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Kanna Extract

  • Potent Mood-Booster
  • Supports Mental Focus and Cognition
  • Anti-Stress Benefits


Kanna extract (Sceletium tortuosum, Channa, Kougoed) is a powerful mood-lifting, energizing, and cognition-supporting plant extract native to the Namaqualand region of South Africa. In the past, it has been difficult to produce standardized extracts due to the variability in plant alkaloid content. This dietary supplement is a first of its kind in terms of the strong concentration of active alkaloids, including Mesembrine and Mesembrenone.


The recommended serving size for mood, stress-reducing, mental focus, and cognitive support is 25 – 75 mg, taken once to twice daily. So far, there are limited human studies but a large base of anecdotal evidence to support claims of this supplement’s beneficial effects. Side effects are mild and may include headaches and loss of appetite. Do not exceed the recommended serving suggestion. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.


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Kanna Reviews


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    • Powerful plant extract of Sceletium tortuosum – a well-known succulent plant endemic to South Africa and used by Bushmen people for thousands of years

    • Benefits include a noticeable improvement in mood, cognition, and mental focus, as well as potent stress-reducing effects

    • Recommended serving size is 25 – 75 mg, taken once to twice per day  

  • Side effects are rare and mild and may include headaches and loss of appetite at larger serving sizes 




Kanna extract (Sceletium tortuosum, Mesembryanthemaceae, Channa, Kougoed, Mesembrine) is a plant endemic to South Africa, where it has been used for millennia by Bushmen people as a traditional plant remedy and for social and spiritual purposes. The Bushmen (Khoisan people) are one of the oldest cultures of humans and have revered this natural succulent for thousands of years. This plant is also called Sceletium and grows in a large region of South Africa known as Namaqualand.[1]

The first records of this plant were written by Dutch settlers in 1685 who noted that the Bushmen harvested it in October and would chew on it all day, apparently becoming slightly inebriated and enjoying its hearty taste.[2] The plant is usually only consumed after fermentation, which allows the active alkaloids to become more available. This process was 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.”[3]

The Sceletium plant itself is a succulent with characteristic skeletal leaf vein patterns and belonging to the Mesembryanthemum genus.[4] 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. There are several important active alkaloid compounds that give this plant its effects. The most important of these are Mesembrane, Mesembrine and Mesembrenone – all very similar chemicals, but with markedly different effects.[5] The ratio of these alkaloids accounts for the varying effects of different types of Kougoed extracts. Developing a potent, standardised extract has been difficult in the past, as a result of the large variance in alkaloid content between plants – estimated at around 0.05 to 2.3%.[6]

Traditional use of this plant 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 heat and sunlight and allowed to ferment over several days. This method allows the destruction of oxalic acid – a natural compound that can cause allergies, and also allows for the conversion of alkaloids in the plant material.[7]



Kanna Effects & Benefits


1.     Stress-Reduction 


Kanna is well-known for its powerful stress-reducing benefits. This is thought to be related to Sceletium’s joint inhibitory effects on serotonin reuptake and on the PDE4 enzyme. In a 2013 study, 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 of the brain associated with stress and threat response. The results showed that the supplement reduced threat-response activity in the amygdala, and could, therefore, be used as a stress-reducing supplement.[8]

In addition to the results obtained by the above study, there have been a number of studies using animal models to elucidate the potential stress-reduction benefits of this supplement. Large servings showed significant reductions in stress in rats, although the presence of significant side effects was noted.[9] A similar study found significant reductions in stress in chicks administered with a significant serving size of Kanna extract.[10] An additional animal study found stress-reduction and potential analgesic effects at large serving sizes.[11]


2.     Improved Mental Focus and Cognition    


The PDE4 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.[12] Caffeine is a good example of a ‘nonselective’ PDE inhibitor that has marked effects on cognitive performance.[13]

In a 2014 study, 21 volunteers received a 25 mg serving of a 2:1 Kanna extract in a randomized placebo-controlled 3-week cross-over study design. 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 active group, with additional positive impacts on sleep and mood. No adverse effects were reported.[14]


3.     Mood-Booster


Research suggests that Kanna extracts are effective at preventing the activity of serotonin transporters in the brain – primarily due to the activity of the Mesembrine alkaloid.[15] This is thought to be the underlying mechanism behind it’s mood-lifting effects. By reducing the efficacy of the serotonin transporter, Kanna prevents some of the brain’s natural serotonin from ‘reuptake’ – allowing extra serotonin to accumulate. Serotonin has long been associated with improved mood and feelings of happiness, elation, and even euphoria.[16]

