Sceletium tortuosum – Kanna (plant)
Sceletium tortuosum is a member of the Aizoaceae family, native to southern Africa. The genus contains 8 species which can be differentiated by features such as the number of parallel leaf veins, flower colour and size, seed colour, leaf size and the the presence or absence of valve wings on the capsules.
Sceletium tortuosum was one of the Sceletium species used to prepare ‘Kanna/Kougoed’, which was valued by the Khoi and San tribes of Southern Africa as a stimulant/hypnotic/sedative. Kanna was highly valued by the tribes and enabled them to travel long distances without food or water (another word used interchangably with Kanna is Kougoed which means ‘something to chew’). The tribesmen collected the whole succulent and crushed it before putting it inside sealed animal skin to ferment for approximately 8 days. It was then removed and dried for use, typically chewing, although a more recent method is to insufflate or smoke. A tea, tincture or decoction can also be made from the material.
Contains mesembrine type alkaloids including mesembrine, mesembrenone, mesembrenol, tortuosamine and others. Concentrations range from 0.05 – 2.3% in the dry product, with mesembrine the major alkaloid in the leaves (Van Wyk & Wink, 2004).
Care and Cultivation of Sceletium tortuosum
Sceletium tortuosum likes a well drained mix in full sun to part shade. Sceletium tortuosum grows actively in colder and wetter winter times, becoming dormant with increasing heat, at which time watering should be slowed down and stopped in the hottest part of the year. Fertilise well when actively growing.