Kanna: What is it?

Kanna Flower

Kanna FlowerAlso known as ‘channa,’ ‘kougoed,’ or scientifically as ‘Sceletium Tortuosum,’ Kanna is a succulent plant found in South Africa. Similar to cannabis, Kanna is known as a mind-altering flower, used to elevate moods when ingested.

Despite its powerful effects and extensive history, Kanna is relatively unknown to most. What is this herb, what does it do, where does it come from? Luckily, Leafbuyer has some answers.

Into the Past

The Kanna plant has made its mark on history, long ago. It’s been suggested that Kanna has been in use since prehistoric times, used by South African hunters, gatherers, and various agriculturalists. The first written account was in 1662, by the Dutch colonial founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck. According to entheology.com, Riebeeck described the growth and trade of the Kanna flower, and its intoxicating effects when fermented and chewed.

Kanna was consumed in various forms, long before Riebeeck crossed paths with the flower. One account describes native South African Bushmen mixing Kanna powder with alcohol, then holding the brew in their mouth for about 10 minutes, before swallowing the resulting saliva during traditional ceremonies. In other cases, the Bushmen would gnaw the plant similar to chewing tobacco.

The plant was implemented in several uses, from medicinal to ceremonial. Kanna was implemented in healing rituals, dancing ceremonies, religious observances, and rainmaking ceremonies. In some cases, the leaf was chewed for tooth pain relief, abdominal medicine, and as a sedative for farmers to use on their livestock. It was common practice to incorporate Kanna into all aspects of their lives, from spiritual to every-day.

In some cases, Kanna was used by shepherds to lessen their hunger as they walked long distances in hot, desert areas.

It wasn’t until 1996, however, that a comprehensive study was published on Kanna. Michael Smith conducted his investigation into the psychedelic elements of kanna specifically, “the psychoactive constituents of the Mesembryanthemaceae genus and Sceletium Tortuosum” in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

Uses of Kanna

Traditionally, Kanna was most commonly chewed and the saliva swallowed, which inspired digestive Kanna forms known today. This sublingual method usually takes effect quickly and can last for several hours. It’s used similarly to traditional examples, namely as a mood enhancer.

Now, Kanna is available for purchase in a wealth of varieties. It’s sold as a powder, extracts, gel caps, chewing gum, and as an ingredient in teas. Additionally, you can purchase seeds for personal cultivation, plus it can be smoked or snuffed.

Normally, Kanna is fermented and dried before being smoked or chewed. The powdered version can be snorted, about 50-150 mg is recommended. The snuffed effects happen quickly, within a few minutes, and can last for about an hour. Kanna extract is considered 10-times as strong as the plant alone. In terms of tea, more of the herbal product is needed to reach a similar result and can last for several hours. When smoking Kanna, the recommended dose is between 50-500 mg, and the effects also hit in a timely matter. At some point, Kanna products were mixed with cannabis to produce a more hallucinogenic effect.

Kanna Effects

Kanna has very specific side effects. With an appropriate dosage, the plant creates a euphoric effect before turning into a sedation with higher amounts. Moderate use leads to an enhancement of focus and mood, while the sedation stage leads to both mental and physical relaxation, nearing impairment.

Often, people turn to Kanna for mood enhancement, to elevate feelings while decreasing anxiety, depression, stress, and tension. In some cases, it also alleviates hunger. However, it’s important to point out that Kanna has a range of effects on different people though some feel elation, others feel a social disengagement; for example, it can emotionally stunt a person for a duration of time.

As an antidepressant, Kanna is known for its alkaloids that act as Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SRI). SRI “inhibits the decomposition of naturally available serotonin in the brain and allow the brain to function with lower levels of this neurotransmitter,” which is similar to most antidepressant medications, according to kanna-info.com.

Side Effects

In some cases, it’s been reported that Kanna can have adverse effects. For example, the plant can lower blood pressure and may cause nausea and mild headaches. More commonly, drowsiness takes place with a higher dosage. Other effects include a soft tool, dry mouth, or haziness of the senses.

However, these side effects can be weaned off by ‘priming,’ which consists of taking a small dose at first, then slowly and gradually increasing Kanna use. Usually, users found that they build up a tolerance over time. Overall, there are less negative effects than positive, and no adverse effects have been recorded with extended use.

Though Kanna has been of interest for thousands of years, it’s more relevant as ever. Kanna has roots in spiritual practice, communal celebration, and tradition. Whether it’s used to brighten someone’s mood or alleviate stress, Kanna is a viable option.


Article By: Savannah Nelson