The Effects of Kanna Extract: Overview and Scientific Findings

Kanna, or Sceletium tortuosum, is a succulent herb native to South Africa. It is a constant tradition of African indigenous tribes, has been part of rituals and has served mainly as a natural medicine. It was introduced to Western civilisation in the first half of the 17th century by the Dutch explorer and trader Jan van Riebeeck. This discovery led to its further study and the expansion of knowledge about this plant called kanna.

Types of extracts and their action

Kanna contains active substances called alkaloids. The two main active substances are mesembrin and mesembrenone. These alkaloids have several mechanisms of action on our nervous system. The resulting effects of canna extract depend on the amount of these alkaloids.


Mesembrin acts primarily as a potent SRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitors). These are substances that act on a similar principle to SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which are considered more familiar than SRI. Thus, this substance increases the amount of serotonin in synapses and thus acts in a similar way to current antidepressants. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that transmits signals between nerves. When it is deficient, it causes mood changes, depression, possibly sleep disturbances or irritability to aggression. Serotonin is therefore crucial to our functioning and its level affects our mind.

Another new finding is that mesembrin stimulates the activity of the VMAT2 protein, which promotes a surge in neurotransmitter levels at synapses, especially dopamine. This, in combination with other mechanisms, may have stimulatory and euphoric effects. In healthcare, this effect could have potential for the treatment of disorders characterized by dopamine deficiency, such as Parkinson's disease or ADHD, etc. VMAT2 is supported by a study published on the National Library of Medicine website.


Masembrenone also acts as an SRI, but its primary action is as a phosphodiesterase 4 enzyme inhibitor. PDE4 is present in immune and inflammatory cells, so it has anti-inflammatory effects. Other effects include nootropic and neuroprotective. PDE4 inhibitors are currently being studied as a potential treatment for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease or even multiple sclerosis.

What is common with these alkaloids is that they act on CB1 endocannabinoid receptors, which can affect pain levels. This results in the analgesic effects of canna.

Types of extracts

  • Extracts with higher mesembrin content

This type of extract is considered particularly suitable for recreational use. Due to their mechanisms of action (VMAT2 and SRI) they mimic the effects of recreational psychoactive substances. Due to their stimulating properties, these extracts are also suitable for the treatment of neurotic conditions characterised by a general decline in the organism, e.g. depression, lack of motivation, etc.

  • Extracts with higher mesembrenone content

This type of extract would in turn be more useful for therapeutic use. As it is more relaxing, it is suitable for the treatment of neurotic disorders caused by stress, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. Mesembrin could also have this antidepressant effect, but because of its stimulant effects, it could aggravate the course of these neuroses in more sensitive individuals or in excessive dosage. In healthcare, extracts rich in mesembrenone due to PDE4 are being used for the potential treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. A study in 2022 provided new evidence of therapeutic potential.

Effects of kanna extract

African Kanna is a fascinating plant that can bring us many benefits. There are several forms of this herb, and the extract is one of them. Kanna extract has significant potency and is very popular for its intense effects:

  • Cognitive support: Some studies suggest that canna may improve cognitive function, such as memory and concentration. In a study looking at the management of anxiety, depression and cognitive disorders, further clinical evidence of this plant is emerging.

  • Stimulant: Although canna provides stimulant effects, it is not a drug in the traditional sense. It does not cause addiction or hallucinations and can be considered a safe and gentle alternative to some pharmaceutical products.

  • Mood enhancement: One of the main benefits of cannabis is its positive effect on our mood. Kanna is generally effective in improving our overall mental state and providing us with a sense of well-being due to its antidepressant effects, which can help us fight depression.

  • Reducing stress, anxiety and nervousness: thanks to its calming effects, canna can also bring us peace of mind and better manage stress and anxiety. However, it is important to follow the recommended dosage to avoid possible side effects that could have the opposite effect.