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Kanna: What is it and How Can it Improve Your Life?

Published On: 18 November 202010.2 min read

Written by Cort Honey

KannaCalm is a brand new supplement based around an alkaloid extract of the Sceletium tortuosum, or Kanna, plant. The plant contains three main psychoactive alkaloids; Mesembrine, Mesembrenone, and delta Mesembrenone. While these alkaloids are psychoactive, they are NOT hallucinogenic. Each of these three alkaloids produce different effects, so different concentrations of these alkaloids in a supplement help relieve different symptoms. Additionally, the dose and method of consumption also cause the effects of Kanna to vary greatly. Kannacalm is designed around producing a calming effect to help relieve anxiety, stress, and tension. To produce these effects, the extract in KannaCalm contains 50% Mesembrine with the other 50% being made up of Mesembrenone and delta Mesembrenone. KannaConnect on the other hand helps promote connectedness and focus with about 70% Mesembrine and 30% Mesembrenone and delta Mesembrenone.

What is Kanna?

Kanna is a succulent plant belonging to the Sceletium genus that naturally grows in South Africa. It grows through spreading outward on the ground, oftentimes with exposed roots. The leaves are typically green with red tips and it produces flowers with white petals that turn to yellow in the middle of the flower similar in appearance to a daisy.

Originally, Kanna was used for centuries by both South African pastoralists and hunter-gatherers to soothe pains, help with sleep, and alleviate hunger. At those times, Kanna was known as Kuogoed which translates to something to chew referencing the way indigenous people used the plant. Nowadays, it is commercially produced in South Africa and is typically consumed as an extract in a capsule or tincture. However, the plant is still relatively unknown throughout North America but is slowly gaining recognition for its outstanding properties.
Kanna’s Long History of Medicinal Use

As mentioned, the indigenous people of South Africa regularly used Kanna for its various medicinal properties. The most common way they used Kanna was by either drying or fermenting the leaves and stems then chewing it. They would not swallow the leaves and stems, but rather only chew them then swallow their saliva with the leaves and stems remaining in their mouths. This method of consumption worked extremely well for their intended purposes of dulling the discomforts associated with traveling long distances on foot. It also helped alleviate their thirst and hunger during these travels.

Kanna was also considered a sacred plant by the San and Khoi tribes of South Africa often referring to it as “greatest Chearer of the Spirits, and the noblest Restorative in the World”. So, they regularly used the plant for various healing and rites-of-passage ceremonies. San and Khoi warriors also used Kanna after returning home from battles to help overcome the fears and stress associated with battle. When consumed for these reasons, instead of chewing the plant, they would either prepare teas, snuff or smoke the dried plant.

Simon van der Stel, the man who created the first unambiguous written account of the plant in 1662, reported indigenous people only harvested the plant once a year in October. At these times, the plant was relatively rare with its only known source being in some of the mountains of the Namaquas. They would travel to these mountains each October and harvest enough of the plant to last them the entire year.

Kanna in the Modern World

Nowadays, the methods of harvesting, preparing, and common reasons for using Kanna have changed significantly. Today, Kanna is still primarily produced in South Africa, however, it is farmed instead of harvested in the wild. Local sellers of Kanna typically ground it into a fine, brown powder which can then be consumed orally.

Outside of local markets in South Africa, Kanna is most commonly sold as an extract, tincture, tea, or supplement. Using Kanna in its extracted form in a supplement or tincture brings a number of benefits. Since the three main psychoactive alkaloids each have different effects, an extract allows the producer to create ratios of those alkaloids based on the intended effects of the extract. Mesembrine produces a more energetic and focused effect while Mesembrenone and delta Mesembrenone produce a calming and relaxing effect.

A Kanna extract also allows for precise control of the dosage consumed. When consuming the plant, the percentage of active alkaloids changes depending on the way it was grown, the portion of the plant consumed, and the individual plant itself. This makes it extremely difficult to determine how much of the active alkaloids you’re actually consuming. Additionally, some individuals report experiencing different effects based on the dosage consumed with a smaller dose causing euphoria and a larger dose causing sedation. With an extract, you know exactly how much of the active alkaloids you’re consuming as extracts contain specific amounts of the active alkaloids depending on the extraction process.

As the plant and its active alkaloids have been further studied, modern uses of Kanna have also changed.

Kanna and Anxiety

In today’s fast-paced world, anxiety continues to affect more people each year. Currently, over 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, which is nearly 1 out of every 5 people, and an estimated 300 million people globally. This issue also seems to be on the rise with a 2017 poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association reporting almost a third of Americans were more anxious than they were in the previous year. With the number of people experiencing anxiety on the rise, any form of anxiety relief has become extremely attractive.

For some, Kanna works exceptionally well in relieving symptoms of anxiety while producing a calming effect. Both studies and anecdotal evidence supports Kanna’s anxiety-relieving effects. One study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that Kanna extract is a potent blocker of 5-HT transporter binding assays and possesses strong inhibitory effects on PDE4, or phosphodiesterase-4. Feelings of anxiety are largely believed to be caused by an imbalance of 5-HT and PDE4, so this mechanism could explain why so many report anxiety relief after consuming Kanna.

