Drug Interactions, Kratom Guides

Kanna vs. Kratom: Safety, Usage & Benefits of Two Powerful Plants

Kanna and kratom are powerful herbs with a strong history of traditional usage and can provide significant medicinal or recreational benefits. However, aside from the fact that they both start with ‘k,’ kanna and kratom don’t have much in common at all.

Kanna is traditionally used to relieve pain and promote relaxation. Kratom contains alkaloids with mild opioid properties that can provide pain relief, sedation, and more.

Used together — or separately — both of these plants can help people find balance in their lives. However, each plant acts through entirely different mechanisms.

This article will help you decide which one of these plants will be more useful for you or whether you’d like to use them together.

Last updated 4 months ago by Audrey Webber

Kanna vs. Kratom: Safety, Usage & Benefits of Two Powerful Plants

What Is Kratom?

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tree that grows in Southeast Asia. The locals have used its leaves as medicine for thousands of years. It is revered for its ability to relieve pain, improve energy, increase motivation, boost mood, and help people overcome addictions.

Nowadays, kratom is exported throughout the world. While most users take kratom for some sort of medicinal reason, there are still a large number of recreational users.

Kratom is usually sold as a fine, dried powder. Some shops will sell crushed leaves, which are better for making tea. Some companies also produce kratom tinctures and extracts that provide more potent effects.

Kratom is often brewed into tea. The purpose behind making a drink with kratom, for most, is to mask the unpleasant bitter taste. Some people prefer to simply toss a spoonful of kratom in their mouth, swish quickly with water, and swallow it (known as the toss-and-wash method).

Benefits of Kratom

Kratom has a whole host of benefits.

At first glance, some of these benefits might seem to contradict one another. For example, kratom can be both stimulating and sedating. This is possible because different kratom strains produce different effects due to their alkaloid content.

The kratom dosage you take also determines what effects you will experience.

For example, low doses tend to produce stimulating effects, whereas higher doses tend to have more sedation and relief [1].

Here is a summary of some of the most common benefits of kratom use.

Energy

One of the plant’s traditional uses is often attributed to farmers who use it to pick themselves up during a particularly grueling workday.

Green and white kratom strains can produce immense energy. Even low doses of red strains can have some degree of stimulation.

The stimulation offered by kratom is different than that produced by caffeine, for example. Kratom is less likely to cause jitters or physical discomfort.

Focus & Motivation

Kratom has also gained some popularity as a focus aid. Stimulating strains boost focus and motivation that leaves people driven to accomplish their daily tasks.

Although there are certainly better nootropics for this purpose, many people use kratom as a study aid.

Euphoria

The powerful euphoria provided by kratom is one of its strongest drawing points for recreational users. The initial rush and subsequence hour or two of euphoric bliss are dangerously enjoyable.

Kratom can also help to balance and stabilize your mood. If you struggle with depression or anxiety, it may provide temporary relief.

Please note that supplementing with kratom alone is not a solution — you should seek out professional medical and psychological aid to ensure the best treatment for you.

Anxiety Relief

Certain kratom strains are helpful for managing anxiety symptoms.

Red kratom strains will cause just about anybody to relax. However, green and white strains can provide mixed results.

For example, people who are sensitive to stimulants may find that white strains make them more anxious. Extremely sensitive individuals may even experience this with green strains. However, the majority of people find that green strains relieve their anxiety.

Others find that white strains’ intense rush and focus allow them to remain engaged with the present moment and unaffected by their anxiety.

Pain Relief

Because of its interaction with the opioid system, kratom can provide pain relief comparable to opiates. Many people have switched to kratom after becoming tired of taking synthetic drugs.

Red kratom strains are best for providing pain relief, followed by green strains.

Sedation & Relaxation

Green and red strains of kratom can provide powerful relaxation and sedation. This makes them great for people who struggle with anxiety, high stress, or insomnia.