The above studies all noted positive subjective effects on mood in all participants. 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. User experiences on Erowid.org tend to suggest noticeable improvements in mood and feelings of well-being, often accompanied by improved sleep and vivid dreams.[17] 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.”[18]


Kanna Recommended Usage


Most studies on Kanna have used a serving size of around 25 mg. The recommended serving size for this supplement is 25-75 mg, taken once to twice daily. This is a potent extract, and is much stronger than traditional 2:1 extracts used. It contains 5+% total alkaloids, with 3+% Mesembrine content. Do not exceed the recommended serving suggestion. Always use the lowest serving size with noticeable effects.


Kanna Side Effects & Warnings


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 of headaches and the loss of appetite.[19]

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.




In summary, this supplement is a very potent Kanna extract, with 5+% alkaloid content and a concentration of 3+% Mesembrine. Sceletium tortuosum 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. When taken as a dietary supplement, it has noticeable effects on mood and stress-reduction, as well as improvements in cognitive performance and mental focus.

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 loss of appetite. Do not exceed the recommended serving size. Do not use this supplement if pregnant or breastfeeding and consult your doctor if you have any underlying medical conditions or are using any medication.



[1]Sceletium tortuosum”, Examine.com, available online from https://examine.com/supplements/sceletium-tortuosum/ [Accessed June 25, 2018]

[2] Scott G, Hewett ML. “Pioneers in ethnopharmacology: the Dutch East India Company (VOC) at the Cape from 1650 to 1800.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Feb 12;115(3):339-60.

[3]Flora domestica; or, The portable flower-garden”. 1831. Miss Elizabeth KENT.  Whittaker, Treacher & Company, London, p 239.  

[4] Klark C, Bruyns PV, Hedderson, TAJ. “A phylogeny and new classification for Mesembryanthemaceae (Aizoaceae)” 2007. Taxon 56, 737–756

[5] Gericke N, Viljoen AM. “Sceletium--a review update.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Oct 28;119(3):653-63

[6] Krstenansky JL. “Mesembrine alkaloids: Review of their occurrence, chemistry, and pharmacology.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2017 Jan 4;195:10-19.

[7] Patnala S, Kanfer I. “Investigations of the phytochemical content of Sceletium tortuosum following the preparation of "Kougoed" by fermentation of plant material.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jan 12;121(1):86-91

[8] Terburg D, Syal S, Rosenberger LA, et al. “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. 2013;38(13):2708-2716.

[9] Smith C. “The effects of Sceletium tortuosum in an in vivo model of psychological stress.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jan 7;133(1):31-6

[10] Carpenter JM, Jourdan MK, Fountain EM, Ali Z, Abe N, Khan IA, Sufka KJ. “The effects of Sceletium tortuosum (L.) N.E. Br. extract fraction in the chick anxiety-depression model.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Dec 4;193:329-332.

[11] Loria MJ, Ali Z, Abe N, Sufka KJ, Khan IA. “Effects of Sceletium tortuosum in rats.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Aug 8;155(1):731-5.

[12] Dyke HJ, Montana JG. “Update on the therapeutic potential of PDE4 inhibitors.”Sceletiumlement25, 2018] line from fromnline fromgnant or breastfeeding. etite. ve alkaoids,n plant alkaoid lying medical condit Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2002 Jan;11(1):1-13.

[13] Boswell-Smith V, Spina D, Page CP. “Phosphodiesterase inhibitors.” British Journal of Pharmacology. 2006;147(Suppl 1):S252-S257.

[14]Chiu S, Gericke N, Farina-Woodbury M, et al. “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.” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2014;2014:682014.

[15] Harvey AL, Young LC, Viljoen AM, Gericke NP. “Pharmacological actions of the South African medicinal and functional food plant Sceletium tortuosum and its principal alkaloids.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Oct 11;137(3):1124-9.

[16] Jenkins TA, Nguyen JCD, Polglaze KE, Bertrand PP. “Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis.” Nutrients. 2016;8(1):56.

[17]Sceletium tortuosum Reports”, Erowid Experience Vaults, available online from https://erowid.org/experiences/subs/exp_Sceletium_tortuosum.shtml [Accessed June 25, 2018]

[18]History of Kanna”, Kanna-info.com, available online from http://kanna-info.com/history-of-kanna [Accessed June 25, 2018]

[19]Sceletium”, WebMD.com, available online from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1259/sceletium [Accessed June 25, 2018]