Author: Darren Williams (B. App. Sci. Adv Dip. Hort.)
Step 1: Gather your plant material from a Sceletium plant (Sceletium emarcidum or Sceletium tortuosum). Don’t just add the leaves, include the stems and roots as well. Traditionally, the whole plant was pulled up and used. It ferments better with the roots. The stems have been reported as having a higher alkaloid content (0.86% Mesembrine in the stems, 0.3% in the leaves [Smith et al, 1996]). Mesembrine may not be the most active alkaloid, however it will convert to other possibly more active alkaloids upon crushing and during fermentation.
Step 2: Crush the material with your fingers or cut with scissors/knife. This helps the fermentation begin and may play a role in helping neutralise the oxalic acid within the plant material. It will also change the alkaloid make upand concentrations within the Kanna. Research has found that Kanna that was crushed and then oven dried had a much different alkaloid makeup than Kanna that was simply oven dried without crushing[Smith et. al. 1998]. Crushing seems to be preferable.
Step 3: Place the crushed Sceletium in a glass jar, or a zip-lock bag if you donât have one. Either is fine, it just has to be in a sealed container. Traditionally, the Sceletium was placed in sealed animal skins.I find glass jars with a swing top are perfect vessels for fermentation. They are sealed against fungi and bacteria and will vent any pressure themselves if you forget to do it. It is very easy to see the changes occur and make adjustments as fermentation continues.
Step 4: Fermentation is underway. The material is liquefying and turning a brown/dark green colour. This begins after a day and as it continues, the smell of the Kanna changes. Vent the gas that is produced occasionally. After 5-8 days, pour from the jar into a glass dish or other shallow container and let dry in full sun. This does not seem to affect the alkaloids. It may take 3-5 days to dry depending on the weather. If the weather changes for the worse, dry in an oven at approx. 100°C.
Step 5: Now the Sceletium is dry or almost dry, it can be either powdered straight away or finished off totally in an oven at around 90-100°C . It will powder better if finished off in an oven. This will get rid of any bacteria or fungi as well. For chewing or making tea, you would leave it unpowdered. For smoking, a rough grind is best. For making a snuff powder, a very fine grind will be necessary. Coffee grinders are the best machine for the job.
Step 6: Ready to consume. 100g fresh material will give you approximately 3.7g dried, finished product.
Disclaimer. This guide is intended for informational purposes only. May only be reproduced with written permission of the author.
References and further reading
Smith, M.T., Crouch, N.R., Gericke, N. and Hirst, M. 1996. Psychoactive constituents of the genus Sceletium N.E.Br. and other Mesembryanthemaceae: a review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 50, 119-130.
Smith, M.T, Field, C.R, Crouch, N.R and Hirst M. 1998, The Distribution of Mesembrine Alkaloids in Selected Taxa of the Mesembryanthemaceae and
their Modification in the Sceletium Derived Kougoed. Pharm. Bio. Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 173-179.