Addiction Management 

Kratom has been used to ease all types of addictions, ranging from alcoholism to amphetamine abuse. However, it is most effective and most commonly used for managing opioid addiction.

Much like methadone and Suboxone therapy, using kratom to manage an addiction means replacing one habit with another. However, kratom is significantly less powerful and addictive than synthetic opioids.

People who switch to Suboxone or methadone often find that they end up far more addicted to those drugs than they ever were in the first place. Kratom is relatively mild, and unless your opioid habit is comparably mild, there’s no way you’ll end up more dependent on it.

Kratom can provide you with energy, motivation, and confidence when you need to reintegrate into society, especially if you need to adapt more quickly than you feel able to.

People using opioids to manage or suppress mental or emotional issues should recognize that kratom will offer the same tempting Band-Aid approach. If this is the case, make sure that you start seeing a counselor or therapist alongside your new kratom habit; otherwise, you might end up addicted to it instead.

Types of Kratom

Kratom is available in different types called strains. Each kratom strain has a unique name and produces its own effects. The effects can vary from strain to strain, but that’s more a result of how the kratom was processed than anything else.

Botanically speaking, kratom is kratom. There are lots of other plants in the same genus, many of which share a few similar effects, but these aren’t ever sold as kratom.

The difference between kratom strains is the alkaloid content in the leaves. Farmers and growers can manipulate the alkaloid content in kratom by processing it in different ways.

The name of a kratom strain contains information about its effects. A color usually precedes strain names.

The color code simply tells you what sort of effects you’re going to experience, for example:

  • Red strains are processed in a specific manner that allows the sedating alkaloids to dominate.
  • White strains are dominated by stimulating effects.
  • Green strains provide a fine balance of both.
  • Yellow and gold strains are less precise, and the effects and quality can vary from vendor to vendor.

Related:  Kratom Strains: Red, Green, &  White Vein Kratom

Is Kratom Safe?

Many of the alkaloids found in kratom interact with the body’s opioid system. Because of this, kratom is often subject to a lot of controversies. Drugs that interact with this system are called opioids and opiates, and most of them — such as morphine and heroin — are incredibly addictive and dangerous.

Because people often associate kratom with these drugs, it has undeservedly developed a bad reputation in some circles. However, kratom is far less dangerous than any synthetic opiate. It can still cause addiction, but a sort of natural failsafe limits its risks and dangers.

Related: Is Kratom An Opioid?

Kratom Side Effects

Kratom can cause some side effects, although none are serious or life-threatening. Most of these side effects indicate that you’re using too much kratom, whether this means dosing too often or too heavily.

Kratom’s side effects can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Sleep problems, ranging from insomnia to excessive sleep
  • Brain fog and slow thinking
  • Anxiety
  • Emotional changes, including mood swings, apathy, or emotional blunting (usually with long-term use)
  • Dehydration
  • Frequent urination

Kratom Addiction

Unlike a synthetic opioid — which consists of only a single chemical — kratom contains numerous alkaloids with unique functions.

Because these alkaloids act on the opioid system, people can become mentally and physically dependent on kratom.

However, though kratom addiction can be uncomfortable, it is nowhere near as dangerous or strong as opioid addiction. Because of how the alkaloids work, kratom is unlikely to cause respiratory depression or overdose.

Arm yourself with the truth and learn more about kratom addiction, the warning signs, and the steps you can take to avoid or overcome it.

What is Kanna?

Kanna, botanical name Sceletium tortuosum, is a succulent plant that grows in South Africa. It has since gained traction across the world as a solution for people living busy and stressful lives.

In South Africa, the plant is also called channa and kougoed. Here, locals consume the plant for various purposes after it is either dried or fermented. It is most often used to help improve or balance mood, fight anxiety, and provide mild stimulation or relaxation.

Benefits of Kanna

Kanna has a nice variety of therapeutic benefits and uses. Here are some of the most common and well-established.

Balances Mood

The most popular use for kanna is as an antidepressant. It’s one of the few natural products that function as an SSRI [2]. Even among the few natural SSRIs, kanna is incredibly unique because it has immediate effects.

