Sceletium tortuosum is a plant commonly found in South Africa and is traditionally used to relieve pain and reduce hunger. Numerous scientific studies have also mentioned that it decreases anxiety, stress, and tension. If you are looking to improve your emotional resilience, lower stress levels, and feel better than ever check out our ebook, SelfHacked Secrets. Download the first chapter absolutely free here.

What is Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum)?

Sceletium tortuosum is a South African succulent plant known as Kanna which is traditionally known as a psychoactive herb. It is not known to be hallucinogenic or habit forming but is taken prior to stressing events such as hunting (traditional use) for its cognitive effects.

Sceletium tortuosum has been reported to elevate mood, reduce anxiety and stress and alleviate pain (R).

Health Benefits of Sceletium tortuosum

1) Mesembrine Has Antidepressant Effects

Mesembrine present in Sceletium tortuosum has antidepressant property in animal studies. Its antidepressant activity has been observed in mice exposed to both chronic and acute stress. It caused a significant change in both immobility and swimming times. Mesembrine an alkaloid elicited its antidepressant effect by inhibiting 5HT reuptake. Piperine is reported to increase the serotonin level in the cerebral cortex and limbic areas and thus produced the antidepressant-like activity. However, further investigations about precise underlying mechanism are still required (R).

2) Mesembrine Has Analgesic Properties

Mesembrine appears to have analgesic properties without abuse liabilities or ataxia. This botanical has shown activity at δ2- and µ- opioid receptors; agonists at these sites show analgesic effects. These findings suggest that mesembrine may be a useful analgesic (R).

3) Sceletium tortuosum May Have Anti-Anxiety and Anti-Stress Effects

Sceletium tortuosum, a member of the family Mesembryanthemaceae, is one of the plants traditionally claimed to have sedative and anti-anxiety properties. In a recent review, the anecdotally reported anti-stress effects of Sceletium tortuosum was ascribed to the alkaloids contained in the plant, which includes mesembrine, mesembrenone, Δ7 mesembrenone, mesembranol, and epi-mesembranol. Sceletium exhibits some promising anti-anxiety effects, much more research of a species-specific nature is required to define the dosage to be used since there seems to be a fine line between therapeutic and detrimental dosage range (R).

4) Sceletium tortuosum May Improve Cognition

One study in 16 otherwise cognitively healthy middle-aged adults (45-65yrs) found supplementation of 25mg of a 2:1 Kanna extract containing 0.4% total alkaloids (mesembrenone, mesembrenol, mesembrine, and mesembranol) was able to improve executive function and cognitively flexibility when compared to control.

Technical Section

  • One main mechanism of Kanna is inhibition of PDE4, which would promote the accumulation of cAMP in the regions where PDE4 is inhibited. As this enzyme and its isoforms are present in numerous brain regions it is thought to contribute to the psychoactive effects of Kanna.
  • The mechanisms of action of the central nervous system (CNS) of a standardized extract of Sceletium tortuosum were recently identified as comprising blockade of the serotonin (5-HT) transporter and selective inhibition of the phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4) enzyme (R).

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