Sceletium tortuosum, also called Kanna, Kauwgoed, and Canna, is a plant commonly found in South Africa. Sceletium has powerful mood-enhancing properties, and it has been used for hundreds of years as a relaxant by the indigenous peoples of South Africa.
History of Sceletium
Historically, Kanna was chewed, smoked, or snuffed for its benefits. It was also made into dried plant material, to be prepared as a tea or tincture. Since it has anesthetic properties, it was also chewed before dental procedures or tooth extractions to ease the pain.
Traditionally, Kanna was fermented and then chewed before stressful events, such as hunting.
How Does Sceletium Work?
Kanna is a very effective anti-anxiety remedy. It is known as a psychoactive herb, although it is not known to be a hallucinogen or habit-forming herb. It works on the amygdala of the brain and causes PDE4 inhibition and 5-HT reuptake inhibition. (1)
Sceletium interacts with the brain’s dopamine and serotonin receptors, causing the release of these feel-good chemicals in the brain.
For this reason, it has been used for hundreds of years and continues to be used for its antidepressant, anti-anxiety, anti-stress, and analgesic properties.
Sceletium Benefits and Uses
Kanna has many benefits, and therefore many uses. It is known as a therapeutic herb because of its calming and pain-reducing properties.
If you’re wondering why people use Kanna, the following benefits and uses speak for themselves.
Clinical anti-depressants, which are either SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or SDRI (serotonin-dopamine reuptake Inhibitors), often take a while to start working and come with unwanted side effects.
Sceletium works by causing the release of serotonin in the brain. This natural approach is much better than using reuptake inhibitors with nasty side effects.
Kanna was traditionally used for pain reduction because it has natural anesthetic properties. When chewed, it reduces pain in the mouth, making it a perfect medicine to take before dental procedures and tooth extractions.
One great benefit of using sceletium as a pain reliever is that there are no abuse liabilities or ataxia. (2)
The most popular reason that people use Kanna is for its anti-anxiety and anti-stress properties.
Sceletium calms the mind and the autonomic nervous system, meaning that it can treat and prevent anxiety disorders and panic attacks.
In one study, 16 participants had reduced activity in the amygdala following supplementation with sceletium tortuosum during stressful tasks. This study showed the potential therapeutic benefits of Kanna in anxiety and depression disorders. (3)
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4. Mood Enhancer
Sceletium is known to induce a sense of well-being in its users. It is a more effective mood enhancer than many other natural mood-enhancing herbs, such as St. John’s Wort, Rhodiola, Ginkgo Biloba, or L-Theanine, because it directly affects the brain and increases serotonin levels.
5. Improves Cognitive Function
During times of stress and anxiety, it can be difficult to let your creative juices flow. Sceletium can help to calm the mind and improve creativity, memory, and overall cognitive function.
In addition, Kanna has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which means that it can reduce inflammation in the brain for better cognition.
In one study, 21 adults received either sceletium tortuosum or a placebo over a three-week period. The sceletium group experienced significantly improved cognitive set flexibility and executive function when compared with the placebo group. (4)
Studies show that sceletium may protect the brain against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other inflammatory conditions. (4)
7. Improves Sleep Quality
People who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep may find relief with sceletium. It naturally enhances serotonin function and increases melatonin levels for a calmer and easier night.
If you find that as soon as your head hits the pillow your thoughts begin to race, you can probably benefit from taking Kanna.
8. Smoking, Drug, and Alcohol Addiction
Sceletium is an excellent supplement for anyone looking to quit an addiction, such as smoking, drugs, or alcohol.
Firstly, Kanna helps to reduce symptoms of withdrawal, which makes the process a lot more bearable. Second, the Kanna itself helps to curb cravings and reduce the desire to return to the substance. Third, Kanna contains neuroprotective and neuro-regenerative effects, which means that it can help to heal any damage caused to the brain by an addictive substance.
Alcoholics can replace alcohol with a Kanna beverage because it is safe, not addictive, and has many of the same effects that alcoholics seek in alcohol.
Sceletium Side Effects
After reading all these great things about sceletium, you’re probably wondering what the catch is.
Surprisingly, there have been very few reported cases of side effects experienced after taking Kanna. It’s possible that side effects may include:
- Mild headache
- Soft stool or loose stool
- A brief increase in anxiety, which resolves after an hour
- Insomnia, usually due to taking a higher-than-recommended dose
- A feeling of sedation, corrected by taking a smaller dose
All side effects reported were mild, and fortunately, no severe side effects have been reported from using sceletium.
There are no reported contraindications for taking Kanna, although since it does interact with neuro-receptors, people taking psychiatric drugs (i.e., anti-anxiety medication, sedatives, hypnotics, antidepressants, and antipsychotics) are advised not to take sceletium products.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are also advised not to take sceletium-containing products.
Sceletium tortuosum is a safe and effective herbal remedy that is used to treat anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and pain. Talk to your doctor if you think that sceletium supplements may benefit you.