Normally, the effects of taking an SSRI will appear until you’ve taken it for at least two weeks. The effects of kanna, on the other hand, can be felt immediately, which is quite unusual for SSRI substances.

Serotonin-related mood changes result in feelings of bliss, peacefulness, love, compassion, empathy, and understanding. When asked to compare to other substances, people most often relate kanna to a mild dose of MDMA.

Both substances are empathogenic and help bring the users to an elevated state in which they feel so comfortable with themselves that they naturally reach out to others.

This effect is much different from the dopaminergic motivation and euphoria caused by kratom or the opioid-related numbing that can relieve people from anxiety. Kanna produces more subtle and wholesome effects, whereas kratom is more powerful and direct.

Manages Anxiety

Kanna can also help combat anxiety, but this depends mainly on what sort of anxiety you have and what causes it. If your anxiety results from serotonin imbalance, then kanna will most likely be helpful.

Kanna can also produce relaxation and focus that can be useful for people with any type of anxiety.

Fights Inflammation

When researchers were studying kanna for its effect on depression, they found that it also helped prevent the expression of a certain cytokine that causes inflammation linked to depression [3].

Additionally, this reduction in inflammation helped to increase immunity throughout the body.

Improves Cognition

Kanna is linked to increased cognitive function and flexibility in people, meaning it can improve problem-solving, planning, logical thinking, and so on [4]. Some researchers are also speculating that kanna might be useful for helping to prevent Alzheimer’s.

Pain Relief

One of the traditional uses of kanna is for pain management, although there aren’t any human studies in this regard. There has been one study done on rats that proved kanna to be nearly as effective as morphine [5].

In fact, very high doses of kanna seem to influence the brain’s opioid system.

Is Kanna Safe?

Kanna is one of the only natural SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) plants that you can find. This class of drug is the most common form of antidepressant. These drugs prevent your brain’s serotonin from going through a process known as reuptake.

Reuptake is when your brain pulls neurotransmitters — in this case, serotonin — away from their job posts, called receptors, so they don’t overwork themselves. If this didn’t happen, they would bombard the receptors and produce too strong an effect.

In healthy people, this would cause overstimulation and discomfort. However, people with serotonin deficiencies often need reuptake assistance. By increasing the concentration of serotonin, the receptors are activated as much as they would be in a healthy individual.

Of course, kanna is much less potent than pharmaceutical drugs, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it without caution. Taking any form of SSRI can cause a pretty significant change in your brain chemistry.

You must be careful not to overdo it, or you’ll experience side effects.

It’s also important not to mix kanna with other drugs or supplements that can interact with serotonin,  including:

  • Antidepressants. You should avoid mixing kanna with most antidepressants and consider it an alternative. This includes all SSRIs (fluoxetine, sertraline), MAOIs (selegiline, phenelzine), and SNRIs (duloxetine, venlafaxine). Kanna may be taken with dopamine-related antidepressants, but check with your doctor.
  • Herbs that influence serotonin, such as St. John’s Wort, should be avoided.
  • Other serotonin-related drugs, such as tramadol and warfarin, should also be avoided.

Kanna Side Effects

Kanna’s side effects are generally not very serious. They may indicate that you’re taking too high of a dose. Generally, you can take about 6 mg/kg (an average of 420 mg) without experiencing significant side effects.

The side effects that you might experience can include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Diarrhea or soft stools
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Emotional changes and irritability during the comedown

Kanna Addiction

Kanna is not physically addictive, but it certainly has the potential to be abused. People can develop fairly serious habits and psychological dependencies on the plant.

Many people find kanna has a very distinct comedown phase, during which the pleasant effects are replaced by unwanted side effects such as irritability. It’s encouraged that users avoid compulsively redosing.

Compulsive redosing leads to habituation, and habituation leads to addiction. Some people who have used the plant excessively for months have reported mild symptoms akin to SSRI withdrawal.

