· By Herbal Healings
Species: Sceletium tortuosum
Sceletium tortuosum, also known as kanna, channa, or kougoed, belongs to the plant family Aizoaceae. Kanna falls under the order Caryophyllales and is part of the genus Mesembryanthemum. The kanna succulent plant is native to the Cape Provinces of South Africa. It has numerous synonyms, including Mesembryanthemum aridum, Phyllobolus tortuosum, and several variations under the Sceletium genus, reflecting its diverse classification within botanical taxonomy.
Physically, Sceletium tortuosum is characterized by its fleshy, thick leaves with visible bladder cells or idioblasts. It exhibits a unique skeletonized leaf venation pattern in the dry leaves, a defining feature of this genus identified by N.E. Brown in 1925. The plant's flowers are distinguishable by their threadlike petals, usually white to yellow, and occasionally pale orange or pink. The fruits are capsules containing kidney-shaped seeds that are brown to black in color. Sceletium tortuosum is a creeper plant, typically reaching heights of 15 to 20 cm and often found covering the ground in the shade of larger shrubs. It grows in pairs during winter, with the leaves dying off in the summer to protect the plant from adverse environmental conditions.
According to current research Sceletium tortuosum contains a variety of alkaloids which contribute to its pharmacological properties. Research has identified twenty-five alkaloids in Sceletium tortuosum, classified into four structural classes: mesembrine, Sceletium A4, joubertiamine, and tortuosamine, with the mesembrine class being predominant. These alkaloids are considered the primary active constituents of the plant and are responsible for its traditional uses, such as relieving thirst, potentially providing mild analgesia, and potentially altering mood.