Kanna Extract & Pregnancy – Safety Concerns and Side Effects

Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum) has a long history of use in African herbal medicine. It is a natural mood support, and research has shown that it can help reduce anxiety.

The main alkaloids in kanna, mesembrenone, mesembrenol, and tortuosamine, act as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, thereby producing antidepressant effects.*


Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum) is a succulent plant native to South Africa. The San and Khoikhoi people have used it as a calming supplement for over 300 years. They chew small amounts of kanna root as a mood enhancer and health tonic. It helps improve focus, fight stress and fatigue and aids sleep. It also has sedative properties. In addition, kanna is often chewed during pregnancy to reduce nausea and constipation. It is also used in ceremonies to invoke a spiritual connection to ancestors and the universe. It is also said to alleviate pain from various conditions.

Research on kanna is fairly limited but shows some promising results. A few animal studies indicate that kanna extract has antidepressant effects. Another experiment found that kanna reduced the nociception of nerves in rats. More study is needed to determine how well kanna may work for depression, particularly among those with severe depression and underlying chronic pain.

There are no known severe side effects associated with kanna in humans, and most healthy individuals can safely consume it to support a calm mood and boost energy. The alkaloids in kanna have been shown to interact with serotonin and the enzyme phosphodiesterase-4 to increase mood. mbg’s nutrition research scientist Emma Engler says, “Kanna works to promote relaxation while increasing alertness through its dual action on the brain.”

When choosing a Kanna product, make sure you are purchasing a high-quality extract. It is important to know that different products are marketed at varying strengths. A 10x Kanna extract, for example, is ten times more potent than dried kanna. To ensure you receive a safe and effective dose, follow the recommended serving size on the label. Taking too much kanna can lead to a state of euphoria or mania. In addition, it is not suggested to combine kanna with SSRIs or other antidepressant medications since this combination can increase your risk of serotonin syndrome. This is because the combination can cause an imbalance in your body’s natural serotonin levels.


Kanna benefits mood, primarily through its mesembrine alkaloids (mesembrenone, mesembrenol, and tortuosamine). These phytonutrient bioactives enhance serotonin reuptake inhibition actions in the brain, which increases serotonin levels. This allows the neurohormone to promote calmness, says MBG nutrition research scientist Emma Engler.* The mesembrine alkaloids also delay the body’s neurons from quickly reabsorbing the neurotransmitter, which extends its availability and activity.*

Native to Southern Africa, kanna is an enduring folk remedy used in traditional medicine by the Khoikhoi and San tribes. They chewed the eland antelope plant or brewed it into tea to relieve pain and ease insomnia. It was often mixed with cannabis sativa to produce psychoactive effects. It also provided sedation and nausea relief during pregnancy.

Today, wild kanna is difficult to find in the wild due to over-harvesting for sale. However, the herb has become increasingly popular in South Africa, where it’s cultivated and marketed for commercial use. The extracts you’ll see on the market, such as Zembrin(r), are made from kanna that’s sustainably cultivated and harvested in the country of origin.

As you shop for kanna supplements, it’s important to note that there are different strength products on the market. Some are standardized to the mesembrine alkaloids and have a specific potency. For example, a 10x extract will have the same potency as ten grams of dried kanna plants — so you’ll want to be sure that you’re getting a safe product.

For the best results, it’s recommended that you follow the dosage constraints of the product you’re using and stick to a maximum daily serving. For instance, one study found that a mastication dose of 600 mg per kg of body weight a day was safe for adults and was considered the no-observed-adverse-effect level. It is advised that you do not exceed this dosage unless instructed to do so by a healthcare professional.* This will help prevent the development of kanna extract side effects such as dizziness and headaches. Typically, the suggested serving for kanna is 500 to 1,500 mg a day of whole plant material or an herbal extract such as Zembrin(r).*

Side Effects

Kanna (Scletium tortuosum) is a succulent plant native to South Africa. It has been used for more than 300 years by San and Khoikhoi people in the area as a calming herb that can improve focus, decrease stress levels, and boost energy. It has also been used as a pain reliever and an aid to sleep. It is an ingredient in many dietary supplements and pre-workout formulas. Some people use it as a nootropic, claiming that it can enhance cognitive functions and improve reaction time.

It may help treat anxiety disorders, including social anxiety and shyness. It is thought that it helps by reducing the stress level that triggers these conditions so that patients can better manage their emotions. Studies have found that kanna can also be effective for a condition called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, among children and adolescents.

Some studies have shown that kanna can reduce symptoms of depression, particularly in adults who are experiencing major depressive disorder. It has been suggested that it works because it increases blood flow to the brain and affects neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, both of which play a role in regulating mood. More research is needed to confirm these findings.

It is not known whether kanna is safe to take during pregnancy. It is not recommended for anyone to combine it with SSRIs, antidepressants, or other psychiatric medications, because doing so could lead to serotonin syndrome, which can be fatal. It is also not recommended for people to use this medication at the same time as recreational drugs.

You can purchase kanna in capsule form or as a powder that you mix with water to make kanna tea. It is best to follow a dose that experienced users have established. It is also important to be aware that the effects of kanna can be very potent, so a low-dose regimen will likely result in a less intense experience. It is generally agreed that a normal serving of kanna powder is about two grams. This is equivalent to roughly a teaspoon of powder or one cup of tea.


Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum) has been used for centuries in Southern Africa, where it’s traditionally grown as a plant, consumed as tea or tincture, and chewed to produce an intoxicating effect. It’s also often smoked for its sedative properties, and it can be combined with tobacco to create a strong joint called a kanna cigar.

One scientific study experimented with a standardized extract of kanna called Zembrin on people between 45 and 65, and the results indicated that it improved executive function and cognitive flexibility. Another study has found that kanna enhances mood by boosting serotonin levels, decreasing anxiety, and relieving stress. It may even prevent the onset of depression.

Studies have shown that kanna acts as a light SSRI, improving the regulation of serotonin by limiting its reuptake and acting as a PDE4 inhibitor (an enzyme involved in the treatment of depression). In addition, it is an effective anti-anxiety herb, relieving mild to moderate anxiety without being too sedating. It has also been proven to improve sleep, and its effects are believed to be stronger when combined with a calming herb like lavender.

Despite its many benefits, kanna does have some safety concerns and should not be taken with other SSRIs or recreational drugs that act as serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The combination can lead to high levels of serotonin in the brain, which can be life-threatening. Similarly, it’s not recommended to take kanna with MAOIs or other prescription psychiatric medications.

The main psychoactive alkaloid in kanna is mesembrine, but it’s likely that other compounds, including polyphenols and terpenes, work together to produce the effects of this herb. Choosing a quality product that provides the full spectrum of active plant constituents is important.

The most popular way to take kanna is by using a tincture or capsules. Tinctures are made by soaking powdered kanna in alcohol, usually 95 percent ethanol, for about three to five days. The liquid is then strained and used as a supplement. You can purchase a tincture bottle or recycle an old one, then add the desired amount of kanna.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button