Since ancient times, humans have utilized botanical plants for their molecular compounds. Before the modern age that we live in, our ancestors used folk remedies to assist with different concerns. According to research, that happened with an indigenous plant to South Africa called Kanna. The Kanna plant produced properties that helped the natives to quench their thirst, and for wellness, spiritual, and social purposes. Today, a global resurgence of the plant’s unique alkaloids has garnered a lot of publicity thanks to a thriving herbal industry. The bioactive compounds found in Kanna have significant effects, which led to the commercialization of the plant. 

What is Kanna?

Sceletium tortuosum, more commonly known as Kanna, is a succulent plant that grows in South Africa. As with most succulent plants, the leaves of Kanna are thick and fleshy, allowing the plant to retain and store water as a juicy sap. Inside that material, the plant produces alkaloids that are used in folk medicine in the region.

The stems, leaves, and roots are all used by the locals. But lately, the global popularity of Kanna has increased along with a booming botanical industry, and more people are learning about the fascinating herb.

The benefits of Kanna originate from the mesembrine alkaloids found inside the plant. Several mesembrine-type alkaloids occur in Kanna.

  • 4’-O-demethylmesembrenol
  • Demethylmesembranol
  • Mesembranol
  • Mesembrenine
  • Mesembrenol
  • Mesembrenone
  • Mesembrine
  • Tortuosamine

But the four main alkaloids responsible for its benefits are mesembrine, mesembrenone, mesembranol, and mesembrenol.

Is Kanna Legal?

In the United States, the herbal plant Kanna (its scientific name: Sceletium tortuosum) is an uncontrolled substance. So none of the plant’s alkaloids have been placed on the Controlled Substances Act by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). That means Kanna is legal to cultivate, possess, buy, and sell on the market. 

Right now, there are no known nations that have outlawed the sale or possession of Kanna, but that could always change should an international government decide to implement a ban or schedule the substance. So, to be safe, one should check with each country to ascertain the current legal status of Kanna within those borders.

Is Kanna Safe?

For those who take Kanna, most Kanna consumers find the botanical mixture acts as a safe product with very few side effects, although not enough scientific research exists on the matter. Scientifically, there aren’t enough studies to indicate any dangers of taking Kanna for a prolonged period. 

So, most healthy individuals will find no problem with using Kanna recreationally. However, pregnant women who are nursing should refrain from using the product. The psychoactive compounds in the plant could be harmful to a nursing child, and nobody should place an infant at risk. 

Dangers from Mixing Kanna with Medications or Supplements

Overall, the use of Kanna is relatively safe, as the molecular compounds found in Kanna are not dangerous. However, as with any herbal product, you should consult with a physician first before adding Sceletium tortuosum to your daily regimen, because the molecular structures of certain herbs can affect how prescribed medications work. 

Photographic image depicting a close-up on a ceramic bowl containing fine cut kanna powder, and a 1 gram measuring scoop. Blurred in the background of the image is a 4oz packet of Happy Hippo brand, Fine Cut Kanna Powder.

What are the Effects of Kanna?

First off, we would like to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved Kanna for any medicinal use, but the plant has been used by Native Africans for thousands of years. Recently, more consumers have taken the herb for a wide range of reasons. However, all the reported effects of the product are second-hand accounts from ordinary people that take Kanna for various reasons, and no scientific consensus exists on the matter.

Still, for the sake of educational purposes for our audience, here are a few of the anecdotal claims from Kanna users about the effects of Kanna.

  • Helps with low energy
  • Suppresses food cravings
  • Sleep improvement
  • Boosts mood
  • Reduces discomfort 
  • Produces mental clarity

Now, remember, the FDA has not approved Kanna for any of the aforementioned reasons. Still, a few recent scientific studies have examined the effects of Kanna on those anecdotal claims. So let’s inspect some of the data behind those experiments right now.

Reduces Discomfort

For centuries, local tribes have touted that Kanna provides relief from the daily discomforts our bodies succumb to with age. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of scientific studies on the matter, so most of the information comes from second-hand accounts. 

