South African landscape

Kanna vs Kratom

Exploring Nature's Pharmacy: The Fascinating World of Kanna vs Kratom

Kanna and Kratom are natural remedies that greatly affect mood and thinking. These two plants have garnered attention for their unique abilities to enhance mental well-being and alter mental states. This article delves into the rich history and distinctive properties of these plants. It will span beyond their traditional uses to the science behind their interaction with the human body.

Originating from South Africa, Kanna is a succulent plant revered for its ability to enhance mood and reduce anxiety. It contains a variety of active compounds. Mesembrine is the most notable of these compounds due to its unique influence on brain chemistry.

This interaction primarily results in improved cognitive functions and a state of relaxed alertness. Kanna distinguishes itself from many psychoactive substances by not inducing hallucinations or causing dependency. It boasts a long history in social and spiritual contexts.

Kratom is a tropical tree from Southeast Asia, known for its opioid-like effects. It has leaves rich in compounds like mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine that interact with the brain's opioid receptors.

This interaction produces varying effects, from stimulating at low doses to sedative at higher doses. Traditionally, people have used Kratom for its effective pain relief properties. It has also recently emerged in Western countries as a self-treatment option for opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Kanna Uncovered: A Journey into the Heart of a South African

History and Traditional Uses

Kanna, scientifically known as Sceletium tortuosum, is a succulent plant indigenous to South Africa. It has played a significant role in the culture and rituals of indigenous tribes such as the Khoikhoi and San peoples. These tribes used Kanna for its psychoactive properties and its ability to elevate mood and reduce anxiety.

They commonly chewed, smoked, or used Kanna as snuff, integrating it into their spiritual practices and social interactions. The plant also played a role in pre-hunting rituals because of its hunger-suppressing qualities.

Active Compounds and Their Detailed Effects

Kanna boasts a rich composition of alkaloids including mesembrine, mesembrenone, mesembrenol, and tortuosamine. Extensive research has focused on mesembrine for its role as a natural serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI). This mechanism is crucial, as neurons typically reabsorb serotonin, an essential neurotransmitter for mood regulation, after its release.

Mesembrine inhibits this reuptake, allowing more serotonin to remain available and potentially enhancing mood and reducing anxiety. Other alkaloids in Kanna also contribute to its overall effects. Another of these effects is PDE4 inhibition, which could further contribute to mood enhancement and cognitive effects. The exact mechanisms and interactions of these compounds are subjects of ongoing research(1).

Reported Benefits

In modern therapeutic contexts, practitioners utilize Kanna to manage symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. Researchers are currently investigating Kanna's potential to enhance cognitive functions in modern therapeutic settings(3).

Potential Side Effects and Safety Concerns

Kanna is generally well-tolerated, with mild side effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort and headaches. For individuals with existing health conditions or those taking medications, it should be consumed with caution because there is a lack of thorough studies on its long-term effects(2).

Methods of Consumption

Traditionally, individuals engaged in chewing, smoking, or using Kanna as snuff. In contemporary practice, it is often available in various forms such as dried herbs, capsules, tinctures, and teas. Chewing dried Kanna or consuming it as a tea are common methods. This facilitates the absorption of its active compounds.

The method of Kanna consumption can affect the onset and duration of its effects. Capsules and tinctures offer more controlled dosages, making them suitable for therapeutic use. Chewing or drinking it as a tea provides a more immediate experience. 

Kratom scientific molecule

Kratom Chronicles: Unraveling the Mysteries of an Asian Power Plant

History and Traditional Uses

Kratom, scientifically known as Mitragyna speciosa, is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. Particularly prevalent in countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, local populations have traditionally used the leaves of Kratom for their medicinal properties.

Kratom was widely used in these Asian countries to alleviate pain and boost energy and endurance. Workers often chewed the leaves to endure long hours of labor and mitigate fatigue. Its dual stimulant and sedative effects make it a less addictive alternative to opium(4). 

Active Compounds and Their Detailed Effects

The primary active compounds in Kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxy mitragynine, uniquely interact with the brain's opioid receptors. Unlike traditional opioids that bind powerfully to these receptors, mitragynine and 7-hydroxy mitragynine have a more nuanced interaction. At lower doses, they act as stimulants, increasing energy and alertness.

At higher doses, they provide sedative and pain-relieving effects, similar to typical opioids. Their partial activity as an agonist at the mu-opioid receptors accounts for the unique effects of these compounds. Additionally, they may influence other neurotransmitter systems, contributing to Kratom's complex pharmacological effects(5).

Reported Benefits

People use Kratom for its effective pain relief. Experts increasingly consider Kratom an effective tool for managing opioid withdrawal symptoms. However, its usage raises safety concerns and faces varying legal statuses across different regions due to its potential for dependency.

Potential Side Effects and Health Risks

Kratom use can result in side effects like nausea, constipation, and the potential for addiction and liver damage. Its regulatory status remains a subject of debate. This underlines the need for more research to determine its safety profile and therapeutic potential(6).

Methods of Consumption

Traditionally, people either chew Kratom leaves in their raw form, brew them into tea, or grind them into powder. The raw leaves can offer a quick onset of effects while brewing them as a tea is a more gentle method of consumption. Kratom is also available in powdered form for versatile use. People commonly brew it as tea, add it to beverages, or encapsulate it for consumption.

The powdered form allows for more precise dosing but may have a delayed onset of effects compared to chewing the leaves. The desired effect, whether it be energy, pain relief, or managing withdrawal symptoms, often depends on the method of preparation. 

