How to use kanna?

Snuffed, smoked or tea

Traditionally the kanna plant, Sceletium tortuosum, is fermented and dried before being chewed or smoked. Nowadays kanna can be purchased as a powder, tincture, as part of herbal mixes and as a tea. Extracts and isolations of specific alkaloids from Sceletium tortuosum are available as well. It’s even possible to buy kanna seeds in order to cultivate your own plant.


The powdered version of kanna can be used as a snuff. 20 mg is enough to produce a substantial effect. Usually 50-150 mg is recommended. It’s also possible to take several small doses over the course of a day.

Some people report little effect after taking the first snuff, or just a ‘general uneasiness’. This might change with the next dose. This phenomenon is called ‘priming’: if one takes kanna over a number of days the effects will build up.

As a snuff, the effects of kanna come up quickly; within a couple of minutes. This method is reported to have the most euphoric effects. The analgesic effect is moderate. The effects last for about one hour, maximum two, and then slowly fade or change from euphoria into a state of sedation.

The problem with insufflation is that it damages the nostrils and nasal mucosa, especially in case of repeated use.

kanna_tortuosumSmoking kanna

For smoking the recommended dose lies somewhere between 50 mg and a maximum of 500 mg. A dose of 100-250 mg is considered medium. Similar to sniffing, the effects are felt quickly. The peak will be reached after 30-60 minutes and the effects start to wane off quickly during the next couple of hours. It’s reported that smoking kanna produces a more stoned or ‘trippy’ effect. The euphoric and analgesic effects on the other hand, are less pronounced.

Traditionally kanna was added to a smoking mixture with other psychoactive plants, like cannabis sativa and possibly wild dagga (Leonotus leonurus). This probably explains where the ‘hallucinogenic’ effects first attributed to Sceletium tortuosum came from. Kanna potentiates the effects of both alcohol and cannabis, which means you need substantially less of these substances to get the same effect.

Kanna combines well with other smokable herbs like damiana, blue lotus flowers and wild dagga, tongkat ali and ginseng. Besides smoking these herbs can also be enjoyed as tea.

Sublingual use of kanna

Sublingual use of kanna means: placing it under the tongue and holding it there for a prolonged period of time, until the alkaloids are absorbed by the body. Sublingually 50-150 mg produces a subtle effect and 200-400 mg a medium effect. One can experiment with dosages up to 1 gram. The effects last for about two hours and will fade quickly in the hours afterwards.

Chewing (gum) kanna

The local inhabitants of ‘Kannaland’ are known to chew on fermented and powdered Sceletium plants for prolonged periods of time. After a while they spit it out to re-use it again later on.

A modern variation to this method is mixing kanna with a piece of chewing gum. The same dosages apply as with the sublingual method: 50-150 mg for a subtle and 200-400 mg for a medium effect. The effects are roughly the same.

Kanna tea

As a tea kanna is less effective and more of the product is needed to reach the same effect. If one makes tea, a dosage of 200-500 mg is recommended to start with. One can experiment with dosages up to 2 gram. However, very strong dosages may lead to nausea and vomiting, visual distortions and dizziness.

When making tea, honey is often added as a sweetener. Orally, kanna should always be taken on an empty stomach in order to have effect. The effects are reported to be less euphoric, and more sedative, analgesic and narcotic. It might take longer before effects appear (sometimes up to 1.5 hours). And in general the effects last quite long: up to 4 -5 hours after ingestion.

kanna_expansumExtracts and isolations of kanna

Next to the ordinary kanna powder or plant material, kanna is also available as extract. The alkaloids (active ingredients) are extracted from the plant material with ethanol. A 10x extract is ten times stronger than the ordinary herb.

Extracts just reduce the amount of plant material and make the end product more efficient. It’s also possible to isolate one or more of the alkaloids. Kanna contains a range of alkaloids, of which mesembrine, mesembrenone and mesembrenol are the most important. All of these alkaloids have their specific effects.

Mesembrine, one of the main alkaloids, is a serotonin-uptake inhibitor (SRI) and a weak inhibitor of the phosphodiesterase enzyme. It’s the main ingredient of the UC and UC2 extract. Mesembrine is responsible for the sedative effects of kanna.

Kanna UC extract also contains mesembrenone. The UC extract lacks the energizing effects of kanna and provides a more mellow, relaxing and stress-reducing effect. Beware of taking too much, as this might cause nausea. This extract works best as a snuff. It has a very rapid onset, with intense effects , but it doesn’t last very long.

In addition to mesembrine, the UC2 extract contains mesembrenone and delta-7-mesembrenone. In contrast to the UC extract, the UC2 extract can best be mixed with food. It’s slower to produce effect but the effects remain active longer.

he UB40 extract is made especially for vaporizer enthusiasts. This extract is coarser than other kanna extracts but contains a very high amount of mesembrine for a potent and relaxing buzz, comparable to the UC2 extract.

The ET2 extract is recommended for experienced kanna users only. It contains a high concentration mesembrine, which makes it very potent. It’s best used as a snuff and has a fast-acting, euphoric effect.

Kanna tincture

A tincture is a liquid version of kanna, for which an extract of plant material is dissolved in alcohol. Tinctures are easy to drink mixed with a bit of (hot) water. As it contains less plant material, a tincture is easier to digest than ordinary kanna powder. In higher dosages some people find the plant material of Sceletium tortuosum taxing on the stomach and belly. A tincture will prevent this.


Sceletium tortuosum is a Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SRI). It should not be combined with other (S)SRI’s or Mono Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOi’s). (S)SRI’s are mainly found in antidepressant prescription medicines like Seroxat, Prozac, Cipramil, Fevarin and Zoloft. MAOi’s can be found in certain antidepressants and in plants like Syrian Rue (Peganum harmala), Banisteriopsis Caapi, Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) and Yohimbe.

There are conflicting stories on the combination of kanna and MDMA (XTC). In general MDMA shouldn’t be combined with an SRI in order to prevent Serotonin Syndrome. MDMA causes an overload of serotonin to be released in the brain synapses. Kanna blocks the reuptake of serotonin, so the combination might lead to a serotonin overdose. Symptoms are those of overheating (hyperthermia): sweating, increased heart rate, shivers, dilated pupils, rapid breathing and eventually fever, confusion and organ failure. Serotonin Syndrome is a serious condition which can be fatal.

However, some sources report (S)SRI’s may reduce the neurotoxitcity of MDMA/XTC and some people have used it to ease the come down of these substances.

Read more about the effects and side-effects of Kanna.