One group of researchers sought to understand the ethnopharmacological plant sciences behind the purported benefits of the Kanna plant. So the team studied the effect of Sceletium tortuosum in rats. The study was conducted over a broad spectrum of tests to consider how the use of Kanna might influence motor function and nociception of nerves. The conclusions of the experiment suggest that mesembrine, one of the primary alkaloids found in Kanna, produced discomfort relieving results in the study.

Another experiment utilized Kanna to see how it affected electroencephalography (EEG) frequency ranges in the brain of rats. The test indicated a significant theta wave reduction in common with delta, alpha2, and beta1 waves.

Hopefully, researchers will perform more studies in the future to corroborate the previous data. Until then, the limited and anecdotal evidence will have to suffice.

Improves Mental Focus

Nootropics are a class of supplements that people state boosts brain performance, and lots of Kanna users indicate Kanna falls under that umbrella. 

But are there any scientific results that support that hypothesis?

Well, scientifically, we know alkaloids of Kanna function through the activation of cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system found in our bodies. One group of scientists checked the activity of the CB1 cannabinoid receptors with an interaction of an unprocessed Kanna extract, a fermented extract, and the isolated mesembrine alkaloid. The results indicated the cannabinoid receptors were fonder of the unprocessed version. Moreover, those compounds might inhibit acetylcholine from breaking down, and that creates a scenario where the result promotes enhanced cognitive function and memory in the user.

One scientific experiment used Zembrin, a patented standardized Kanna extract, on a group of older subjects (aged 45 to 65 years old) to determine if it produced any positive cognitive function after prolonged usage. The acquired data suggested that the product enhanced cognition in the domains of executive functioning and cognitive flexibility in the subjects.

Still, we need to see more research before scientists form a scientific consensus about the debate.

Mood Enhancer

Besides the claim that Kanna produces calming effects, the second most prevalent reason for people taking the supplement is to provide them with an uplifted mood. If the scientific data surrounding experiments on the matter are anything to go by, it looks like the claims are plausible. A few of the alkaloids found in Kanna may provide clues.

Inside the Sceletium species, the plant produces a chiral alkaloid called mesembrine.

The mesembrine alkaloids in Kanna bind to and inactivate serotonin transporters in the brain. When that occurs, it stops the reabsorption of the serotonin neurotransmitters by the nerve cells. As a result, more serotonin exists in the brain to pass signals to nearby nerve cells, which elevates our moods.

Kanna Serving Size

Since the Kanna industry is unregulated, there is no set serving limits for the product. However, a thriving Kanna community exists, and Kanna users have used their expertise to determine standard serving amounts. You’ll find the suggestions below.

  • Light: 50 mg
  • Normal: 100 – 150 mg
  • Medium: 150 – 200 mg
  • Strong: 200 – 250 mg
  • Heavy: 250 mg +

One should note there is a distinct difference between traditional Kanna and Kanna extracts. Since the extracts are more potent, an adjustment to the serving is necessary.

Kanna Usage from a Scientific Standpoint

One study looked at the toxicity effects of a Kanna extract in rats to understand the serving constraints. In that experiment, the scientists indicated that the no-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL) of Kanna was determined to be 600 mg per kg of body weight in a single day. Those scientists also state that an acceptable daily intake hovers around 420 mg by a 70 kg human. Any serving size over that amount may likely lead to noticeable side effects.

The go-to consensus for measuring botanical substances is to use the least amount needed. That allows the consumer to maintain a relative threshold to obtain the benefits they seek. Kanna should be no different.

How to use Kanna

Traditionally, local tribes in Africa would take the Kanna plant and put it through a fermentation process to strengthen the effects of the alkaloids. According to folklore, the Khoisan—the first inhabitants of Southern Africa—discovered Kanna’s use. For centuries, the locals claimed that fermenting Kanna changed the alkaloid composition and increased its potency. Now, recent research published in the South African Journal of Botany supports the assertion. The results of the experiment show an increased content of mesembrine after fermentation. So whenever you buy Kanna, look for fermented products, they have a slightly higher alkaloid content.

But how do you take Kanna? 

Well, there are several different ways to use it. But we’ll quickly go over the four most popular ways people use Kanna to feel its effects.

