By Herbal Healings

Kanna's Active Alkaloids: A Comprehensive Guide

Kanna, known scientifically as Sceletium tortuosum, is a succulent plant indigenous to South Africa, praised for centuries for its mood-enhancing and empathogenic effects. Its psychoactive properties are attributed to a complex array of alkaloids, each contributing uniquely to the plant's overall impact on human psychology and physiology. This guide delves deep into the primary alkaloids present in Kanna, exploring their pharmacological effects, potential therapeutic applications, and the current state of scientific research surrounding them.

Detailed Overview of Kanna Alkaloids


1. Mesembrine

-Pharmacological Effects: Acts as a potent serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI), enhancing mood and cognitive function. It is the most studied alkaloid for its strong antidepressant and anxiolytic properties.

-Therapeutic Applications: Primarily used for its potential in managing depression and anxiety disorders, mesembrine offers a natural alternative to synthetic antidepressants with a potentially lower side-effect profile.

-Research Insights: Studies have demonstrated mesembrine's efficacy in enhancing mood and reducing anxiety, highlighting its promise as a therapeutic agent.


2. Mesembrenone

-Pharmacological Effects: Serves as an SRI and inhibits PDE4, offering dual action in mood enhancement and cognitive support. It's noted for its anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, which may contribute to its cognitive benefits.

-Therapeutic Applications: Its mood stabilization properties and potential cognitive benefits make it a candidate for treating mood disorders and cognitive impairments associated with inflammation.

-Research Insights: Research has focused on mesembrenone's unique action on PDE4, exploring its potential in cognitive enhancement and psychiatric conditions.


3. Mesembrenol

-Pharmacological Effects: Similar to mesembrenone, with a focus on PDE4 inhibition, suggesting nuanced effects on mood and cognition.

-Therapeutic Applications: May support cognitive health and emotional stability, offering a complementary mechanism to other alkaloids in Kanna.

-Research Insights: Less studied than mesembrine and mesembrenone, mesembrenol's specific contributions to Kanna's effects warrant further exploration.


4. Mesembranol

-Pharmacological Effects: Contributes to Kanna's antidepressant and anxiolytic effects through serotonin reuptake inhibition, similar to mesembrine but with its unique pharmacokinetic profile.

-Therapeutic Applications: Enhances mood and may reduce anxiety, working in synergy with other alkaloids for a balanced effect.

-Research Insights: Research is ongoing to delineate mesembranol's specific role within the spectrum of Kanna's alkaloids.


5. Delta-7-mesembrenone

- Pharmacological Effects: Its psychoactive properties are less understood, but it likely contributes to the plant’s overall mood-enhancing effects.

-Therapeutic Applications: Presumed to aid in mood stabilization and cognitive functions, emphasizing the need for more research.

-Research Insights: Delta-7-mesembrenone's role and potential benefits remain a focus for further scientific inquiry.


6. Joubertiamine

-Pharmacological Effects: Little is known about its specific psychoactive effects; considered part of Kanna's synergistic alkaloid matrix.

-Therapeutic Applications: Its contribution is speculative but believed to enhance the collective efficacy of Kanna's alkaloid profile.

-Research Insights: Future studies are needed to uncover joubertiamine’s pharmacological significance.


7. Tortuosamine

-Pharmacological Effects: Among the lesser-studied alkaloids, its specific effects are not well-documented.

-Therapeutic Applications: Potential contributions to Kanna's psychoactive profile require further investigation.

-Research Insights: Research is sparse, highlighting a gap in our understanding of tortuosamine's role.


8. Sceletium A**

-Pharmacological Effects: Details on its actions are limited; contributes to the broader alkaloid spectrum of Kanna.

-Therapeutic Applications: Its role in Kanna's effects, particularly in synergy with other alkaloids, is yet to be fully understood.

-Research Insights: Awaiting further research to elucidate its therapeutic potential.


9. Sceletium B

-Pharmacological Effects: Like Sceletium A, its precise impact is under-researched but believed to play a role in the plant's psychoactive properties.

-Therapeutic Applications: Further studies are needed to define its contribution to Kanna's therapeutic profile.

-Research Insights: Represents an area of Kanna research with potential for new discoveries.

Safety, Dosage, and Administration

While Kanna is generally considered safe for consumption, its interaction with pharmaceuticals, particularly SSRIs and MAOIs, warrants caution due to potential serotonin syndrome—a condition caused by excessive serotonin accumulation. It’s crucial for individuals on such medications to consult healthcare professionals before incorporating Kanna into their regimen.


The optimal dosage of Kanna varies depending on the form (e.g., raw plant, extract, powder) and individual sensitivity. General guidelines suggest starting with a low dose to assess tolerance and gradually increasing to find the effective dose without experiencing adverse effects. For extracts standardized to alkaloid content, following manufacturer recommendations is crucial.


Kanna can be consumed in various forms, including chewing the raw plant, consuming as a tea, inhaling vaporized material, or taking as capsules or tinctures. The method of administration can affect the onset and duration of effects, with sublingual and inhalation routes typically offering faster onset but shorter duration compared to oral ingestion.

Ethical and Sustainable Use:

As interest in Kanna grows, ethical and sustainable sourcing becomes increasingly important. Ensuring that Kanna is harvested and sold responsibly helps preserve this valuable plant for future generations and supports the indigenous communities that have traditionally used it.

Future Research Direction:

Continued research into Kanna’s alkaloids is essential for a deeper understanding of their therapeutic potential and safety profile. Studies focusing on the pharmacokinetics, interactions with other medications, and long-term effects will further elucidate the role of Kanna in modern herbal medicine and psychopharmacology.

Other alkaloids:

The discovery of these alkaloids in Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum) marks just the beginning of understanding this plant's potential. With advances in phytochemical research, it's likely that more alkaloids await discovery, promising new therapeutic possibilities and deeper insights into Kanna's effects on health and well-being.


Kanna’s rich alkaloid profile offers a unique natural remedy for various psychological and physiological conditions, from depression and anxiety to cognitive enhancement and pain management. As science continues to uncover the mysteries of these alkaloids, Kanna stands on the frontier of natural health as a promising supplement. However, responsible use, informed by ongoing research and in consultation with healthcare professionals, is paramount to harnessing Kanna’s benefits while ensuring safety and sustainability.

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