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Kanna Extract

Kanna Extract is a powerful mood-lifting and stress-reducing supplement derived from the African bush called Sceletium tortusum. [1] It boosts serotonin levels, inhibits the PDE4 enzyme, and may also be beneficial for improving cognitive performance. [2] [3]

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Kanna Reviews




At a Quick Glance


Also Known As

Sceletium Tortuosum


How it Works

Works on serotonin receptors
PDE4 inhibitor

Is Used For

Stress Reduction
Mood Enhancement
To Improve Mental Focus

Medical Disclaimer

This product is 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. Please consult your doctor before using any supplements, especially if you have any medical conditions.





Benefits and Effects on Humans

Based on Available Scientific Research and Anecdotal Evidence



Used For: Efficacy
Mood-Lifting Benefits ★★★★★
Reducing Feelings of Stress ★★★★★
Enhancing Mental Focus ★★★★


How to Use

Recommended Serving Size and Application

Serving Size


The recommended serving size is around 25 - 75 mg, taken once to twice per day. Most research to-date have used servings of around 25 mg. [1] Keep in mind that many of these studies have used a 2:1 extract of Kanna, which is significantly less potent than the supplement we are offering. Do not exceed the recommended serving suggestion. Always use the lowest serving size that provides noticeable benefits.




    1. ‘Toss-and-wash’ method:
      1. Measure the correct serving size of Kanna with a measuring scoop or scale.
      2. Pour this onto a credit card, spoon, or piece of paper.
      3. Toss the powder into the back of your mouth.
      4. Wash it down with a glass of water. 

  1. Kanna Tea:
    1. Measure the correct serving size of Kanna with a measuring scoop or scale.
    2. Pour into a glass of hot water or tea.
    3. Stir until it is fully dissolved and drink.
    4. If necessary, wash the glass out with more water and swallow any residual undissolved powder.


Evidence-Based Research




1. Summary


Kanna extract (Sceletium tortuosum, Mesembryanthemaceae, Channa, Kougoed, Mesembrine) is a succulent plant that grows naturally in the Namaqualand region of South Africa and has been used for millennia by the Khoisan bushmen as a remedy and spiritual plant. [1] [2] 

When it is taken as a dietary supplement, it has noticeable effects on mood and stress-reduction, as well as improvements in cognitive performance and mental focus. [1] [3] This dietary supplement is a first of its kind in terms of the strong concentration of active alkaloids, including Mesembrine and Mesembrenone.[4] [5] It has a 5+% alkaloid content and a concentration of 3+% Mesembrine.

The recommended serving size for this supplement is 25 – 75mg, taken once to twice daily. Side effects are rare and mild, and may include headaches and the loss of appetite. Do not exceed the recommended serving size. Do not use this supplement if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and consult your doctor if you have any underlying medical conditions or are using any medication.

The Sceletium plant itself is a succulent with characteristic skeletal leaf vein patterns and belonging to the Mesembryanthemum genus.[6] [8] It is most often chewed, but is also sometimes used as a tea, taken as a tincture, or occasionally smoked or used as a snuff.[4] The first records regarding the usage of this plant were written by Dutch South African settlers in 1685, who noted that the Bushmen harvested the plant in October and would chew on it all day, apparently becoming slightly inebriated and enjoying its hearty taste.[7] This was also noted in 1773 by the Swedish botanist, Carl Peter Thunberg, who described the following:

The Hottentots come far and near to fetch this shrub with the root, leaves and all, which they beat together, and afterwards twist them up like pig-tail tobacco; after which they let the mass ferment and keep it by them for chewing, especially when they are thirsty. If chewed immediately after fermentation, it intoxicates.”[7]

There are several important active alkaloid compounds that give this plant its effects. The most important of these alkaloids are Mesembrane, Mesembrine and Mesembrenone – all very similar chemicals, but with markedly different effects.[6] The ratio of alkaloids in the plant itself accounts for the varying effects of the different types of Kougoed extracts. Accordingly, developing a potent, standardised extract has been difficult in the past as a result of the large variance in alkaloid content between the plants. Kanna plants have an estimated alkaloid content at between 0.05 to 2.3%.[9]

Traditional use of Sceletium by the Khoisan people required a process of fermentation, in which the plant material was first crushed between two rocks, then placed in a bag made of animal skins and left in the heat and sunlight in order to let it ferment over several days. This method allowed the destruction of oxalic acid – a natural compound that can cause allergies, and this process also facilitated the conversion of alkaloids in the plant material.[10]