Kratom powder

Kanna vs. Kratom: Choosing the Right Herbal Remedy for Your Needs

When considering Kanna and Kratom for therapeutic purposes, it's important to understand their distinct properties and ideal applications.

Mood Enhancement and Anxiety Reduction:

Kanna: Excellent for those seeking natural mood enhancement without the risk of hallucinations or dependency. Ideal for managing mild to moderate anxiety and stress-related symptoms(1).

Kratom: While it can elevate mood, especially at lower doses, its use is more nuanced. It is hindered by its potential for dependency and complex legal restrictions(4).

Pain Relief and Opioid Withdrawal:

Kanna: Less suitable for pain relief and not recommended for opioid withdrawal management.

Kratom: It may offer benefits for individuals coping with opioid withdrawal symptoms as well as help to manage pain. However, its safety profile necessitates careful consideration and medical consultation.

Cognitive Function:

Kanna: It can potentially improve cognitive functions and enhance mental clarity and focus.

Kratom: Primarily used for its physical effects rather than cognitive enhancement.

Safety and Legal Status:

Kanna: Generally considered safe with mild side effects and legal in most countries. This makes it more accessible for everyday use.

Kratom: Faces legal restrictions in some regions and carries significant health risks, requiring careful and informed use.

Recommendation for Use:

Kanna: For enhancing mood and cognitive function without significant side effects, Kanna may be the preferred choice.

Kratom: For managing pain, particularly chronic pain, and aiding in opioid withdrawal. When considering Kratom, it's important to weigh its legal status and potential for addiction.

Kanna vs Kratom: A Tale of Two Plants with Pioneering Potentials

The comparison of Kanna vs Kratom underscores their distinct profiles of effects, uses, and safety. Primarily, Kanna serves purposes in mental wellness, enhancing mood, and reducing anxiety. More rigorous scientific backing is required alongside these claims.

Kratom, on the other hand, offers pain relief and potential aid in opioid withdrawal but carries significant health risks and regulatory challenges. This comparison highlights the need for further research on both Kanna and Kratom.

The Labyrinth of Kanna and Kratom: Legal and Regulatory Status

The legal and regulatory status of Kanna and Kratom varies significantly across different regions. 

Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum)

  • Legal Status: Kanna is generally legal in most countries, including the United States, Canada, and the European Union. However, its status can vary. It is subject to regulations governing dietary supplements and natural health products in different jurisdictions.
  • Regulatory Concerns: There are limited regulatory concerns or warnings issued by health authorities about Kanna. Its status as a dietary supplement means it is not as stringently regulated as pharmaceutical drugs. Users should exercise caution with Kanna, paying close attention to its purity, dosage, and potential interaction with other medications.

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa)

  • Legal Status in the United States: Kratom is legal at the federal level but banned in several states. These include Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Its legal status can be subject to change, and it's important to stay informed about local regulations.
  • Global Legal Status: Kratom is illegal in various countries, including Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, as well as several European countries. In other regions, its legal status is either regulated or under review.
  • FDA and DEA Stance: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings about the safety of Kratom regarding addiction, abuse, and health risks. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has listed Kratom as a "drug of concern". Its status currently remains unscheduled under the Controlled Substances Act.
  • Regulatory Concerns: Health authorities have raised concerns about Kratom's potential for abuse, addiction, and serious health risks, including liver damage and respiratory depression. There have been instances of contaminated or adulterated Kratom products, leading to additional health risks.

The legal and regulatory landscape for Kanna and Kratom is complex and varies widely. Kanna, while generally legal, operates in a less regulated space as a supplement. Kratom faces more significant legal and regulatory challenges because of concerns about its safety and potential for abuse.

Users of both substances should stay informed about the legal status in their specific region. Be aware of any health advisories or regulatory changes.

Coast line of South Africa

Wrapping Up the Kanna and Kratom Saga

This article has provided a thorough overview of Kanna vs Kratom, featuring traditional uses, effects, and the current understanding of health implications. Kanna is renowned for its mood-enhancing properties, typically accompanied by relatively mild side effects.

Kratom, however, offers pain relief but with significant health risks and legal controversies. Both substances, promising in certain aspects, warrant cautious use and further research to fully understand their benefits and risks.



1. 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.

2. Bennett AC, Van Camp A, López V, Smith C. Sceletium tortuosum may delay chronic disease progression via alkaloid-dependent antioxidant or anti-inflammatory action. J Physiol Biochem. 2018 Nov;74(4):539-547. doi: 10.1007/s13105-018-0620-6. Epub 2018 Mar 9. PMID: 29520661.

3. Smith C. The effects of Sceletium tortuosum in an in vivo model of psychological stress. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jan 7;133(1):31-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.08.058. Epub 2010 Sep 17. PMID: 20816940.

4. Sethi R, Hoang N, Ravishankar DA, McCracken M, Manzardo AM. Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa): Friend or Foe? Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2020 Jan 30;22(1):19nr02507. doi: 10.4088/PCC.19nr02507. PMID: 31999896.

5. Eastlack SC, Cornett EM, Kaye AD. Kratom-Pharmacology, Clinical Implications, and Outlook: A Comprehensive Review. Pain Ther. 2020 Jun;9(1):55-69. doi: 10.1007/s40122-020-00151-x. Epub 2020 Jan 28. PMID: 31994019; PMCID: PMC7203303.

6. Gorelick DA. Kratom: Substance of Abuse or Therapeutic Plant? Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2022 Sep;45(3):415-430. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2022.04.002. Epub 2022 Jul 31. PMID: 36055730.

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