Ways to Use Kanna

There are many different ways to use kanna, and each can significantly change the experience. Here’s an outline of the different ways people can take it.

Oral Use

Kanna can be taken orally and swallowed. It can also be brewed into a tea and drunk.

However, you lose some value when taking the plant orally. It must first go through the digestive tract, where the liver processes it before entering the bloodstream.

Nonetheless, oral use is one of the simplest ways to consume the plant.

There’s also a significant difference between the effects that you’ll get from eating the powder compared to drinking tea made from crushed-up kanna leaves.

In this author’s experience, the tea, with its strange but not entirely unpleasant saltiness, is the most potent and effective way to experience all that kanna offers.

Duration: Effects last about 3-4 hours and 30-90 minutes to kick in.

Sublingual Use

Sublingual use is the traditional way of taking the plant. People use all parts of the plant — fermented leaves, fresh leaves, stems, and roots — and chew them or leave them in their mouth, under the tongue, or inside the cheek.

This method bypasses your digestion and allows the plant to reach the bloodstream and take effect more quickly and with more power.

Duration: This produces effects lasting about two hours, with another two-hour period in which users slowly return to baseline.

Insufflating

Insufflating (or snorting) involves inhaling a substance through your nostrils so that the mucous membranes and your sinuses can absorb it.

Much like sublingual absorption, snorting is generally much more potent because the method bypasses the digestive tract.

Some people find that they only experience the effects of kanna when they snort it. However, this only indicates that they’re using low-quality kanna.

Kanna is far from the ideal substance to snort. The powder is very dry, coarse, and filled with particles even when ground fine. If you’re using it to manage anxiety or other issues that require multiple daily dosages, you may want to consider another consumption method.

Duration: Kanna is a short-acting herb no matter how you use it; when you snort it, you’ve reduced this duration to a peak of around 45 minutes.

Smoking

Smoking kanna is hardly the most effective way to consume it. It does work a little bit, but if you’re actually hoping to enjoy the medicinal or therapeutic benefits of the plant, you are better off choosing a different method.

One of the most popular ways to smoke kanna is to add a little bit of the powder or leaf to some cannabis. Sprinkle it into a joint while rolling it or on top of a bong bowl before smoking it.

This method can enhance your cannabis buzz by adding a sense of clarity, a mood boost, and some extra relaxation.

Duration: Smoking produces the quickest onset and the shortest effects. You’ll feel the kanna immediately, but feelings don’t linger longer than half an hour.

Final Thoughts: Kanna vs. Kratom

These herbs are beneficial in their own ways, and together they produce a pain-killing, depression-fighting duo.

However, the best option is to cycle them: take one for a few days, take the next one for a few days, and then take a break from both.

This is the safest way to prevent yourself from building up a tolerance and ensuring that you can enjoy these powerful plants’ mood boost and anxiety relief.

References

  1. Halpenny, G. M. (2017). Mitragyna speciosa: Balancing potential medical benefits and abuse. ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 8(9), 897-899.
  2. Harvey, A. L., Young, L. C., Viljoen, A. M., & Gericke, N. P. (2011). Pharmacological actions of the South African medicinal and functional food plant Sceletium tortuosum and its principal alkaloids. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 137(3), 1124-1129.
  3. Bennett, A. C., & Smith, C. (2018). Immunomodulatory effects of Sceletium tortuosum (Trimesemine™) elucidated in vitro: Implications for chronic disease. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 214, 134-140.
  4. Olatunji, T. L., Siebert, F., Adetunji, A. E., Harvey, B. H., Gericke, J., Hamman, J. H., & Van der Kooy, F. (2021). Sceletium tortuosum: A review on its phytochemistry, pharmacokinetics, biological, pre-clinical and clinical activities. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 114711.
  5. Loria, M. J., Ali, Z., Abe, N., Sufka, K. J., & Khan, I. A. (2014). Effects of Sceletium tortuosum in rats. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 155(1), 731-735.

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