The Ultimate Guide To Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum)


Kanna has gained a lot of popularity as an herbal supplements over the last few years.

This unique herb has a somewhat documented history of use as a cognitive enhancer and anxiety-reliever, but modern science has only just started to validate these claims.

The results so far have been pretty encouraging…

In this article, we’ll tackle questions like:

  • What Is Kanna?
  • Why Do People Use it?
  • What Are The Proven Benefits?
  • What Can You Expect?
  • Is It Safe?

So, if you’re ready to learn everything you need to know about this unique herb, including how it can potentially benefits you, read on…

What Is Kanna?

What Is Kanna?

Kanna, known formally as Sceletium tortuosum, is an herb native to parts of Africa.

It has been used for centuries because it’s known to be psychoactive.

The leaves of the herb have historically been:

  • Chewed
  • Brewed Into A Tea
  • Eaten

Prior to stressful situations.  This indicates that the native people of those regions had knowledge of Kanna’s psychoactive effects.

Although it may not be news that Kanna has psychoactive effects, modern science has only just started to catch up.  Some of the claims made about Kanna have been validated, while others remain untested.

Why Do People Use Kana?

Why Do People Use Kanna Supplements?

Historically, Kanna was used prior to stressful situations to help lessen the mental impact.  People would chew it or brew it into a tea.  These days, it’s more commonly used as a supplement, but the use hasn’t changed.

People still use it to manage anxiety and stress, but the list of alleged benefits has been expanded slightly.  It’s also believed to play a role in managing mood and treating depression.

Now, it’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between what people think a supplement does and what it actually does.  So let’s talk about what Kanna has actually been proven to do, if anything…

What Are The Benefits Of Kana?

Benefits of Kanna

Since Sceletium tortuosum has long been believed to be a psychoactive herb, most of the research has focused on how supplementation can impact things like cognitive function, mood, and anxiety.

Kanna Reduces Anxiety And Stress

Preliminary studies (in mice) demonstrated some anti-anxiety effects assosociated with Kanna, but until recently, it remained untested in humans.

Just because something works in mice doesn’t mean it works in humans.  Mice are simply a starting point, but you can’t really base something like taking a supplement on rodent studies alone.

A recent (2013) study out of Utrecht University in the Netherlands showed, for the first time, that Sceletium tortuosum supplementation reduced state anxiety in perfectly healthy human subjects who were placed in a stressful situation.

State anxiety is the kind of anxiety you get when you’re placed in a stress situation and forced to think at a higher lever than normal all of the sudden.  Typically, state anxiety impairs cognitive function so anything that reduces it can potentially enhance cognitive function in these types of situations.

Kanna appears to do just that!

We definitely need some more studies to draw conclusions, but the preliminary evidence definitely supports the notion that Kanna helps manage stress and  anxiety.

Kanna Improves Mood

Sceletium tortuosum has long been believed to have mood-lifting properties, but only recently have scientists started investigating it’s potential as a natural treatment for depression.

Early studies in mice showed some anti-depressant benefits.  The results were encouraging enough to prompt further studies in humans which had similar results.

In a recent (2014) study, Kanna supplementation was shown to elicit a general improvement in mood in normal, healthy subjects.

Interestingly, in another unrelated study, subjects taking Kanna on a daily basis reported mood improvement and better sleep, even though they weren’t asked.

Kanna definitely has some mood-lifting effects.  This is probably due to it’s interacting with Serotonin receptors.

Kanna Improves Cognitive Function

Only one study has been conducted specifically to determine how a standardized extract of Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin) impacts cognitive function.  While supplementation failed to improve some aspects of cognitive function, it did improve other aspects.

Kanna Cognitive Function Test

So, it would appear as though Kanna can potentially improve the way our brains work.  It’s not miracle brain-booster, but we shouldn’t count it out either.

What we really need are some more studies.  After all, there’s just one.

Further research could help us determine with a bit more certainty what aspects of cognitive function are influenced, and why.

What Kind Of Results Can You Expect From Kanna?

Assuming you’ve found a reliable source, you can expect

  • Subtle Mood Improvement
  • Less Anxiety From Stressful Things
  • Better Concentration And Focus

Of course, everyone’s brain is different so what works well for some people may not work well for others.  As with most herbal supplements, the impact of Kanna is subtle and takes time to become apparent.

It won’t magically change your life the first dose, but with consistent use, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Kanna Dosage

With Sceletium Tortuosum–this also applies to any other herbal supplement–it’s not really about the total amount of the herb. It’s about the amount of alkaloids present in the plant.

The active alkaloids include Mesembrine, Mesembrenone, Mesembrenol, and Mesembranol.

Whether you’re chewing, brewing, or supplementing, you need to make sure that the Kanna you’re taking is standardized for these unique chemicals.  Otherwise, results aren’t a guarantee.

Unfortunately, most supplement companies don’t actually test for these components, so you just kind of have to take their word for it…

Does Kanna Have Any Side Effects?

Kanna is pretty harmless.  Based on the research so far, there’s no reason to suspect that it’s particularly harmful in any way but, because it is psychoactive, there could potentially be some side effects.

Anecdotally, people have reported things like:

  • mild headaches
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • anxiety
  • irritability

These types of side effects are rare, but they’re worth noting.

Based on the research, Sceletium tortuosum appears to be safe, but not much is known about how it might interact with other supplements, medications, or drugs.

If you’r taking anything else, it’s probably a good idea to run it by your doctor.

Since Kanna acts upon Serotonin in the brain, it could potentially interact with any other substance that acts upon Serotonin too and it’s not always easy to predict how multiple substances will behave when combined.

Choosing The Best Kanna Supplement

Although there are many Sceletium tortuosum supplements to choose from, as well as non-supplement forms of the herb, you want to select one that is guaranteed to contain the right alkaloids.

Zembrin is patented extract made by PLT Health Solutions which is standardized for alkaloid content.  It requires daily doses of only 25mg to be effective, according to the latest research.

It’s certainly possible to find an off-brand Kanna supplement that is standardized for alkaloid content, but it’s a lot easier to just go with a branded extract such as Zembrin.

The Bottom Line On Kanna

Although it’s relatively new to the world of supplements, Kanna has been used for hundreds of years for reducing anxiety and encouraging a positive mood.

Science has only just started the process of validating these uses, but so far so good.

It’s safe to say that it can have an impact on mood and certain aspects of cognitive function.  Whether its beneficial for anything else remains to be seen.


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