapse for longer and therefore are able to signal the brain to produce even more serotonin, leading to elevated mood and increased mental health in many people.

Recently, a South African pharmaceutical company, HGH Pharmaceuticals, was given the first ever license to study kanna and the alkaloids it contains. They intend to turn kanna into a product to be sold over the counter and internationally. Fortunately, the San people are meant to receive a portion of the profits received from the mass marketing of kanna.

Side effects of kanna are mild, if any. There have been no serious side effects of kanna reported. Kanna can cause drowsiness and sedation, however, and so it should not be consumed before operating heavy machinery or driving an automobile.

The use of kanna during pregnancy is not recommended due to a lack of research on the plant. Also, since kanna acts as a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI), it should not be consumed with any other SSRI medications (such as Lexapro, Prozac, Cymbalta, etc.), nor should it be consumed with MAO Inhibitors. Combining these things could lead to serious effects and personal injury.

Look to IAmShaman Shop or Shaman’s Garden for a wide variety of kanna products. we carry powdered, whole fermented leaf, powdered extract, capsules and liquid extract kanna, meaning you will have no problem finding the best way for you to try this exciting and increasingly popular plant remedy!