  1. Make Kanna tea
  2. Use a Kanna extract
  3. Chewing Kanna
  4. Make a Kanna tincture

Make Kanna Tea

Out of all the ways to take the botanical supplement, making Kanna tea is the most common. Kanna tea, also known as sunshine tea, consists of mixing the Kanna plant material with hot water to leach the alkaloids from the plant. This also makes it easy to digest. 

If you are using natural Kanna tea, then an average serving is about two grams. However, if you use an extract, then measure out anywhere from 200-300 mg. But try using less Kanna on your first time.

After the tea has finished brewing, you can strain the material from the tea. That way, you do not have to ingest all that pulp. 

Once you have finished straining the tea, sit back and enjoy. It will take some time before you feel any effects. It can take about an hour, and the tea is stronger if taken on an empty stomach.

Kanna Extract

When shopping for Kanna online, you’ll find lots of products for sale labeled as Kanna extracts, and all of them can be different strengths. Therefore, you must pay attention to the product you’re buying. Some Kanna extracts are marketed as 10x, 20x, or 30x, but you can also find some as strong as 100x or 200x - so you need to understand what they’re selling. 

You see, a 10x extract means the product is ten times the strength of the dried herb. A 20x extract is twenty times stronger, and so on. That means one gram of 10x has the same concentration of alkaloids as does ten grams of dried Kanna plant - so measure your serving accordingly.

A Kanna extract is just the finished product from a chemical process that extracts the alkaloids from the plant material, leaving a more condensed version of Kanna. With Kanna extracts, there’s less plant material, which makes extracts useful for consumers with finicky stomachs. Plus, it hits the system more quickly since it’s a concentrated dosage. So you get a bigger bang for your buck. However, like any kind of extract, your tolerance will be impacted quicker and you should take frequent breaks from using the product to avoid any issues down the road. 

Chewing Kanna

Over in Southern Africa, the local inhabitants prefer their traditional method for taking Kanna, which is chewing on the fermented plant material, ingesting the plant juices, and spitting it out after they’re finished. The only problem with this method is it calls for freshly fermented Kanna, but most Kanna on the market has been dried. That creates a hurdle for chewing Kanna. 

However, sometimes you can find dried whole plant material. If you steep it in water it’ll retain moisture. When the dried plant material is soaked, you can put it in your mouth and chew it, releasing the liquid and swallow it. Then, spit out the remainder of the pulp afterward. 

Unfortunately, the whole leaf product is hard to find. So to make this method easier to accomplish, another option is to get creative with the available Kanna powder. Some people have stated they’ve mixed Kanna powder with chewing gum. The sweet flavor of the gum helps to mask the bitter taste of the Kanna. For that method, I would recommend using Kanna extract, so you won’t need as much of it.

Kanna Tinctures

Kanna tinctures are like extracts. While traditional Kanna extracts are in powdered form, Kanna tinctures are extracts dissolved in a liquid. Most versions use either an alcohol base or carrier oil. But the result is the same: a liquid concentrated serving of Kanna alkaloids. The strength of the Kanna tincture differs just like powdered extract - so make sure you use an appropriate serving.

To take the Kanna tincture, all you must do is pour it in your mouth, let the product absorb through sublingual administration, and then swallow the remaining fluid. Like the powdered extract, the serving should hit you sooner than drinking Kanna tea. You should start feeling the effects in about 30 minutes.

When you purchase Kanna tinctures, the product usually arrives packaged in a glass bottle with a dispensing dropper attached, but you can always make your own.

All you need is to buy a tincture bottle or recycle one you already have. Combine the desired serving of powdered Kanna extract with any liquid you choose. Afterward, dose whenever you want.

Some people find this method cheaper.

Photographic image depicting a close-up on a ceramic bowl containing fine cut kanna powder being poured into a ceramic bowl from a 1 gram pink measuring scoop.

How to Make Kanna Tea

For thousands of years, indigenous tribes used Kanna as a traditional herbal remedy. Local tribes crushed the plant materials with a rock. That mixture got placed in an animal skin bag and left to sit in the sun which produced a fermentation process. Each day, the tribesmen would open the bags to stir the concoction. After about a week, it was emptied and placed out in the sun to completely dry. After this step, it would get chopped or crushed into a powder.

