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What Current Research Says About Kanna

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As one of the most ecologically diverse regions in the world, South Africa is home to thousands of distinctive plants. From arid grasslands to subtropical forests, the country’s flora has provided a rich backdrop for generations of human history.

However, few plants have played such an integral role in South Africa’s history like kanna, or Sceletium tortuosum. Human use of kanna dates as far back as the prehistoric era, where its mood-boosting and stress-relieving properties were coveted by early hunter-gatherers.

Despite kanna’s deep roots in the history of the world, the plant remains shrouded in mystery. And yet, while emerging research on kanna is promising, today’s researchers are left with many more questions than answers.

What is Sceletium Tortuosum (Kanna)?

The kanna plant is a succulent that belongs to the Aizoaceae family of flowering plants — a group that contains roughly 1,800 unique species. The first written account of kanna use was recorded in 1662 by Dutch navigator Jan van Riebeeck. The plant is often referred to as “kougoed” or “channa.”

Physically, Sceletium tortuosum is distinguished by its thick, moisture-rich leaves and thin-petaled white-yellow flowers. For centuries, traditional use of this plant has included chewing on the plant’s flowers. Today, most kanna for sale is generally available in one of three product forms:

  • Fermented Kanna: A fermented product with a pleasant flavor and effects profile
  • Kanna Powder: A processed powder made from the plant’s flowers
  • Kanna Extract: A powdered kanna extract with heightened potency

Kanna’s properties are derived from several naturally-occurring compounds found in Sceletium tortuosum flowers. These compounds — called “alkaloids” — are mesembrine, mesembrenone, and tortuosamine. Mesembrine appears to promote improved mood by acting as a serotonin
reuptake inhibitor, while mesembrenone operates similarly, only in a more balanced fashion.


Although kanna has had various traditional uses throughout history, researchers have been fascinated with exploring the plant’s broader applications. In studies, research teams have found that kanna demonstrates potential in several pharmacological and therapeutic areas.

Kanna for Anxiety

In a study conducted in 2011, a team of researchers assessed kanna’s anti-anxiety properties. They administered either a placebo or a Sceletium tortuosum extract to rats and restrained them for a set duration. After observing the rats’ responses to the trial, the researchers concluded that their data demonstrated “a limited positive effect of Sceletium on restraint-induced anxiety.” However, they also noted that “numerous side-effects were evident,” and that more research would be required before an optimal kanna dosage could be identified.

In human trials, a separate team of researchers found similar success. They tested the effectiveness of Zembrin (kanna for sale as a supplement) in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study by surveying the emotional responses of sixteen healthy participants. They found that kanna reduced fearful activity in the brain, suggesting an anti-anxiety effect. In their conclusion, the authors stated that their findings “support the potential anxiolytic actions of Zembrin,” affirming Sceletium tortuosum’s potential as a treatment for anxiety.

Kanna for Pain Relief

In a study conducted in 2014, researchers assessed the pharmacological properties of kanna and one of its alkaloids, mesembrine. They concluded that “Mesembrine appears to have analgesic properties without abuse liabilities,” suggesting that the mesembrine alkaloid could help with pain.

Kanna for Stress

Researchers have also expressed interest in the stress-relieving properties of kanna. In a study conducted in 2016, a team of researchers examined the effects of a Sceletium tortuosum derived dietary supplement called Trimesemine on adrenal function. The authors concluded that the kanna product demonstrated “potentially beneficial effects … in the context of stress and hypertension.”

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Risks & Safety

Despite kanna’s broad range of beneficial applications, the plant’s short-term and long-term impacts on health haven’t been well established. As a result, researchers have emphasized the need for more evidence and stricter quality control before they can comfortably recommend the plant’s use.

Other studies have illuminated the risks associated with purchasing kanna in an unregulated market. In an article written by researchers from South Africa’s Rhodes University, the authors noted the prevalence of unlabeled kanna products for sale. They also sought to explore the differences between Sceletium tortuosum and the seven other identified Sceletium species, which are sometimes mistakenly marketed as “kanna.”

Sure enough, the authors observed that the different Sceletium species contained varying alkaloid profiles, stating that “not all Sceletium species contain the mesembrine-type alkaloids usually associated with Sceletium.” Their findings highlighted the importance of purchasing pure Sceletium tortuosum rather than unmarked and unlabeled products of dubious origin.

Other studies have set out to determine whether or not kanna is safe for human use at all. A 2012 study evaluated the safety of Zembrin — a Sceletium tortuosum supplement. The authors surveyed their test subjects over three months by monitoring their health metrics, including vital signs and blood work. They found “no apparent differences” in the vital signs of the placebo and test groups. While some subjects complained of headaches, abdominal pain, and upper respiratory tract infections, these symptoms were more common among study participants who were receiving the placebo treatment.

Order Premium-Grade Kanna Online

At Kratora, we’ve devoted ourselves to sharing nature’s most remarkable ethnobotanical kratom alternatives with customers from around the world. From highly-potent Sceletium tortuosum extracts to a diverse range of top-quality kratom, our diverse inventory is sure to have something for everyone.

All of our products are guaranteed to be:

  • Organic and all-natural
  • Freshly packaged and securely sealed
  • Ultra-finely ground where applicable
  • Sourced from reliable growers

Shop with us today to receive same-day shipping on orders submitted before 3 PM EST Monday through Friday and 1 PM EST on Saturdays (excluding holidays).

Please note that none of the products sold on our website are intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition.

Want to learn more about kratom quality and value? Start here:
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Colleen is a part owner of Kratora along with her brother David. Kratora was founded in 2013 by David with Colleen joining the team later in 2017. The siblings were born and raised in the Bay Area and spent most of their professional years working in Silicon Valley. Their interest in botanicals began in the early 2000s as they cared for a sick family member and quickly grew into the passion that formed Kratora.

Colleen and the team at Kratora are dedicated to providing the best quality botanicals on the market along with the best customer service. They believe their loyal customers are what makes Kratora so special! Over their many years in business it has always brought them joy to work with their customers and see how botanicals are changing lives for the better.

Kratora’s vision is to help their customers live a better life by consistently providing the highest quality, safest, and purest botanicals on the market. Colleen and her team specialize in regular kratom, kratom extracts, liquid kratom, even kratom gummies — plus a lot of kratom alternative products. Kratora is always looking to expand their product line while remaining true to their high standards.

Colleen believes in transparency between the Kratora team and the expert farmers in South Asia which is why they follow Fair Trade policies. Without these farmers, Kratora would not have any products to sell. As part of Colleen’s commitment in providing the highest quality botanicals, Kratora invests highly into third-party lab testing for all of the products they sell.

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