Last updated on July 20th, 2021 at 08:03 pm

Also referred to as Sceletium tortuosum, the Kanna plant is a member of the Mesembryanthemaceae family.

This succulent plant is mainly found in South Africa, where it was traditionally used by hunter-gatherer tribes like the San and the Khoikhoi. These tribes believed that the plant had medicinal value. Kanna was usually chewed before stressful activities.

These days, Kanna is advertised as a dietary supplement and has gained popularity thanks to its potential to ease anxiety, stress, and depression.

Most studies on Kanna utilize a product known as Zembrin – which is said to have twice the amount of the active compounds in Kanna. For example, researchers typically use just 25mg of Zembrin in studies, translating to approximately 50 mg of Kanna.

Other Names of Kanna

Kanna goes by several other names, including:

  • Canna
  • Channa
  • Canna Root
  • Racine de Kanna
  • Kaugoed
  • Kauwgoed
  • Mesembryanthemum tortuosum
  • Sceletium tortuosum
  • Sceletium Root
  • Sceletium Powder
  • Poudre de Sceletium
  • Skeletium
  • Racine de Sceletium

The Benefits of Sceletium Tortuosum

Here is a list of the potential benefits of Kanna that are backed by scientific evidence:

  • Relieves Anxiety

Sceletium works on the brain, increasing serotonin levels. The hormone acts as a neurotransmitter in the body and regulates mood. Low serotonin levels are associated with increased stress and anxiety.

The supplement works by inhibiting the action of the PDE4 enzyme. It also blocks the reabsorption of serotonin into the cells once it has been produced.

PDE4 enzyme degrades a compound known as cAMP, which would otherwise boost brain-derived factor. Since Sceletium inhibits the PDE4 activity, it helps to increase the level of cAMP. This, in turn, can improve your mood and relieve anxiety.

The combination of PDE4 inhibitors and serotonin reuptake inhibitors may cause synergistic effects that may improve certain disorders of the nervous system.

  • Controls and Relieves Symptoms of Depression

Almost 10 percent of adults claim to experience frequent symptoms of depression. Supplements are widely used to address the root cause of the physiological problem.

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In rats, Sceletium was observed to have anti-depressive properties.

In humans, Zembrin has shown to cause a significant improvement on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.

It is believed that Kanna has similar physiological effects to Rolipram, a potential antidepressant drug.

Further research needs to be done on Sceletium, particularly in depressed persons, for a more accurate and conclusive determination.

How Does Kanna Work?

Kanna contains potent compounds believed to act on the central nervous system to cause sleepiness or sedation. Nonetheless, there’s little scientific evidence available to show how Sceletium actually works when used by humans.

Studies suggest that it acts on the amygdala part of the central nervous system. It is also considered to be a serotonin transporter inhibitor. Serotonin is synthesized by brain cells. This neurotransmitter regulates a number of body functions, including mood control. It helps to control anxiety and reduce the symptoms of depression. On the contrary, serotonin transporter stops the effects of serotonin. Kanna inhibits the action of serotonin transporters, allowing the chemical to remain active in the body. In doing so, it improves mood, anxiety, and the symptoms of depression.

Mesembrine is the primary alkaloid responsible for Kanna’s natural effect on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). Other alkaloids are Mesombranol and Mesembrenone. Keep in mind that there are different Kanna species, but not all of them contain the alkaloids needed to produce the desired results. This means that you could grow or buy ‘Sceletium,’ with little to no medicinal value. Only Sceletium Tortuosum can provide the above herbal benefits.

How to Take Sceletium Tortuosum.

This herbal extract is available as tinctures and teas meant to be taken orally. Other less common ways of taking Sceletium Tortuosum include snorting the powder, putting it under the tongue, and smoking ground-up leaves.

Most US health stores do not stock this herbal extract. It is, however, available from a few international retailers.

If you’re planning to buy this herb online, you should do your research beforehand to ensure you’re buying from a reliable source for safety reasons.

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Dosage Considerations

There’s no standard dose available for Sceletium. If you want to use the herb, you should ask your physician to suggest a safe and effective dosage for you depending on your age, health condition, and other considerations.

A patented Sceletium tortuosum extract is also sold as Zembrin by some retailers. Even though there’s no standard dose, Zembrin is often utilized in doses of 25mg in clinical trials.

When reading online user reviews, you’ll find that a good number of Zembrin users have experienced positive results. The users have reported that this type of Sceletium Tortuosum improved their mood and enabled them to feel more relaxed.

Potential Side Effects

Generally speaking, there’s little information available to evaluate the potential side effects of Sceletium Tortuosum. A 2013 report in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine noted that the product was tolerated quite well by healthy consumers when used once a day for three months.

However, it can still produce moderate side effects, such as loss of appetite, headaches, depression, and respiratory issues. It can also cause severe drowsiness and sleepiness when combined with sedatives.

Although the plant has been used for many years, further research needs to be done to establish the correct dosage and determine any health risks associated with long-term usage.

Pregnant women and lactating mothers should avoid taking Sceletium Tortuosum since its health risks are largely unknown. Generally, people should not take this product without contacting a physician.

Experts also warn against chewing Canna root soon after fermentation or taking excessive amounts, as doing so may cause intoxication.

The product also has the potential to cause interactions with some medicines and supplements. It may increase the amount of serotonin in the body to dangerous levels when used together with CNS depressants because these drugs are also known to elevate serotonin levels.

Sceletium Tortuosum can also interact with supplements and herbal extracts with sedative properties, including St. John’s wort, kava, and 5-HTP, causing severe drowsiness. Anyone taking such supplements or medicines should consult a physician before using this herb.

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Who Should Avoid Sceletium Tortuosum

Generally speaking, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avoid using Sceletium supplements.

Additionally, anyone with prescribed drugs should consult a doctor before taking Sceletium. Research shows that this product might interact with serotonin transporters, including SSRI medications. There’s also the possibility of dangerous interactions with Ayahuasca, Syrian Rue, Passionflower, and other MAOI plants.

Sedative drugs (CNS depressants) can interact with Sceletium, so be careful with this potentially harmful combination. Some of the sedative it may interact with are Ambien (zolpidem), Donnatal (phenobarbital), Ativan (lorazepam) and Klonopin (Clonazepam).

Sceletium User Reviews

Below are some user testimonials on this extract:

“This supplement works so well for me! I have severe panic disorder and depression, and this helps alleviate some of my symptoms. (This is NOT a treatment plan and doesn’t replace my primary treatment plan) On days where I have hypersensitivity or when I’m feeling melancholy, this is the supplement I go to each time.” By Indigo on Amazon

“I take it through tea made also of honeybush. My pms symptoms have drastically improved. I no longer have crying spells before I get my period”By Liza on Webmd

“I could not agree less with your sideffect statement that it causes depression, quite the opposite is found to be true,and as far as the loss of appetite, that is what it was originally used for.” By Luwiza on Webmd


This succulent plant was traditionally used by South African populations to ease anxiety and relieve symptoms of depression. These days, Sceletium and its varieties are mainly advertised as a dietary herb in capsule form – usually under the trade name Zembrin. In animal studies, solid evidence shows that the application of Zembrin can ease anxiety, stress, and depression. Recent human trials have also supported these benefits.

Therefore, Sceletium is a very promising herb that can improve your mental and overall wellbeing. However, make sure you are purchasing it in its highest quality from reputable vendors. You should also watch the dosages closely to avoid unnecessary adverse reactions.