Kanna Herb: Effects, Benefits, Dosage, and Safety

kanna herb

If you’re concerned about upcoming stressful events and looking for an herbal solution to cope with them better, you have probably heard of a medicinal plant with psychoactive effects known as Kanna herb. It has traditionally been chewed before stressing endeavors for thousands of years. Kanna herb alleviates anxiety and stress and provides many other brain health benefits, from cognitive performance to mood. Wanna know more about the health benefits of Kanna? Keep reading till the end.

This article will explore some of the most common effects of Kanna herb according to research findings. But before we get into how Kanna can help with human health, we’ll need to learn the fundamentals of this herb a little bit more. So, let’s dig deeper.

What Is Kanna Herb?

Kanna, otherwise called canna, is a medicinal succulent plant botanically known as Sceletium tortuosum, native to South Africa. The plant has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for thousands of years within indigenous tribes of South African culture.

Kanna herb, traditionally consumed in a chewable format, is now widely recognized for its potency in extract form. While the use of Kanna teas and tinctures is outstandingly popular in traditional medicine, the botanical extract of the herb has been found to have several nootropic benefits as well. Nootropics are substances used to enhance brain functions, including memory, thinking, and learning, especially when these functions are affected.

Today, Kanna extract is widely found in various Kanna herbal supplements such as raw powders, tablets, and capsules.

How Is Kanna Herb Extract Made?

Kanna herb is rich in alkaloids that are usually soluble in alcohol. The powdered plant materials are soaked into a solution of 99% isopropyl alcohol or food-grade ethanol so that the alkaloids can move into the solution from the plant materials.

After a while, the alcoholic solution is filtered, and the plant materials are wrung well and removed. The solution is washed out, and the isopropyl or ethanol evaporates completely. Any residual alcohol is unsafe and can be toxic for therapeutic use.

Once the alcohol is fully evaporated, the result is a pure Kanna herb extract full of alkaloids that resemble tar resin. It can be kept and used as it is or can be mixed with various kanna products or other herbal remedies.

Kanna Herb Potential Effects

While uncontrolled traditional uses of Kanna have been believed to cause an intoxicated excitation, the effects of Kanna in controlled dosages are impressively different. These effects may include a noticeable reduction in anxiety and everyday stress (anxiolytic), an increase in mood support and relaxation, tranquility, self-confidence, and overall well-being, and a gentle decrease in feelings of isolation, allowing a person to improve the quality of social and personal life.

Kanna may also act as an aphrodisiac and enhance skin and touch sensitivity. Higher doses may cause mild visions, and it has a few reported adverse effects, too. We’re coming to the points of side effects and precautions soon.

The feelings of relaxation and tranquility induced by Kanna can provide a range of potential benefits, especially those related to brain health, ranging from mood to concentration to cognitive flexibility. Kanna herb effects extend to various areas, encompassing a wide range of benefits for overall well-being. Let’s have a look at some common potential Kanna herb benefits:

Potential Kanna Herb Benefits

Kanna Herb Promotes Relaxation

Kanna extract has been found to have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) calming effects that can help build resilience to anxiety and stress (check out our blog about herbs for stress and anxiety). It is a significant adaptogenic herb that affects the brain, supporting the cognitive ability to be emotionally harder in potential upcoming stressors.

In a 2013 robustly designed placebo-controlled trial, researchers used 25 mg of Kanna extracts on 16 healthy participants and investigated the reactivity of the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for anxiety and fear. The results showed a noticeable reduction in reactivity to fearful stimuli.

Kanna Herb Supports Mood

Kanna and the alkaloids it contains can help enhance mood by impacting the levels of brain chemicals such as serotonin. A 2011 preclinical study showed that pure Kanna herb extract inhibits serotonin and a specific nerve enzyme called phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4). This dual action on brain chemicals synergistically can help promote calm and lift mood.

Kanna May Improve Cognitive Flexibility

Kanna has shown positive effects on cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility is the brain’s ability to flex and adapt thoughts and actions depending on situations. Kanna can help manage thoughts and emotions and act more positively.

A 2014 double-blind clinical study investigating the neurocognitive effects of kanna extract found that supplementing 25 mg of Kanna tincture for three weeks improved various aspects of cognitive function, including complex attention, psychomotor speed, and processing speed, compared to the placebo group. In this study, researchers also noticed positive changes in sleep and mood.

Kanna Herb May Help Alleviate Pain

Kanna has been used as an effective natural remedy for pain relief by many native tribes in South Africa. The herb is traditionally chewed or smoked to help alleviate pain. Preliminary research also substantiated its pain-relieving properties. However, more clinical trials on humans are required to evaluate this claim.

One animal study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that mesembrine, a primary alkaloid in Kanna herb, has pain-relieving (analgesic) actions without affecting coordination and balance.

kanna herbs

How to Use Kanna Herb Supplements

Though kanna leaves have traditionally been chewed and swallowed, the plant extract has been studied for oral administration for similar beneficial effects. The exact dosage of the Kanna natural supplement depends on personal needs and the aim of taking it.

It’s recommended to consult with a licensed herbalist or naturopathic doctor to determine the personalized dose.

Side Effects and Precautions While Using Kanna Herb

Kanna has shown a strong safety profile in scientific studies, including animal research and human trials. Side effects are usually infrequent and uncommon, including mild headaches, stomach upset, and constipation.

Besides, Kanna may affect brain chemicals such as serotonin levels and interact with other herbs, medications, or supplements. Therefore, speaking with a licensed herbalist or naturopath is essential before introducing Kanna herb to your health regimen.

Harness the Power of Kanna Herb

Kanna or Sceletium tortuosum is an ancient medicinal herb with a long history of traditional use for thousands of years. It contains unique plant alkaloids, which offer multidimensional potential health benefits, especially by improving various aspects of brain health, including anxiety, stress, mood, and cognitive flexibility. If you want to boost your brain power, Kanna might be a choice for what you need.

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FAQ on Kanna Herb

  • How to use Kanna? Kanna can be used in various ways, depending on personal preference and desired effects. Some common methods include chewing the dried leaves, brewing a tea, or taking it in capsule form. It's essential to start with a low dose and gradually increase it to find the optimal amount for your needs. 
  • What is Kanna Extract? Kanna extract is a concentrated form of the kanna herb, obtained through various extraction methods. The extract contains higher levels of the active compounds found in the plant, such as alkaloids and flavonoids. Kanna extract is often used in supplements and may be more potent than the dried herb itself.
  • How much kanna extract should I take? The recommended dosage of kanna extract may vary depending on the specific product and its concentration. It's crucial to follow the manufacturer's instructions and start with the lowest recommended dose. A typical starting dose for kanna extract is around 50-100mg, taken once or twice daily. 
  • Where to buy kanna herb? Kanna herb can be purchased from various online retailers, herbal shops, and health food stores. When buying kanna, ensure that you choose a reputable supplier that offers high-quality, pure, and sustainably sourced products.
  • What is the best kanna supplement? The best kanna supplement will depend on individual preferences and needs. When selecting a kanna supplement, consider factors such as the extraction method, the concentration of active compounds, and the overall quality of the product.
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