Kanna herb seems to confer anxiolytic and antidepressant effects.
The mood-altering kanna plant has been historically used to relieve pain and boost brain function. Research is now finding that it may also provide such benefits for stress relief as:
- Reducing anxiety. Kanna has demonstrated anxiolytic and stress-relieving effects.
- Enhancing mood. Kanna seems to have a euphoric effect as well as help with depression.
Kanna (Sceletium Tortuosum) is a miniature groundcover plant native to South Africa. It was historically ground into a powder or chewed in order alleviate pain and improve mood.
Current advancements in kanna research have identified its nootropic properties. It has predominantly been shown to enhance cognitive function, and may also help with Alzheimer’s and other conditions linked to memory loss. There is also emerging evidence supporting its role as a stress reliever, specifically through reducing anxiety and depression.
How Kanna Might Help With Stress
Kanna is believed to influence various parts of the brain, including the amygdala—the brain’s center for processing emotions—through:
Blocking serotonin reuptake
Serotonin is often viewed as one of the premier mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. Kanna was shown to have inhibitory effects on serotonin transporters – the same method used by SSRI antidepressants – which decreases the reuptake of serotonin and thus increases its bioavailability.4
Phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) is an enzyme that breaks down cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), a molecule involved in a wide range of processes including brain function. Similar to other PDE4 inhibitors, kanna seems to reduce the activity of this enzyme, an effect that may help with depression, anxiety, and other mental issues.
Kanna Benefits & Uses for Stress
Kanna is believed to have potential medicinal use as well as impart a variety of health benefits tied to stress relief, including5:
- Anxiety reduction
- General relaxation
- Mood enhancement, especially in cases of depression
Kanna is also taken as a hot drink to ease tension, relax the body, and relieve pain, and as a natural chew to improve digestion and suppress hunger.
Kanna research conducted on rats have found that it may be capable of:
Multiple clinical trials have presented kanna’s ability to reduce anxiety and improve mood.
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 16 adults took either a placebo or 25 milligrams of a kanna extract known as Zembrin® and then performed anxiety-triggering tasks while having their brains scanned. The brain scan results revealed that, unlike the placebo, kanna lowered amygdala reactivity to fearful faces, which strongly suggests anxiolytic properties.
- The study demonstrate the “attenuating effects of S. tortuosum on the threat circuitry of the human brain and provide supporting evidence that the dual 5-HT reuptake inhibition and PDE4 inhibition of this extract might have anxiolytic potential.”9
In this randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled investigation, 37 adults were given a placebo, 8 milligrams of Zembrin®, or 25 milligrams of Zembrin® once a day during a 3-month period. Not only were both doses found to be well-tolerated with few adverse side effects, but also had some beneficial effects on stress tolerance and sleep.
- The study concluded that “positive effects on well-being were noted in patient diaries by some participants taking extract Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin), including improved coping with stress and sleep.”10
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 21 adults took either a placebo or 25 milligrams of Zembrin® every day for 3 weeks. Compared to the placebo, kanna was found to significantly improve cognitive function as well as trigger positive changes in mood ratings and elevate sleep quality.
- The study concluded that “Zembrin at 25 mg daily dosage significantly improved cognitive set flexibility… [and] positive changes in mood and sleep were found.”11
Dosage for Stress
- Successful clinical studies use from 8 – 25 mg of kanna extract.
- Kanna is new to the commercial market and comes in a wide range of doses, from X – 1 g.
- A dry or liquid extract of kanna leaves and roots available in capsules or as a tincture or tea.
- Fermented kanna formed into a chew or ground to be snuffed and smoked.
- Zembrin® is a 2:1 formulation of kanna extract.
Supplements in Review Says
- Kanna as Zembrin® at 8 – 25 mg for stress.
Kanna seems to have have anxiolytic and antidepressant properties. Early research has demonstrated kanna’s potential aptitude in reducing anxiety and improving mood. Continued investigation into its ability to relieve stress is warranted.
Go with clinically tested Zembrin®. The only form of supplemental kanna supported by clinical research is Zembrin®, the suggested dosing of which is 8 – 25 mg per day.
- Patnala S, et al. Investigations of the phytochemical content of Sceletium tortuosum following the preparation of “Kougoed” by fermentation of plant material. J Ethnopharmacol 2009;121:86-91 ↩
- Smith MT, et al. The Distribution of Mesembrine Alkaloids in Selected Taxa of Kanna and their Modification in the Sceletium Derived `Kougoed.’ Pharm Biol 1998;36:173-9. ↩
- Gericke N, et al. Sceletium–a review update. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Oct 28;119(3):653-63. ↩
- Harvey AL, et al. Pharmacological actions of the South African medicinal and functional food plant Sceletium tortuosum and its principal alkaloids. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Oct 11;137(3):1124-9. ↩
- Patnala S, et al. Medicinal use of Sceletium: Characterization of Phytochemical Components of Sceletium Plant Species using HPLC with UV and Electrospray Ionization–Tandem Mass Spectroscopy. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2015;18(4):414-23. ↩
- Smith MT, et al. Psychoactive constituents of the genus Sceletium N.E.Br. and other Mesembryanthemaceae: a review. J Ethnopharmacol 1996;50:119-30. ↩
- Smith C. The effects of Sceletium tortuosum in an in vivo model of psychological stress. J Ethnopharmacol 2011;133:31-6. ↩
- Loria MJ et al. Effects of Sceletium tortuosum in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Aug 8;155(1):731-5. ↩
- Terburg D et al. 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. ↩
- Nell H, et al. A randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial of Extract Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin) in healthy adults. J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Nov;19(11):898-904. ↩
- Chiu S, et al. Proof-of-Concept Randomized Controlled Study of Cognition Effects of the Proprietary Extract Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin) Targeting Phosphodiesterase-4 in Cognitively Healthy Subjects: Implications for Alzheimer’s Dementia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:682014. ↩