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Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum)

Kanna
Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum)

Kanna is a relative rare find in its native habitat due to natural diseases, climate change and overharvesting. It’s characterized by a leafy succulent-like appearance that can grow as tall as 30cm but usually stays within a 20 to 30cm diameter range.

Kanna develops fleshy roots and triangular, fleshy, stalkless leaves with incurved tips that are directly attached to low, laterally growing branches. Its attractive anemone-like pale flowers usually measure 3 to 4cm across and can vary in colour; often white or yellow, but sometimes orange or pink. The plant produces angular-shaped fruits capsules that contain small, dark seeds. In its natural habitat, Kanna usually flowers between June and September after which it dies back and leaves behind skeletal remains to protect itself from unfavourable weather conditions.

Whilst Kanna can be a hard find in its original habitat, it’s relatively easy to grow in a controlled environment. Propagation, cultivation and care can be treated in the same manner as with other Cactaceae in the same botanical family. Simply grow from seed or cutting and place in a light, warm place. Make sure it isn’t exposed to frost and use pots (preferably clay) with drainage holes and porous soil.

Kanna has been traditionally used as a mood enhancer and to help decrease stress, anxiety and tension. Due to its success, the western market is now starting to discover its potential as an anti-depressant. Its four psychoactive alkaloids: Mesembrine, Mesembrenone, Mesembrenol and Tortuisamine, are part of only the 1.5% alkaloid content that Kanna contains. Whilst not much is known about them just yet, they are believed to be the driving force behind Kanna’s many applications and pharmaceutical companies are actively investigation them to capitalize on their medical potential.

Traditionally, Kanna’s fermented roots and leaves were chewed by South African tribes for its intoxicating and vision-inducing properties. More recently, Kanna is really starting to turn heads with regard to its possible medical applications and while it’s full potential is not yet fully understood.

Kanna is reportedly used to:

  • Suppress appetite
  • Sedate
  • Stimulate
  • Decrease anxiety
  • Relieve stress and tension
  • Increase self-confidence
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