History and traditional uses of the canna - from indigenous cultures to the present

Kanna, or Sceletium tortuosum, is a succulent herb that is commonly referred to as a psychoactive substance. This succulent blooms in the spring and summer months when small white or yellow flowers bloom. It grows up to 30 cm tall and its leaves, covered with fine hairs, are light green to grey. Kanna has shallow root systems that allow it to absorb and store water quickly. This makes the plant able to survive even in extreme conditions.


Origin and history of the can

The history of the canna dates back to South Africa, where it has been used by indigenous tribes for centuries. Here it has an important place in the history and tradition of these local tribes, whose inhabitants still live in South Africa today. It was part of rituals and served mainly as a natural remedy. It was used by these local people not only for its calming and anti-depressant effects, but also to strengthen social cohesion and togetherness, for example at communal events and gatherings.

As far as history is concerned, the first mention of the canna was recorded in the first half of the 17th century when the Dutch merchant and explorer Jan van Riebeeck travelled through Africa. He noticed that the locals often chewed something and that there was a positive and relaxed atmosphere in the tribes. This discovery then led to the study and spread of knowledge about this unique herb, and western civilisation became aware of the canna.

Currently, most of the Kanna that is still grown commercially comes from South Africa. This is due to the local climate, which is unique and ideal for this herb as it does not thrive anywhere else.


One of the main effects of canna is the ability to improve mood. The primary alkaloids in canna are mainly mesembrin, mesembrenone and mesembrenol, which are the main influences on the effects of this plant and act as natural antidepressants. As a result, cannabis can give us effects such as:

  • Stimulating the mood: This effect is one of the main benefits that a kettle can bring. In relation to this, this herb also helps us to improve our overall mental state and can also help us fight depression.
  • Anxiety and stress reduction: Taking this plant can help reduce stress, nervousness and feelings of anxiety. This in turn has a beneficial effect on our mental balance.
  • Social relaxation: It is proven from the experience of users that taking canna can reduce social inhibitions and those taking the herb are more open to communication and also relaxed.

Can side effects occur?

Kanna is generally considered a safe herb, however like any natural product it can have side effects, especially if the recommended dosage is not followed. At higher doses, digestive problems such as vomiting or diarrhea may occur. Furthermore, we can also encounter the opposite effect of kanna, namely fatigue. It is a good idea to find out before taking cannabis the common effects when combining cannabis with another medicine or substance you take regularly. This way you can avoid possible risks and unwanted interactions.

Traditional vs modern use of cannabis

Canna in its various forms provides flexible options and methods of use according to individual needs and preferences. It is important to follow the recommended dosage and be aware of the effects of this plant. It is important to note that some unpleasant side effects may occur with incorrect dosage.

Traditional uses

  • Chewing

As already mentioned, the kanna was used by indigenous African tribes. The original tribes were, for example, the San (Bushmen) and the Khoikhoi (Hottentots). These tribes dried the leaves and roots of the kanna and then chewed these parts of the plant to get the effects. This was especially used when hunting or on long journeys, as the kanna has stimulating effects, helping to increase stamina and reduce fatigue.

  • Snorting and smoking

In addition to chewing, it was popular to snuff the dried and ground leaves of the canna, similar to tobacco. This method of use helped the effects to take effect more quickly. In some cases, the canna was also smoked, and this method also provided a rapid onset of effects, which was useful in rituals and healing practices.

Modern uses

  • Powder

This is a fine powder and can be referred to as ground canna. The powder is dosed between 0.5 and 1 gram per day and can be mixed in a small glass of water. More experienced users can dose 1 gram, but 0.5 grams is considered the optimal dose. This method will give us a mild euphoric effect, but also a reduction in stress and nervousness.

  • Tea

Tea is made from crushed cannabis, which can be dosed in a similar way to the powder, i.e. between 0.5 and 1 gram per day. The crushed plant is poured into hot water, boiled and then strained. This way of using it also achieves similar effects to those of ground canna. These are gentle effects that can give us a long lasting feeling of relaxation.

  • Extract

For the extract, the dosage varies and the appropriate dose should be no more than 0.3 grams to start with. Gradually, after a longer period of use, the dose can be increased to a maximum of 1 gram per day. The preparation is simple, a dose of the extract is mixed in water and then drunk immediately. Thanks to this method, it is possible to relieve stress and enjoy the euphoric effect together with an increase in energy.