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What is Kanna (Sceletium Tortuosum Extract)? AKA Channa/Kougoed

Kanna is a plant extract and a new supplement that is known for its effects on mood and stress. It can be taken in a number of ways – smoked, chewed, or swallowed. Kanna has a long history of use by indigenous people in Southern Africa, where it grows in the wild. It has only recently been discovered by Western science and is of great interest to researchers exploring natural mood boosters.

This is one of the only fully standardized Kanna extracts available today, with 5+% total alkaloids and >3% Mesembrine. The recommended serving size is 25 – 75 mg, taken once to twice per day. Limited studies in humans mean that it is important to stick to the suggested serving size. Make sure you read and fully understand potential side effects and interactions before using this supplement.

What is Kanna?


Kanna – also known as Sceletium or Kougeod – is a strong mood-booster plant extract derived from a succulent plant that grows in Southern Africa. It was used for thousands of years by the Khoisan people as a euphoria-inducing remedy during cultural and religious ceremonies.[1] The Khoisan also used Kanna as an adaptogenic remedy – to protect the body against environmental stress. Adaptogens help the body’s natural coping mechanisms deal better with stresses like hot weather, exercise, and other forms of stress.

Kanna from LiftModeIn the past, the Khoisan people (known as Bushmen) used to leave the Kanna plants in the sun to ferment, which helped to naturally release the active alkaloids – Mesembrine, Mesembrane, and Mesembrenone.

Today, high-tech extraction techniques allow us to isolate these compounds without fermentation. There is a wide variety of strength and potency of different Kanna extracts around the world. The alkaloids are very potent. A 5+% total alkaloid extract, with 3% pure Mesembrine, produces noticeable to strong effects at the suggested serving size.


Although Kanna has been used by Khoi people in Southern Africa for millennia, and also by many people South Africa today, it has only very recently gained global recognition. This is due to past difficulties with extraction and large-scale production. Around the world today, people are talking about the benefits of Kanna extract – for stress reduction, mood, relaxation, and cognition. There is also a definite increase in the number of studies being conducted on this plant species – a number of new studies are published in the US each year. This helps us to better understand the effects and benefits of this remarkable plant species!


Benefits and Effects of Kanna

The human benefits of Kanna extract are a result of the actions of special compounds called alkaloids that are unique to the Kanna plant. Depending on where and how the plant was grown, the content of alkaloids can vary greatly – from 0.02 to 2.3% of the total plant weight! This is partly why it was so difficult to produce a standardized extract in the past. The three main active components in Kanna extract are:

  • Mesembrine
  • Mesemebrenone
  • Mesembrane

These alkaloids are responsible for the noticeable benefits of this supplement, in combination with lesser alkaloids like Mesembrenol and Mesembranol. Our Kanna extract has a high concentration (at least 3%) of Mesmebrine, which is thought to be most responsible for mood and cognitive benefits. 

So, when people ask "What is Kanna?" they're often wondering about what the active compounds are and how Kanna produces such great benefits!


1.    Powerful Mood Booster

Without a doubt, the most potent effect of the Kanna extract is its ability to improve your mood. The Mesembrine alkaloid has modulating effects on serotonin receptors, allowing for levels of serotonin to temporarily increase in the brain.[2] Compounds that improve serotonin levels are known for their ability to boost mood and produce feelings of happiness, elation, and euphoria. This is undoubtedly why the Khoisan people have used Kanna for so many generations!


Experience report from Erowid.org:

A very enjoyable experience although the euphoria seems to reach a plateau and taking more does not increase it, even the [dreams] were good as they were particularly vivid. Once the euphoria ceases it does not seem to be reachable again until the effects have completely worn off. An excellent way to finish off a bad week, a mild and friendly [supplement], just it’s not something to take if I want to get off my face. My wife didn't notice anything strange about me during this period and she was not aware I had taken anything. It made me feel like nothing mattered.”[3]


Experience report from Erowid.org:

I have been experimenting extensively with this plant since I had the good fortune of befriending a local grower of exotic plants and entheogens. My Kanna is freshly picked, then shred to a fine(not powdered) consistency, allowed to ferment slowly in a plastic container, and then air dried in a cool environment. It is very effective, either alone or in combination with cannabis. It provides a dreamy, content state. There is an initial feeling of alertness, brightening of colours, and an internal warmth. This is followed by a giddy, light-headed, slightly drowsy state. I just can't put your finger on it. An interesting substance![4]

Kanna for mood



2.    Stress-Reducing Properties

Secondary to its mood-booster effects, Kanna also helps to reduce feelings of stress. Again, this has been known for millennia by the indigenous people of Southwestern Africa but has only recently been confirmed by Western scientific methods. Aside from its effects on serotonin, researchers have found that Sceletium also temporarily inhibits the PDE4 enzyme – a vital enzyme in inflammation. By modulating the activity of the PDE4 enzyme, Kougoed extract helps to reduce feelings of stress and to lightly reduce inflammation.[5]


STUDY: In one study from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, 16 participants aged 18-21 years were given 25 mg of a 2:1 strength extract of Kanna. Two tasks were then performed: a perceptual-load task (to assess the levels of stress) and an emotion-matching task (a measure of changes in connectivity between the amygdala and cortical/subcortical brain structures). MRI scans were also recorded. The results showed a decrease in stress levels and a reduction in the amygdala-hypothalamus coupling. [6]

What this study indicates: Kanna extract may be effective at reducing stress levels and allowing people to ignore stimuli that are not related to the task at hand (improve focus).