Kanna flower

2. Types of Alkaloids


Kanna extract contains several important alkaloids. Alkaloids are nitrogen-based compounds that are most often extracted from plants. Many alkaloids are active in the human body and several are used for medical purposes. For purposes of taxonomy, scientists have given all of the Kanna-derived alkaloids the prefix: “mesembr-”. The most important alkaloids include:


  1. Mesembrine: A powerful serotonin reuptake inhibitor. [11] [12] 
  2. Mesembrenone: Inhibits both serotonin reuptake and the activities of PDE-4 enzymes.[7] [12]
  3. Mesembrenol: Secondary alkaloid with similar effects. [7] [12]
  4. Mesembranol: Secondary alkaloid with similar effects. [7] [12]


3. Human Effects


3.1.Stress Reduction

Kanna is well-known for its powerful stress-reducing benefits. This is thought to be a result of its simultaneous inhibitory effects on serotonin reuptake and on the PDE-4 enzyme. [1] [2] 

In 2013, sixteen healthy volunteers were given 25 mg serving of a patented 2:1 extract of Kanna, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study. Results were observed through MRI and EMT brain scans on different regions in the brain that are associated with stress and the threat response. The results showed that the supplement effectively reduced threat-response activity in the amygdala and could therefore have the potential to be used for reducing stress and tension.[1] 

In addition to the results that were obtained for this study, there have been a number of additional studies involving animal models to elucidate the potential stress-reduction benefits of Kanna. Large servings of this supplement showed significant reductions in stress in rats, although the presence of significant side effects was noted. [12]

A similar study found significant reductions in stress in chicks that were administered a significant serving size of Kanna extract.[13] An additional animal study found stress-reduction and potential analgesic effects at large serving sizes.[14]


3.2.Mood-Lifting Effects

Research suggests that Kanna extracts are effective at disrupting the activity of serotonin transporters in the brain, primarily due to the activity of the Mesembrine alkaloid. [2] This process is believed to be the underlying mechanism behind its mood-lifting properties. More specifically, by reducing the efficacy of the serotonin transporter, Kanna prevents the ‘reuptake’ of some of the brain’s natural serotonin, thereby allowing extra serotonin to accumulate. Serotonin has long been associated with improved mood and feelings of happiness, elation, and even euphoria. [15] 

The above studies all noted positive subjective effects on mood in all of the participants and there is still room for further research into Kanna’s mood-lifting effects. However, anecdotal evidence – both from traditional use, and modern reports – suggests great benefits on mood. In addition, user experiences on tend to suggest noticeable improvements in mood and feelings of well-being that are often accompanied by improved sleep and vivid dreams. [16] According to researchers from the early 20th century, observations of Khoisan people after using Sceletium included: 

[They] chewed and retained [Sceletium] in the mouth for a while, when their spirits would rise, eyes brighten and faces take on a jovial air, and they would commence to dance.” [17]


3.3.Improved Mental Focus

The PDE-4 inhibitory effects of Kanna make it a prime supplement to use for improved mental focus, attention, and cognitive performance. Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors block the effects of the PDE4 enzyme on cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). This class of compounds is known for precognitive benefits and are used for their ability to help support memory, wakefulness, and focus, as well as their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.[18] Caffeine is a good example of a ‘nonselective’ PDE inhibitor that has marked effects on cognitive performance.[19]

In a 2014 study, 21 volunteers received a 25 mg serving of a 2:1 Kanna extract in a 3-week randomized placebo-controlled cross-over study. Researchers set out to examine the neurocognitive effects of Sceletium tortuosum extracts and to assess its safety and tolerability. The results showed a significant improvement in cognitive performance and executive function in the Kanna extract group, with additional positive impacts on sleep and mood. No adverse effects were reported.[3]

Kanna for cognition

4. Safety and Toxicity


4.1.Side Effects

Large servings of Sceletium tortuosum have been tested for their toxicology and safety profiles in humans, and this supplement has been found to be highly safe. Kanna side effects are not often reported in any of the studies conducted to-date. In some cases, people have reported mild effects such as headaches and the loss of appetite.[20]

To limit the risk of experiencing side effects, do not exceed the recommended serving size for this supplement. Do not use this supplement if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are taking any medication, as there may be a risk of interactions. Please speak to your doctor before using Kanna extract supplements if you have any underlying medical conditions.

