Nature's Mood Boosting Magic, Part 1: Kanna

If I'm being honest, I imagine that this information is probably something that the pharmaceutical industry doesn't want being shared far and wide. 


Oh well. Let's get into it. 


Today, we're exploring the mood altering effects of Sceletium tortuosum, more often known as kanna. 

First, I'll explore the subjective effects of the extracts - how people often report feeling when they've taken them.  Then, we'll go into a breakdown of some of the primary alkaloids present in kanna and what their effects are, so that we can understand the why behind how it works. 


To begin with, a brief history lesson. 


Kanna is the name for a succulent in South Africa. It has been used traditionally for thousands of years by the native people of the area, the Khoi-san. It was completely unknown of to the western world until it was introduced to Dutch traders in the area by some of the tribes people. 

In modern years, it has still garnered relatively little attention outside of South Africa. 

Traditionally, kanna would be consumed by fermenting and drying the leaves of the plant. This dried plant material could then be chewed or used as snuff to achieve various effects. 

Kanna is known for being able to elicit a variety of experiences in people, including calmness, relaxation, euphoria, stimulation, focus, openness, and more. 

The reason for this variety of effects can likely be attributed to the variety of alkaloids present in the material. We'll take a deeper look at those in a moment. 

In recent years, kanna has become more available in the form of extracts. These extracts allow us not only to have more potent material, but also to attain more consistent effects through controlling the ratios of the different alkaloids present. 


Now, for the stuff the pharmaceutical industry does not want you to know. 

In a nutshell, kanna has a reputation for being effective as an antidepressant, anxiolytic, and all around mood boosting supplement. 

For many people, the experience of kanna is uplifting, an emotional 'warm and fuzzy' kind of feeling. I Some would describe the feeling as being clear headed, helping them to focus and work effectively, without the stimulation of caffeine. Still others will describe the experience as being soothing and relaxing.

It is often described as a 'heart opener', a substance that can be taken to increase empathy and feelings of benevolence towards others. Some people experience this so strongly that they refer to it as a 'natural MDMA'.

(It is the opinion of the author that kanna should not be taken with the expectation of achieving results of that intensity. While that experience is true for some people, I have not observed it to be the norm at regular doses.) 


Now, let's explore a little bit about how kanna achieves the results that it does. 

There's going to be a little bit more in the way of medical jargon here, but just hang with me. You got this. 

In short, kanna provides a host of functions that leads to reduced stress, increased empathy, reduced fear response, and improved mood. 

First off, it functions as an SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor). This is similar to how some antidepressants function, and is likely part of the reason for why kanna can impact mood in the way that it does. 

In addition to this, kanna also functions as a PDE4 (phosphodiesterase 4) inhibitor.  This is significant because of the role that PDE4 plays in the body. Typically, SSRIs  (aka many prescription antidepressants) do the opposite and increase the presence of PDE4 in the body. This causes the body to increase its tolerance to serotonin. Over time, this means taking higher and higher doses of antidepressants to maintain the same effects. 

By inhibiting PDE4, kanna is able to deliver a potent beneficial combination of effects. PDE4 inhibitors have also been studied in recent decades for their potential use as antidepressants. However, one of the primary challenges with PDE4 inhibition alone is that many people experience nausea or headaches that limit the doses to below useful thresholds. 

Recent research is suggesting that the combination of PDE4 inhibition with SSRIs may provide synergistic effects that helps to amplify the positives of each while minimizing the potential for negative side effects. 

Whew. Okay. That was a lot. 


Stay with me. We're almost through the dense part. 

In a study from 2013, kanna was also shown to reduce amygdala activity and to reduce amygdala hypothalamus coupling. 

The amygdala is responsible for our perception of threat - our fear response. 

The hypothalamus sends messages to our body informing it of what kinds of hormones to produce. 

This suggests another potent combination of effects. Not only do we feel less fearful and stressed because of decreased amygdala activity, but then our body also produces fewer stress hormones related to the fear and anxiety we may still feel (decreased coupling of the amygdala and hypothalamus). 


Let's summarize all of this really quickly. 

1. Kanna acts as an SSRI and a PDE4 inhibitor 

2. It also has been shown to decrease amygdala activity and decouple the amygdala and hypothalamus

This combination of effects leads to many people experiencing kanna as being uplifting, relaxing, focusing, and potentially euphoria inducing. 

At this time, kanna is legal in every country in the world, can not be patented, and is readily available from multiple sources. 

We hope you find this writing informative and useful! Stay tuned for more about how kanna and various other extracts can be used to help us reclaim our collective sovereignty of our health! 

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