Today, Kanna gets manufactured differently. Modern methods provide a more streamlined process. However, the result is the same: a Kanna botanical product that’s available to consume. The most traditional form of Kanna consumption today is to brew the Kanna product into a beverage and drink as an herbal tea. But be forewarned, Kanna tea has a bitter flavor. Adding a sweetener such as honey can sometimes help the taste.

Ingredients Needed

Most of the materials and ingredients you’ll need should already be found around the kitchen. The only specialty item is the Kanna itself. 

Here’s a list of the materials and items needed.

  1. A small teapot or kettle
  2. The required serving of Kanna
  3. Water
  4. Coffee filters or strainer
  5. An acidic potentiator like lemon
  6. A flavoring agent: honey or your favorite sweetener

Preparation of Kanna Tea

After you’ve gathered the necessary materials, follow these step-by-step instructions to create the perfect batch of Kanna tea.

  1. Place the proper amount of water in the kettle and heat it til it’s almost boiling, but not quite.
  2. Add the lemon juice or whatever acidic base you desire to the hot water.
  3. Then add your required serving of Kanna to the mixture.
  4. Stir vigorously and cover.
  5. Allow it to brew for 15 minutes.
  6. Pour the tea into a cup through the strainer or filter.
  7. Add the sweetener and stir.
  8. Allow it to cool to the desired temperature.
  9. Finally, drink and enjoy!

You should feel the benefits somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour. Depending on the serving size used, the effects can vary. You can alter the serving for future batches to find the measurement that works best for you.  

Alternatives to Kanna

People that take Kanna recreationally are looking for it to provide them with a healthier lifestyle. To those consumers, natural remedies like Kanna have an earthlier and more spiritual connotation. Other herbal products have a history of this practice, too - so it’s time we introduce a few other plants with similar functions.

Kratom (Mitragyna Speciosa)

Mitragyna speciosa is a species of trees that grow wild in the rainforest regions of Southeast Asia. This tropical evergreen tree is a relative of the coffee plant; and like coffee, it also provides the user with stimulating feelings after consumption. However, unlike coffee, Kratom does not contain any natural caffeine. Instead, the plant produces a slew of different alkaloids. The two primary alkaloids found in Kratom are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragyine. Those compounds are responsible for the effects of the plant.

As such, lots of consumers use Kratom to mediate discomfort. Others use it for its reported effects with producing an elevated mood.

At Happy Hippo Herbals, we have a wide selection of kratom varieties available for sale online for you to purchase. We make your shopping experience a smooth transition by allowing you to shop for Kratom using either the product’s speed, color, or strain as categories. If you’re unsure which product would work best for you, check out our strain chart for more information.

Kra Thum Khok (Mitragyna Hirsuta)

While most people are somewhat familiar with Kratom, most have never heard of its cousin called kra thum khok. Like Kratom, the kra thum khok tree (its scientific name is Mitragyna hirsuta) also belongs to the Mitragyna genus. So both trees are related to one another. Both tropical trees grow in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. 

The production of hirsuta powder gets produced like its cousin supplement. Mature hirsuta leaves are picked, fermented, and dried before getting crushed and sold. The leaves of the hirsuta tree produce several alkaloids that are beneficial, too. 

One of the main active alkaloids in hirsuta is mitraphylline, which Kratom also produces. Although the effects are relatively milder than the primary alkaloids in Kratom. Still, hirsuta herbals are great for individuals that are looking for something less potent than Kratom. So hirsuta powder works as the perfect option for people who are sensitive to the properties of Kratom. Since the alkaloid mitragynine seems to be absent in studies on the hirsuta plant, the limited addictive properties should be nonexistent for hirsuta powder, too.  

Akuamma (Picralima Nitida)

The Picralima nitida tree, also known as Akuamma, is a tree native to the tropical regions of West Africa. The Akuamma tree is very similar to a Kratom tree; both trees flourish along the riverbanks of the local rainforests. Both species of trees grow to a similar height, too. However, the Picralima tree produces fruit. Inside the fruit pod are large seeds that the locals remove by hand and put out in the sun to dry. The seeds are then crushed to create a powdered product used as a folk remedy.

