In low doses, Kanna can provide rapid relief from stress and anxiety. It can boost mindfulness and healthy introspection, create pleasant sensory experiences, and allow space for increased appreciation of surroundings and sensory stimulation. This array of sensations is often followed by a degree of indifference or emotional detachment from matters that would normally cause a negative reaction in the individual.
Moderate doses of Kanna have an overall mood-enhancing effect; it’s often described as a feeling of euphoria coupled with an increase in energy and a tingling sensation felt throughout the body. For some, the heightened energy provokes a desire for socializing and performing activities such as dancing and singing. For others, it can be channeled into focus and mental clarity, making Kanna a great ally for productivity and creativity.
At higher doses, however, Kanna has the exact opposite effect; it becomes a sedative, facilitating muscle relaxation and dissolving attention and focus. Action becomes borderline impossible as the narcotic side of the plant’s effects engulfs the user.
This variance in effects can be explained by the differences in neurotransmitter levels which appear when different levels of Kanna’s active compounds are present in the brain, as mentioned in the Pharmacology section.
Kanna’s alkaloids interact well with several other compounds, most notably with those in alcohol and cannabis. Combining it with these two recreational psychoactives results in an entourage effect where individual effects are mutually potentiated.
Although it’s not very hallucinogenic on its own (typically causing only slight visual alterations such as softer or more intense-looking colors and glows around the edges of objects and people), these combinations are known to result in mild visions. Some other plant admixtures the Khoikhoi traditionally combine with Kanna include damiana, blue lotus flowers, wild dagga, tongkat ali, and ginseng. The reports of Kanna’s psychedelic effects can likely be explained, in part, by consuming it with other ingredients.
Finally, Kanna is known to suppress the appetite and some cravings for substances such as alcohol, nicotine, and opioids, meaning that it can be integrated as a supplement to support a healthy lifestyle. No formal studies have been performed to confirm these effects, but they appear in reports from centuries of traditional use.
As with other psychedelics, how Kanna will affect a person largely depends on their mindset and the setting it’s consumed in. Kanna doesn’t produce serotonin, but rather prevents its breakdown, keeping more of the neurotransmitter in circulation. This means it will only have the mood-boosting effect if the mood is already good, i.e. if there is some serotonin available to work with. It’s therefore recommended to consume Kanna with a stable mindset and in a rewarding, supportive context.
Although Kanna may be able to help with feelings of depression, it’s not guaranteed to do so. It’s highly recommended to consult a professional before attempting to use Kanna as an antidepressant.
Side effects & precautions
Adverse reactions to Kanna are rare and are most often a consequence of taking too high of a dose or consuming it in an unfavorable context.
The few side effects commonly reported include raised blood pressure and heart palpitations, which can be followed by anxiety, mild headaches, and nausea without vomiting. A dry mouth is common, as is having loose stool.
Many users have reported feeling irritated after the effects of Kanna wear off; this is likely due to the necessary readjustment of serotonin levels. Although it can be tempting to take another dose at this stage in order to get the mood back up, we strongly advise against this, as it can lead to an accumulation of irritability and even more intense reactions of anger when the second high subsides.
The actual effects of Kanna can also be considered as side effects depending on the context of its use. The euphoria it causes in moderate doses can make it difficult to fall asleep if taken later in the day, while the tranquilizing effect of higher doses can turn into grogginess or drowsiness, making activities requiring motoric coordination or focus unsafe or unfeasible. Everyone is therefore advised to be mindful of the context of consuming Kanna to avoid unwanted consequences of its effects.
Kanna is known to cause tolerance, meaning that higher doses may be needed with repeated ingestion. However, neither animal studies nor anecdotal accounts have reported severe withdrawal effects after discontinuing use. On the other hand, for some users, the body needs initial adjustment to even feel the effects, so taking low doses over several days is a good way to ‘prime’ it to the Kanna experience.
Due to its chemistry, Kanna must not be combined with other SSRIs (such as depression medication) or MAOIs (such as B. caapi or Syrian rue). Mixing these could lead to a negative biochemical interaction and result in serious health complications.