Sceletium tortuosum: What is it?
Sceletium tortuosum (Kanna) has been used by South African
pastoralists and hunter-gatherers as a mood-altering
substance since prehistoric times. The earliest written
records of the use of the Kanna plant date back to 1662. Sceletium was an item
of barter in the time of Jan van Riebeck, and there is
documentation of trade from the Castle in Cape Town, South
Africa. The traditionally prepared dried sceletium was often
chewed as a quid after fermenting it, but it has also
been made into teas and tinctures. Less commonly, it has
been reported that Sceletium tortuosum used to be inhaled as a snuff,
or smoked with the addition of other herbs.
Kanna elevates mood and decreases anxiety, stress and
tension, and it has also been used as an appetite
suppressant by shepherds walking long distances in arid
areas. In intoxicating doses it can cause euphoria,
initially with stimulation and later with sedation.
Long-term use in the local context followed by abstinence
has not been reported to result in a withdrawal state. The
plant is not hallucinogenic, and no severe adverse effects
have ever been documented.
Historically Sceletium tortuosum was eaten/chewed, smoked
or used as snuff producing euphoria and alertness which gently fade into
relaxation. If chewed in sufficient quantity Sceletium has a mild anesthetic
effect in the mouth, much like kava, and is used by the San tribes if you are
about to have a tooth extracted, or in minute doses, for children with colic. A
tea made from Sceletium (Kanna) is sometimes used to wean alcoholics off
Thunberg, during his 1773 expedition reported: "The Hottentots come far and near
to fetch this shrub with the root, leaves and all, which they beat together, and
afterwards twist them up like pig-tail tobacco; after which they let the mass
ferment and keep it by them for chewing, especially when they are thirsty. If
chewed after fermentation, it intoxicates." Laidler in 1928 noted that Sceletium
Tortuosum was "chewed and retained in the mouth for a while, when their spirits
would rise, eyes brighten and faces take on a jovial air, and they would
commence to dance. But if indulged in to excess, it robbed them of their senses
and they became intoxicated.