Kanna Extract Powder Sunset Pic

Kanna Explained: A Beginner's Guide

Introduction to Kanna:

Kanna, scientifically known as Sceletium Tortuosum, is a plant indigenous to South Africa. The San and Khoikhoi tribes use this herb extensively in their cultures. 

Kanna powder, made from grinding the dried plant, has become popular. It has multiple uses, from teas to topicals. This makes it an appealing option for many people. With its introduction to the Western world, the recognition of Kanna's potential mental health benefits has surged.


The Science Behind Kanna:

Kanna's scientific exploration of the impact on the brain offers intriguing insights. One use is its capacity to influence serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter important for emotional health.

It resembles some modern antidepressants, showcasing its potential as a therapeutic agent. Further studies on the Kanna plant have highlighted its potential influence on the amygdala, a significant region in the brain's emotional processing system. Regular interaction with this region could lead to emotional reactions, during stressful scenarios. This has only intensified the scientific community's interest in its therapeutic potential and its profound effects on neural functions(1)(3).


Different Forms and Names of Kanna:

Kanna goes by many names: Channa, Kougoed, and, of course, its scientific name, Sceletium Tortuosum. For those new to Kanna, understanding the difference between heady and heavy Kanna is helpful. Heady Kanna typically offers uplifting, euphoric effects, making it good for daytime use. Heavy Kanna provides a more relaxed, sedative effect, better for evening relaxation.

If you're taking Kanna powder, experts often recommend starting with a small dose, usually between 50 to 150 milligrams. This allows individuals to gauge their reactions and adjust accordingly.

For those who try Kanna extract powder the potency can be significantly higher. It is recommended to take an even more cautious approach. Starting with as little as 10 to 25 milligrams might be wise.

You can enjoy Kanna in several ways. One way is by brewing it as a soothing tea. You can also encapsulate it for easy ingestion, or directly chewing Kanna leaves for a more traditional experience. How you consume it can also influence the strength and speed of the effects. Taking Kanna sublingually (under the tongue) might lead to faster, more pronounced effects compared to ingesting it in capsule form.


Potential Health Benefits and Current Research:

Kanna powder has many health benefits. From easing anxiety and combatting depression to potential pain relief, its many uses are gaining recognition.

  • Easing Anxiety: One of the most talked-about benefits of Kanna is its potential to help anxiety. Studies suggest that its active compounds might play a role in regulating the brain's stress response. This potentially provides a natural way to find calm in an otherwise hectic environment(2)(4).
  • Combatting Depression: Kanna interacts with the brain's serotonin pathways, which are neurotransmitters often associated with mood. This has led researchers to investigate Kanna's potential antidepressant properties. While the results are promising, they also need more research in this area(3)(5).
  • Potential Pain Relief: Historically, indigenous tribes chewed Kanna leaves to alleviate pain. Looking at how Kanna may affect pain signaling and perception in the nervous system(3).
  • Improved Brain Function: Beyond mood regulation, Kanna may have cognitive benefits as well. Alzheimer's Dementia studies have shown an enhancement in cognitive flexibility, memory, and attention in subjects after taking Kanna(1). 
  • Role of the Amygdala: The amygdala is a critical component of the brain's emotional processing system. Research indicates that Kanna might help the activity of the amygdala. Potentially leading to more balanced emotional responses, especially under stressful conditions(1)(3).


Traditional Uses and Historical Context:

The San and Khoikhoi tribes of South Africa held Kanna, or Sceletium tortuosum, in high esteem. They deeply embedded it within their daily life and culture. For these indigenous communities, Kanna wasn't merely a plant. It was a pathway for connection, healing, and understanding.

In social settings, people consumption Kanna to uplift moods, creating a positive atmosphere for interactions and community bonding. However, its importance extended beyond just social. Spiritually, the plant is greatly important. Shamans and spiritual leaders often turned to Kanna to facilitate trances.

They believe it bridges the divide between the tangible and the ethereal. This allows communion with ancestors or spirits. People value Kanna not just for its spiritual and recreational uses, but also for its therapeutic properties. It serves as a remedy for ailments like pain, hunger, and fatigue.

Its calming effects made it a go-to solution for emotional distress, a natural balm for the mind. As European colonizers arrived in South Africa, their curiosity about Kanna grew. The settlers' introduction to the herb marked Kanna's first steps toward global recognition from its local roots.

The ways in which people use Kanna have changed and expanded over time. At its core essence it is a plant with profound impacts. The effects on the human psyche remain unchanged. It holds a deep-rooted place in South African cultural history.


Southern Africa


Modern Uses and Popularity:

In the rapidly evolving world of health and wellness, Kanna has found itself as a sought-after ingredient. Beyond its traditional use, today's health enthusiasts and researchers appreciate Kanna for its restorative properties(2).

