Sceletium tortuosum | Kanna | Kougoed | Fermented & Unfermented
Historically Sceletium tortuosum was chewed, smoked, or used as snuff. Fermentation increases its strength substantially. According to some users, the fresh leaves do not have much potency and it is said only the fermented Kanna has psychoactive properties.
For hundreds of years, the African Bushmen prepared and used this intoxicating mysterious plant during their rituals. In ceremonies such as rainmaking, divination, healing, and communal trance dancing. The leaves were fermented and later chewed or smoked. Reports suggest also that the Hottentot tribe would combine Cannabis sativa with Sceletium tortuosum and smoke it for their rituals. Other medicinal uses include chewing the leaf for toothaches and abdominal pain. The Namaqua tribe would make a Kanna tea to suppress hunger pangs. Cape farmers instead used this plant as a sedative.
This small succulent plant belongs to the Aizoaceae family. The plant occurs only in South Africa, in the so-called Kanna land. Sceletium tortuosum has fleshy light green leaves and small flowers with spindly petals whose colors range from white and light yellow to pink and sometimes soft orange. It is a low-growing plant that sprawls across the ground. The plant has most potency during October. After harvest, it is crushed between two rocks, and allowed to “ferment” for a few days in a closed container.
Propagation occurs through the seeds. Both the cultivation and care are similar to that for the Cactaceae, which is the most closely related family. S. tortuosum develops fleshy roots, a smooth and fleshy stalk, and low-growing branches that spread laterally. The plant produces angular-shaped fruits with small seeds.
Kanna is easily confused with other members of the genus Sceletium (as well as with Mesembryanthemum spp.). Those species do not only look similar but also have comparable effects and contain the same active constituent Mesembrine.
There has been little investigation of the plant over the last century. Due to the disruption of its habitat, it has also become increasingly difficult to find. Sceletium tortuosum has been shown to contain approximately eight psychotropic alkaloidal compounds including Mesembrine, mesembrenine, mesembrenone, mesembranol, sceletenone, tortuosamine, hordenine, and dehydrojoubertamine. Certain chemical constituents have been found to be effective for treating depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and alcohol and drug dependency. At low doses, the plant’s reported effects are things like tranquility, easing of tension and stress, anxiety reduction, and a greater sense of self-confidence. At higher doses, the effects are a sense of euphoria, increased tactile sensitivity, and enhanced libidinal desires.
Rätsch, Christian. “The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants
Terburg D, Syal S, Rosenberger LA, Heany S, Phillips N, Gericke N, Stein DJ, van Honk J. Acute effects of Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin), a dual 5-HT reuptake and PDE4 inhibitor, in the human amygdala and its connection to the hypothalamus. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013 Dec;38(13):2708-16. doi: 10.1038/npp.2013.183. Epub 2013 Aug 1. PMID: 23903032; PMCID: PMC3828542.