A number of anecdotal reports also discuss Kanna’s anxiety-relieving effects. One person reported that after suffering from General Anxiety Disorder for 5 years without finding any long-term solutions found that Kanna worked extremely well for them. They claimed that they experienced some mild effects while consuming, but they quickly dissipated. However, after those effects dissipated they went for a walk which would usually set off their anxiety. During this walk, they noticed their anxiety was completely gone. While it may not be a permanent solution, it effectively works for this individual in reducing their anxiety after consuming.

Kanna and Focus

Another common issue of today that Kanna can help alleviate is a lack of focus. Similar to anxiety, issues with focus have also been on the rise in recent years. When only looking at ADHD, a disorder that causes issues with focus, the percentage of children diagnosed with it nearly doubled between 1997 and 2016. Events in the world can also cause difficulties focusing with one survey by BetterWorks showing that 29% of employees are less productive after an election. These difficulties with focus after an election likely also happen after other major events, whether personal, national, or global.

Recently, new research began being published about Kanna’s ability to aid in focus, attention, and motivation. One placebo-controlled, randomized, and double-blind clinical study published in 2017 found that Kanna “improves some aspects of cognitive function, decreases anxiety, and enhances mood.” This study was conducted on healthy 50 to 80 year old individuals of both male and female sex. The results were statistically significant in comparison to the placebo results showing that the increase in cognitive function was likely caused by the consumption of Kanna extract.

Another review published in 2018 by a practicing clinician reports his experience treating patients with Kanna extract. After using Kanna for only ten days, one of his patients reported feeling more focused and engaged. He also recounts several other cases where Kanna helped his patients become more focused and motivated.

The way Kanna helps with focus is likely related to the way it acts as a light stimulant in low doses. Stimulants are commonly prescribed in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders for the way they help an individual maintain focus and attention. So, this would explain why some individuals who consume Kanna extracts in low doses report feeling more focused and attentive.

Kanna and Your Overall Well-Being

On top of these specific issues Kanna has helped people alleviate, it also promotes overall well-being through the way it may help reduce stress, relieve pain, elevate your mood, and decrease tension. These effects likely stem from the euphoria Kanna causes in nearly all doses. This euphoria causes an individual to feel happiness and a sense of tranquility.

The effects related to promoting overall well-being are also backed up by scientific studies. One study published in 2002 found tinctures of the plant were beneficial in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and stress.

Another study published in 2001 looked at three case studies where patients were prescribed Kanna extracts. One of the case studies looked at an individual who “felt despondent, socially withdrawn, felt tearful and empty, and had a feeling of pervasive sadness.” After consuming a Kanna extract in tablet form for 10 days, the patient reported feeling as though her “mood had lifted, and she was able to feel more focused, more engaged and not so socially ‘distant.’” These feelings of connectedness and an improved mood are commonly associated with Kanna by those who have consumed it in the past.

What is KannaCalm and KannaConnect?

KannaCalm and KannaConnect are two new supplements by Proessence based on two different extractions of Kanna. While they are both made from a Kanna extract, they contain different proportions of the three primary psychoactive alkaloids in Kanna. This causes the two supplements to produce different effects. Each supplement also contains a different dosage of Kanna extract with KannaCalm containing 15mg of extract and KannaConnect containing 25mg of extract.

Both supplements are fully vegetarian and made into gel capsules for easy consumption. They are produced locally in South Africa where the Kanna plant naturally grows to ensure a high-quality extract year-round. Additionally, Proessence understands that without indigenous knowledge of Kanna, none of this would be possible. So, they have formal profit-sharing arrangements with the San and Khoikhoi tribes of South Africa. They also undertake a number of activities to support and give back to South African communities.

What Makes KannaCalm Different?

KannaCalm provides a relaxing and soothing effect that may help some relieve their symptoms of anxiety. It can also help to relieve stress and tension within the body and mind. These effects stem from the proportion of psychoactive alkaloids within the extract used to produce KannaCalm. The extract contains about 50% Mesembrine with the other 50% made up of Mesembrenone and delta Mesembrenone. The dosage of 15mg also helps promote these soothing and relaxing effects as a fairly low dose. This relatively low dose helps prevent an individual from feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated and ensures a relaxing experience.

What Makes KannaConnect Different?

KannaConnect may provide a feeling of connectedness, help maintain focus, and bring creative energy. It can help with focus through its moderate dose of 25mg of Kanna extract. The Kanna extract in KannaConnect is made up of about 70% Mesembrine with the other 30% made up of Mesembrenone and delta Mesembrenone. KannaConnect contains a larger dose than KannaCalm to bring out the stimulating effects of Kanna that may help some feel more energized and focused. It also contains Taurine to help prevent dehydration and promote overall health.

While both KannaCalm and KannaConnect are based around extracted Kanna, they provide two distinct effects aimed at helping alleviate different symptoms. Depending on your needs and individual experiences, KannaCalm and KannaConnect may help you improve your overall well-being and live a more fulfilling life.

All statements made within this article have not been evaluated or tested by the FDA. Consult your healthcare practitioner prior to using any Kanna products if you are taking any prescription medications or have any serious medical complications. Do not use any Kanna products if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Kanna products are not recommended to be used by children or adolescents under the age of 18. Kanna and the information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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