This makes it a favored component in pre-workout formulas. Its potential in enhancing cognitive functions has also ushered it into the realm of nootropics. A category of substances aimed at boosting brain performance(1).

An intriguing aspect of Kanna's resurgence in popularity is its frequent comparison to SSRIs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. SSRIs are a class of drugs primarily prescribed to treat depression. They also treat anxiety, panic disorders, and other mood disorders(2)(3).

Their mechanism of action revolves around the serotonin neurotransmitter in the brain. By inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, SSRIs increase the level of this neurotransmitter in the synaptic cleft. This can lead to improved mood and a reduction in feelings of depression(3)(4).


In Closing:

Kanna comes from South Africa, and now the whole world knows about it. This serves as a testament to nature's enduring influence on human well-being. As we navigate the complexities of modern life, seeking solace in time-tested remedies offers not only comfort. It is also a connection to our shared human heritage.

While Kanna presents promising benefits for mental health and cognitive enhancement. It underscores the importance of a harmonious blend between tradition and modern science. As research continues to shed light on its many properties, it remains imperative for users to approach Kanna. Like any other therapeutic agent, with respect, awareness, and an open mind.


1.) What is the best way to take Kanna powder? The best way to take Kanna powder is by mixing it with water to create a drinkable solution. This method offers easy dosage control and allows for a gradual introduction of Kanna's effects to one's system.


2.)How to consume Kanna powder? 
You can consume Kanna powder in several ways:
  • Drinkable Solution: Mix the powder with water or another preferred liquid to create a drink. This method provides easy dosage control and is simple to prepare.
  • Sublingual: Place the powder or extract under the tongue. The rapid absorption can produce faster and more pronounced effects.
  • Capsule: For those who prefer a no-fuss method, encapsulating the powder can provide a convenient and controlled ingestion method.
  • Traditional Chewing: Chewing Kanna leaves directly provides an organic experience rooted in tradition.


3.) How to use Kanna extract powder?
With its concentrated nature, Kanna extract powder offers a potent experience:
  • Begin with a lower dose to assess personal tolerance.
  • Dissolve it in a liquid to make a drink, take it sublingually, or encapsulate it.
  • Always exercise caution, especially given the extract's potency.


4.) What is Kanna powder? The Sceletium Tortuosum plant native to South Africa produces Kanna powder. Kanna, in powder or extract form, affects mood, thinking, and emotional well-being.



1.) Chiu S, Gericke N, Farina-Woodbury M, Badmaev V, Raheb H, Terpstra K, Antongiorgi J, Bureau Y, Cernovsky Z, Hou J, Sanchez V, Williams M, Copen J, Husni M, Goble L. Proof-of-Concept Randomized Controlled Study of Cognition Effects of the Proprietary Extract Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin) Targeting Phosphodiesterase-4 in Cognitively Healthy Subjects: Implications for Alzheimer's Dementia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:682014. doi: 10.1155/2014/682014. Epub 2014 Oct 19. PMID: 25389443; PMCID: PMC4217361.



2.) Harvey AL, Young LC, Viljoen AM, Gericke NP. Pharmacological actions of the South African medicinal and functional food plant Sceletium tortuosum and its principal alkaloids. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Oct 11;137(3):1124-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.07.035. Epub 2011 Jul 20. PMID: 21798331.



3.) Terburg D, Syal S, Rosenberger LA, Heany S, Phillips N, Gericke N, Stein DJ, van Honk J. Acute effects of Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin), a dual 5-HT reuptake and PDE4 inhibitor, in the human amygdala and its connection to the hypothalamus. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013 Dec;38(13):2708-16. doi: 10.1038/npp.2013.183. Epub 2013 Aug 1. PMID: 23903032; PMCID: PMC3828542.



4.) Manganyi MC, Bezuidenhout CC, Regnier T, Ateba CN. A Chewable Cure "Kanna": Biological and Pharmaceutical Properties of Sceletium tortuosum. Molecules. 2021 Apr 28;26(9):2557. doi: 10.3390/molecules26092557. PMID: 33924742; PMCID: PMC8124331.



5.) Luo Y, Shan L, Xu L, Patnala S, Kanfer I, Li J, Yu P, Jun X. A network pharmacology-based approach to explore the therapeutic potential of Sceletium tortuosum in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. PLoS One. 2022 Aug 25;17(8):e0273583. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0273583. PMID: 36006974; PMCID: PMC9409587.



6.) Bonokwane MB, Lekhooa M, Struwig M, Aremu AO. Antidepressant Effects of South African Plants: An Appraisal of Ethnobotanical Surveys, Ethnopharmacological and Phytochemical Studies. Front Pharmacol. 2022 Jun 29;13:895286. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2022.895286. PMID: 35846999; PMCID: PMC9277359.


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