Traditionally, locals use Akuamma to help with fevers or discomfort. Currently, there are no FDA-approved medicinal uses for the herb. 

For those interested in purchasing Akuamma, you can buy akuamma extract capsules online from Happy Hippo Herbals. Each bag contains 60 capsules of 20x Akuamma extract. 

Blue Lotus (Nymphaea Caerulea)

The blue lotus flower, also known as Nymphaea caerulea, is an aquatic herb that produces a beautiful water lily that blooms as a white, blue, or pale purplish color. Alongside its cousin, the white lotus, the flower gets frequently depicted in ancient artwork from Egypt. Some scholars argue its existence was relevant to the spiritual rites of the afterlife since the flower's petals covered several mummies of pharaohs. Today, the blue lotus is grown for ornamental purposes in water gardens in tropical regions across the planet. 

The blue lotus produces two primary effective alkaloids: they are aporphine and nuciferine. Aporphine goes through a chemical process in our bodies to create apomorphine. And that psychoactive compound acts as a dopamine receptor agonist, so it mimics the action of dopamine in the brain. Since dopamine is the hormone responsible for happiness, the alkaloid produces a noticeable mood boost. The other main compound of blue lotus, nuciferine, helps mediate our mental wellness and provides us with calmness. 

Kanna vs. Kratom

Kanna should not be taken directly with Kratom if it is your first time trying Kanna. The effects of Kanna itself should first be evaluated before trying it with other herbs. This is because Kanna and Kratom produce very similar results, therefore the effects you feel from taking them together can be overwhelming if you are not careful.

When the time comes you feel you're ready to mix Kanna and Kratom - you should do half of your normal serving size with each herb.

Because the benefits of Kanna are not easily predictable - it would be smarter to use a Moderate speed Kratom strain when mixing the two for the first time so that the effects of both the plants aren’t too extreme.

Some great Moderate Kratom choices are White Vein Bali (Platinum White Bali) or Green Borneo (Happy Hippo I).

Example: If your normal serving size of Kratom is 4 grams, and your Kanna serving size is 4 pink scoops...

You should try 2 grams of Kratom + 2 pink scoops of Kanna.

Learn more about making kratom tea.

Where to Buy Kanna and Kanna Extract?

The Kanna industry is relatively new to the United States, so finding the product at a local grocery store in the vitamin and supplement section is not likely. Plus, you won’t find it at Walmart, either. The only locations that might carry Kanna products around your area would be specialized herbal shops or vitamin stores. And even then, it’s unlikely they’ll stock any natural Kanna. Most will have Kanna extracts pushed into tablet form, like the brand Zembrin.

But online, you can find additional resources for purchasing Kanna. Online marketplaces like Amazon have a few selections for Kanna, but some of them have bad reviews. So unless you’ve previously bought something from a manufacturer before, you may want to be precautious when purchasing supplements from a new company with no proven track record. In the US, lots of companies sell products that don’t contain the correct serving listed. Some of the products don’t contain any of the ingredients at all - so do some due diligence on the company that manufactures the supplement before making a purchase.

To make your search easier, your best bet for obtaining an authentic Kanna product that you can trust is to buy it from a business that has been in the botanical supplement industry since it opened its doors in 2013: Happy Hippo Herbals.

Purchase Kanna Online from Happy Hippo Herbals

At Happy Hippo Herbals, we specialize in offering a wide variety of Kratom strains to sell to the public, yet we offer additional herbals, too. On our website, we keep a wide range of alternative herbal products for sale. Before you check with another vendor, examine the wares we have in stock to make sure we have some Kanna available for you to buy. Take the time to also look around at the other herbals we offer right now.

Afterward, look through the long list of kratom strains we have available and buy Kratom online from one of the most reputable Kratom companies on the market. The combination of taking Kanna and Kratom together creates a unique feeling of happiness and well-being that’s unobtainable with taking one of the supplements alone. It’s worth the effort to give it a try.

DISCLAIMER: Because Kanna remains unregulated by the FDA, the authors of this text would like to note that although this article contains many points regarding the use of Kanna, they should only serve as a piece of information, not medical advice.

Kanna is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. 

Make sure to speak to a physician if you have questions before using Kanna.

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