4 Sceletium tortuosum (Kanna) Benefits + Safety & Side Effects

For thousands of years, the Khoikhoi and San people of South Africa harvested this herb for its effects on the mind and body. Traditional practitioners claim that it’s a safe painkiller and appetite suppressant, but what does the science say? Read on to find out.

What is Sceletium Tortuosum (Kanna)?

Sceletium tortuosum is a South African succulent plant. Local people traditionally ferment the plant into its medicinal form – called kanna, channa, or kougoed – and chew it to relieve hunger, thirst, and pain. Centuries-old reports of its use describe hunters and farmers washing their aching legs with kanna. Kanna is also a psychoactive herb: it is used to reduce anxiety and stress, but it is neither hallucinogenic nor addictive [1, 2, 3].

Modern scientific research suggests that kanna may, in fact, be a very useful herb. Its active compounds may help with anxiety and depression, improve mood, and kill pain [4].





Kanna’s most important chemical compounds are alkaloids: mesembrine, mesembrenone, mesembrenol, mesembranol, epimesembranol, and tortuosamine. Of these, mesembrine and mesembrenone are thought to be the most active [5, 6].

Potential Benefits (Possibly Effective)

Kanna has produced positive results in multiple studies investigating these benefits, but larger and more robust studies are required to confirm its effectiveness. Furthermore, some of these studies are at significant risk of bias. Talk to your doctor before using kanna.

1) Mood

Mesembrine and complete Sceletium tortuosum extract may work as natural antidepressants. In clinical studies, people who took Sceletium tortuosum (as Zembrin, the most common commercially available extract) reported improved sleep and reduced stress. In rats, a purified extract of Sceletium tortuosum was about half as effective as imipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant drug [7, 8].

A few psychiatric