Kanna extracts and effective alkaloids – their properties and therapeutic potential 02/02/2021

There is certainly no need to introduce a plant called Kanna (Latin Sceletium tortuosum). In the EU and in the world, it is becoming an increasingly popular means of reducing anxiety, stress and tension, promoting a good mood, but also improving cognitive function. If you do not yet know this miraculous herb, I recommend studying our herbarium where you will find detailed information and now also suitable combinations with other plants.

In recent years, extracts with increased content of effective alkaloids have become increasingly popular, enabling this plant to show its full potential. The effects of such extracts are described as far more intense – they are no longer only therapeutic (reduction of discomfort), but now also recreational – due to increased releasing of serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters in synapses, stimulating and euphoric effects occur, which in some cases are even described as “intoxicating” or “slightly psychedelic” and are mainly likened to the effects of MDMA.

The popularity of the extracts is also evident for their simple application possibilities. Compared to the original plant mass, the extracts can be consumed directly without any preparation. The most popular method turns out to be nasal (that is, sniffing the extract). Since the effective dose is as low as 25 mg, there are no problems with clogged cavities as in the original form of the plant. This method of application is described as very effective, with immediate onset of effects. Another popular method is sublingual – the extract is inserted under the tongue, where it is absorbed by the mucosa. The extracts can also be mixed with any liquid, food, dosed into capsules, or ingested on it’s own.

Types of extracts and their effects

Kanna contains, in addition to many other less important, two main active substances – mesembrine and mesembrenone (also delta-7-mesembrenone, which is formed during the fermentation of the plant, does not differ significantly from mesembrenone in the nature of the effects). These alkaloids have several mechanisms of action on our nervous system. The resulting effect of the extract will then depend on the predominance of one or the other alkaloid.


Mesembrine acts primarily as an effective SRI (the mechanism of action is similar to that of SSRIs, in addition to serotonin it also affects other neurotransmitters) – it increases the amount of serotonin in synapses and acts in a similar way as current antidepressants. In recent years, this antidepressant effect of kanna has been shown to be more effective (immediate, and without side effects) than commonly available synthetic antidepressants. Kanna could replace these drugs in the treatment of a variety of neurotic disorders.

A relatively new finding is the fact that mesembrine stimulates the activity of the VMAT-2 protein, which is a relatively unique mechanism among psychoactive substances. It supports an increase in levels of neurotransmitters in synapses – especially dopamine, which in combination with other mechanisms probably explains the stimulating, euphoric, even empathogenic effects and the possibility of recreational use of kanna as an alternative to MDMA (which is most evident when mesembrine extract is used nasally). In a clinical setting, this effect could be potentially therapeutic for dopamine deficiency disorders – Parkinson’s disease, ADHD and others.


Mesembrenone also acts as an SRI, but its primary action is as an inhibitor of the enzyme phosphodiesterase 4. PDEA4 inhibition improves intracellular communication in the brain, resulting in nootropic, neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. PDEA4 inhibitors are currently being studied as potential agents for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, but also many inflammatory diseases.

Alkaloidy mesembrin a mesembrenon

Both alkaloids also act on endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and opioid receptors, which is responsible for the analgesic effects of kanna. There is also some synergy with other mechanisms in terms of antidepressant and anti-inflammatory action.

The improvement in cognitive function with kanna is probably due not only to the inhibition of PDEA4, which is primarily due to mesembrenone, but also to the inhibition of cholinesterase (AchE). This inhibitory action increases the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is important for optimal brain function. This mechanism is inherent in both alkaloids.

The possibility of using various types of extracts

Extracts rich in alkaloid mesembrine appear to be suitable for recreational use. Thanks to their mechanisms of action (VMAT-2 and SRI), they most closely mimic the effects of recreational substances (MDMA). Thanks to their stimulating properties, these extracts also appear to be suitable for the treatment of neurotic conditions characterized by general attenuation of the organism – states of depression, lethargy, apathy, lack of motivation, etc.

Extracts with a higher mesembrenone content could be more useful for therapeutic use. As it is more relaxing, it seems suitable for the treatment of neurotic disorders, which are caused by excessive excitation of the body – stress, acute anxiety, panic attack, etc. Although mesembrine may also have this antidepressant effect, it could worsen the course of these neuroses in more sensitive individuals or at overdoses due to its stimulating effects. Thanks to their action on PDEA4 receptors, mesembrenone-rich extracts are also suitable for improving cognitive functions, and in clinical use for the potential treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.

Case studies have also confirmed many times that kanna products could reduce the abuse of alcohol and other addictive substances, including the negative effects associated with them. The antidepressant effect of kanna reduces the craving for addictive substances. The plant also has a neuroprotective effect and thus reduces the negative effects of these substances on the nervous system. Users describe that when combining kanna extracts with alcohol, not only was the amount of alcohol reduced, alcohol intoxication was much more pleasant due to the nootropic and empathogenic effects of kanna, with a greater degree of empathy, openness, vigilance, etc.

kanna-plant final


Currently, over-the-counter commercialized extracts of this plant (Zembrin) are beginning to move on the world market, and at the same time, there are more and more scientific studies examining the effects of these extracts and their use in the treatment of various diseases. A recent look at the results of these studies shows that kanna could indeed be an effective and safe drug. And already from the ranks of doctors and psychiatrists, individuals are beginning to appear who are not afraid to suggest this alternative treatment option to their patients. Whether kanna will have a similarly promising future in central Europe is still a question. What is almost certain, however, is that data on the positive effects and minimal potential for abuse of this plant are already conclusive enough that there is probably no longer any reason to classify these substances as dangerous drugs.

In our assortment you will now find a new premium class of standardized kanna extracts with a precisely defined content of active alkaloids. Since you already understand their properties, you can choose the extract exactly according to your needs:

All information is for information purposes only, based on scientific as well as non-scientific claims. In no case do we encourage anyone to use this or any other mentioned compound.