3.    Helps with Cognitive Function and Focus

The cognitive enhancing benefits of Kanna have only recently been discovered, where people noticed that their ability to maintain focus and concentration improved after using the plant extract. Today, some scientists think that they’ve worked out the underlying mechanism behind this. By blocking the activity of the PDE4 enzyme, Kanna allows an increase in cAMP – a biochemical molecule used for energy in cells. The noticeable effects of this include benefits for memory, wakefulness, and mental focus. As an example, Caffeine is also a PDE4 inhibitor – like Kanna!

STUDY: In a similar study to the one above, 21 Canadian participants aged around 55 years, received either 25 mg of 2:1 Kanna extract, or placebo, for 3 weeks. The results showed a significant improvement in executive function and cognitive flexibility for the group who received the active supplement. Results also indicated a marked improvement in mood scores for the active group. These effects are thought to be related to PDE4 inhibition.[7]

What this study indicates: Apart from its mood-boosting and stress-reducing benefits, Kanna extract may also be effective at improving cognitive performance, and particularly executive function.
Kanna for cognition

Recommended Dosage for Sceletium Extract

The recommended serving size for Kanna is typically 25 – 75 mg, taken once to twice daily. It is important to remember that most studies have used a 2:1 ratio extract (a standardized 2X extract of raw plant material). LiftMode’s Kanna extract is much more potent than this, with 5+% total alkaloid content. Always start by using a lower serving size to assess your response.

Kanna extract can be taken in a number of ways. We recommend taking it under the tongue (sublingual) for optimum effects. The powder can also be washed down with water or juice but is not very soluble. Alternatively, vegetarian (pullulan) capsules can be used should you prefer to encapsulate this product - making it easier to store and handle.


Side Effects and Warnings

When taken at the recommended serving size, Kanna extract is considered safe and is generally without side effects. At larger servings, some adverse effects may be noticeable, like headaches, sweating, nausea, dizziness, and an upset stomach.

One long-term study was carried out on a 2:1 strength Kanna extract, over 3 consecutive months of use at either 8 mg or 25 mg per serving. Kanna was found to be well tolerated. Side effects were more common in the placebo group than the group receiving the active compound.[8] These results were reported again in another study – where the placebo group experienced more negative side effects like headaches, appetite loss, and mild skin irritation.

To reduce the likelihood of experiencing negative effects, do not exceed the recommended serving size. Kanna has not been sufficiently studied in pregnant or nursing women. If you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking any medication, speak to your doctor before using this supplement as there may be a risk of negative interactions.
Kanna for relaxation

Summary: So What is Kanna? 

Overall, Kanna is a powerful new plant extract with impressive mood-lifting and stress-reducing effects. It may also improve cognitive function and assist with sleep. LiftMode’s Kanna extract contains 5+% total alkaloid content and 3% Mesmebrine. This is a very potent extract. Benefits include:

  • Powerful increase in mood
  • Reduction in feelings of stress
  • Enhancement of cognitive function
  • Helps with sleep

Now, if anybody asks you - what is Kanna? - you'll have a great way to explain it to them!

The recommended serving size is 25 – 75 mg, taken once to twice per day. Do not exceed the serving suggestion. Please read the medical disclaimer below.


Medical Disclaimer

Not intended to treat, diagnose, or cure any disease or ailment. Please read and fully understand potential adverse effects before using this product. These statements have not been reviewed by the FDA and are not written by a medical professional. Please consult your doctor before using any supplements, especially if you have any medical conditions.




B.Sc. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Researched & written by Tristan and verified by the Liftmode.com Research Team



[1] Gericke, N. & Viljoen, A. (2008). Sceletium-A review update. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 119. 653-63.

[2] Harvey, A. L., Young, L. C., Viljoen, A. M., & Gericke, N. P. (2011). Pharmacological actions of the South African medicinal and functional food plant Sceletium tortuosum and its principal alkaloids. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 137(3), 1124–1129.

[3]Finished the Working Week on a High”. (2006). Experience on Erowid.org [online] Available at https://erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=51549

[4]Dreamy Energizing Smoke”. (2007). Experience on Erowid.org [online] Available at https://erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=34628

[5] Bennett, A. C., & Smith, C. (2018). Immunomodulatory effects of  Sceletium tortuosum  (Trimesemine™) elucidated in vitro : Implications for chronic disease. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 214, 134–140.

[6] Terburg, D., Syal, S., Rosenberger, L. A., Heany, S., Phillips, N., Gericke, N., Stein, D. J., … van Honk, J. (2013). Acute effects of Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin), a dual 5-HT reuptake and PDE4 inhibitor, in the human amygdala and its connection to the hypothalamusNeuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology38(13), 2708-16.

[7] Chiu, S., Gericke, N., Farina-Woodbury, M., Badmaev, V., Raheb, H., Terpstra, K., … Goble, L. (2014). Proof-of-Concept Randomized Controlled Study of Cognition Effects of the Proprietary ExtractSceletium tortuosum(Zembrin) Targeting Phosphodiesterase-4 in Cognitively Healthy Subjects: Implications for Alzheimer’s Dementia. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014, 1–9.

[8] Nell, H., Siebert, M., Chellan, P., & Gericke, N. (2013). A Randomized, Double-Blind, Parallel-Group, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Extract Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin) in Healthy Adults. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 19(11), 898–904.