Special warning for people on antidepressants: Kanna may increase the levels of serotonin in your brain. If you are taking SSRI medication, it may be dangerous to use Kanna extract supplements. Please consult your doctor before using this supplement.


Kanna is a great mood-booster!




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How We Research Our Content

Our content is written using meticulous research methods and claims are backed by links to scientific references, wherever possible. The author and editors of Liftmode's Research Team have strong academic backgrounds in microbiology, physiology, and biochemistry.

Content Updated On: February 14thth, 2019



Content By:

Written By: Tristan Pelser, B.Sc. in Molecular Biology
Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Karen Vieira, PhD in Biomedical Sciences


Scientific Support and References:


[1] Terburg, D., Syal, S., Rosenburger, L. A., Heany, S., Philips, 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 hypothalamus. Neuropsychopharmacology. 38(13):2708-16.

[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. J Ethnopharmacol. 137(3):1124-9.

[3] Chiu, S., Gericke, N., Farina-Woodbury, M., Badmaev, N., Raheb, H... Goble, L. (2014). 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. 2014:682014.

[4] Smith, M. T., Crouch, N. R., Gericke, N., & Hirst, M. (1996). Psychoactive constituents of the genus Sceletium N.E.Br. and other Mesembryanthemaceae: a review. J Ethnopharmacol. 50:119-30.

[5] Patnala, S., & Kanfer, I. (2009). Investigations of the phytochemical content of Sceletium tortuosum following the preparation of “Kougoed” by fermentation of plant material. J Ethnopharmacol. 121:86-91.

[6] Klark, C., Bruyns, P. V., & Hedderson, T. A. J. (2007). A phylogeny and new classification for Mesembryanthemaceae (Aizoaceae). Taxon. 56:737-756.

[7] Scott, G., & Hewett, M. L. (2008). Pioneers in ethnopharmacology: the Dutch East India Company (VOC) at the Cape from 1650 to 1800. J Ethnopharmacol. 115(3):339-60.

[8] Kent, E. (1831). Flora domestica; or, The portable flower-garden. Whittaker, Treacher & Company, London. 1831, p. 239.

[9] Krstenansky, J. L. (2017). Mesembrine alkaloids: Review of their occurrence, chemistry, and pharmacology. J Ethnopharmacol. 2017;195:10-19.

[10] Patnala, S., & Kanfer, I. (2009). Investigations of the phytochemical content of Sceletium tortuosum following the preparation of “Kougoed” by fermentation of plant material. J Ethnopharmacol. 121(1):86-91.

[11] Roscher, J., Posch, T. N., Pütz, M., & Huhn, C. (2012). Forensic analysis of mesembrine alkaloids in Sceletium tortuosum by nonaqueous capillary electrophoresis mass spectrometry. Electrophoresis. 33(11):1567-1570.

[12] Smith, C. (2011). The effects of Sceletium tortuosum in an in vivo model of psychological stress. J Ethnopharmacol. 133(1):31-6.

[13] Carpenter, J. M., Jourdan, M. K., Fountain, E. M., Ali. Z., Abe, N., Khan, I. A., & Sufka, K. J. (2016). The effects of Sceletium tortuosum (L.) N.E. Br. extract fraction in the chick anxiety-depression model. J Ethnopharmacol. 193:329-332.

[14] Loria, M. J., Ali, Z., Abe, N., Sufka, K. J., & Khan, I.A. (2014). Effects of Sceletium tortuosum in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 155(1):731-5.

[15] Jenkins, T. A., Nguyen, J. C. D., Polglaze, K. E., & Bertrand, P. P. (2016). Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis. Nutrients. 8(1):56.

[16] Sceletium tortuosum Reports. (2018). Erowid Experience Vaults. [online] Available at:

[17] (n.d.). History of Kanna, [online] Available at: 

[18] Dyke, H. J., & Montana, J. G. (2002). Update on the therapeutic potential of PDE4 inhibitorsExpert Opin Investig Drugs. 11(1):1-13.

[19] Boswell-Smith, V., Spina, D., & Page, C. P. (2006). Phosphodiesterase inhibitors. British Journal of Pharmacology.147(Suppl 1):S252-S257.

[20] (n.A.) (2018). Sceletium. [online] Available at: