kanna extracts and effective alkaloids – their properties and therapeutic potential 31/01/2021

A plant called Kanna (Latin Sceletium tortuosum) certainly does not need a lengthy introduction. In our country and in the world, it is becoming an increasingly popular means capable of dampening anxiety, stress and tension, promoting a good mood, but also improving cognitive functions. If you do not know this miraculous herb yet, I recommend studying our Herbarium where you will find detailed information and newly 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

In order to understand the nature of individual extracts, it is necessary to first talk about the active ingredients of this plant. Kanna contains, among many other less important, the 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 mesembrenon by the nature of the effects). These alkaloids have several mechanisms of action on our nervous system. The resulting effect of the extract will then unfold depending on the predominance of one or another 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 the synapses and acts in a similar way as current antidepressants. In recent years, it has been shown that this antidepressant action of kanna is more effective (immediate, and without side effects) than with commonly available synthetic antidepressants. Kanna could replace these drugs in the treatment of a variety of neurotic disorders.

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


Mesembrenone it also acts as a 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 action. PDEA4 inhibitors are currently being studied as potential means for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, but also a number of inflammatory diseases.

Alkaloids Mesembrine and Mesembrenone

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 of cognitive functions when using kanna is probably due not only to the inhibition of PDEA4, which is primarily due to the Mesembrenone, but also inhibition of cholinesterase (AchE). This inhibitory action results in an increase in the values of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is important for optimal brain functioning. This mechanism is inherent in both alkaloids.

Use of individual types of extracts

Extracts rich in alkaloid Mesembrine appears 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 overall attenuation of the body – states of depression, lethargy, apathy, lack of motivation, etc.

Extracts with a higher content of mesembrenone could be more useful for therapeutic use. Since it acts rather relaxing, it seems suitable for the treatment of neurotic disorders that are caused by excessive excitation of the body – stress, acute anxiety, panic attack, etc. This antidepressant effect may also have Mesembrine, however, due to its stimulating effects, it could aggravate the course of these neuroses in more sensitive individuals or when taking an excessive dose. 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.

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At present, over-the-counter commercialized extracts of this plant (Zembrin) are beginning to move on the world market , and at the same time there is an increasing number of scientific studies examining the effects of these extracts and their use in the treatment of various types of diseases. A current look at the results of these studies shows that kanna could indeed be an effective and safe drug. And already now, among doctors and psychiatrists, individuals are beginning to appear who are not afraid to suggest to their patients this alternative treatment option. Whether kanna will have a similarly promising future in our country is still a question. What is almost certain, however, is that the data on the positive effects and the minimal potential for abuse of this plant are already conclusive enough that there will probably be 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 compounds.