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The Khoisan people of South Africa, who use Sceletium tortuosum in folk medicine, introduced it to the western world. The earliest European written records of the use of Sceletium tortuosum date back to 1662. The Dutch, called it ‘kougoed’ which literally means, ‘chewable things/goodies ‘ or ‘something to chew’.

This mood-enhancing plant is known in its distribution territory as "canna”, “channa” or “kanna” (not Cannabis). It was so esteemed among indigenous pastoralists and hunter-gatherers that they travel hundreds of miles to collect plants in the wild.

The Hottentots and Bushmen tribes of South Africa have used Sceletium tortuosum as a mood-elevating herb. Although primarily chewed, there are reports of it being taken as a tea, smoked, or powdered and inhaled as a snuff on its own or with other herbs.


Sceletium tortuosum is restricted to southern Africa.

Medicinal Uses:

Sceletium tortuosum is used to elevate mood, decrease anxiety, stress and tension. It is frequently used as an anti-depressant. As a mood-enhancing herb, it is far more effective and rapidly acting than the well-known European plant Hypericum (St John's Wort).

Farmers, shepherds and rural folk walking long distances use Sceletium tortuosum as an appetite suppressant. It is also used as a sedative in the form of teas, decoctions or tinctures. Sceletium tortuosum is not hallucinogenic. No addiction, severe adverse side effects have been associated or documented with Sceletium.

European Herbal Indications:

Attention deficit, anxiety, alcohol rehabilitation support as part of a formal program, hot flushes and irritability in menopause, low mood, smoking cessation support, study aid and post-traumatic stress disorder support.

Active Ingredients:

The active constituents of Sceletium tortuosum are mesembrine, mesembrenone, mesembrenol and tortuosamine. Mesembrine is the major alkaloid present.

Pharmaceutical Effects:

In clinical practices, tablets and capsules of Sceletium tortuosum are being used successfully by a number of psychiatrists, psychologists and doctors with excellent results for anxiety and depression.

The mood-elevating action of Sceletium tortuosum is due to a number of alkaloids including mesembrine, mesembrenol and tortuosamine. Preliminary research suggests these alkaloids may interact with the brain’s dopamine and serotonin receptors.

Mesembrine is usually the major alkaloid present, and has been demonstrated in laboratory studies (sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States, and conducted by NovaScreen) to be a very potent serotonin reuptake inhibitor (more so than imipramine) and a PDE4-inhibitor (less so than rolipram). This receptor-specific activity, and some receptor activities found on nicotinic, dopamine and nor-adrenaline sites certainly validate the traditional uses, and suggest additional therapeutic potential.

Sceletium has significant mood-elevating and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties. In doses as low as 50 mg users report improvements in mood, decreased anxiety, relaxation and a sense of well-being. At higher dosages near 100 mg, Sceletium acts as a calming euphoriant and empathogen. Users report increased personal insight, interpersonal ease and a meditative, grounded feeling without any perceptual dulling. In fact some note enhanced tactile and sexual response. Some reports also note significant potentiation of alcohol and cannabis.

Contra indications:

Patients with a hypersensitivity to the plant. Not to be taken during pregnancy. Sceletium must never be combined with an SSRI, MAOI, or other psychiatric medications, cardiac medications, alcohol and cannabis.



Common names: Kanna / Kougoed (Afr.), Sceletium (Eng).

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