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Kanna Vs. Kava: Understanding The Differences

Ever curious about the distinction between Kanna and Kava in your quest for natural relaxation methods? Kava and Kanna are both botanical supplements known for their abilities to elevate mood and induce relaxation. Despite serving similar purposes, these supplements originate from different plants and offer distinct effects on both mental and physical well-being.

This article aims to explore their individual characteristics, providing clarity on what sets them apart. Knowing these differences is crucial if you're contemplating integrating them into your daily regimen. Before we delve into their distinctions, let's first familiarize ourselves with the origins and uses of Kava and Kanna.


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What Exactly is Kanna?

Kanna, scientifically known as Sceletium Tortuosum, is a plant native to South Africa. Its succulent leaves can retain water, and it has a long history of use for its mood-enhancing properties.

Among native communities like the Khoi and San tribes, Kanna holds deep cultural significance. Traditionally, these communities ferment the plant to enhance its alkaloid content and consume it by chewing raw. Historically, Kanna has been employed to alleviate hunger, enhance endurance, and foster a sense of unity and connection with the natural world.

The plant's effects are primarily attributed to four key alkaloids: Mesembrine, Mesembreone, Mesembranol, and Mesembrenol. These alkaloids elevate serotonin levels in the body, providing a gentle yet potent mood enhancement.

What are the health benefits of Kanna?

Kanna is highly regarded for its potential health benefits, including mood enhancement, stress reduction, and improved emotional well-being. Its alkaloids function as natural serotonin reuptake inhibitors, fostering a positive mindset and profound relaxation. Users often experience heightened mental clarity and a sense of calm. Additionally, Kanna is noted for its ability to alleviate anxiety and promote overall mental wellness.

What are the potential side effects and risks of Kanna?

While Kanna is generally safe when used in moderate amounts, there are potential side effects and risks associated with its consumption. In larger doses, Kanna may paradoxically increase anxiety and stress levels. Overconsumption can also lead to stomach discomfort. Reported side effects include headaches, loss of appetite, and in some cases, feelings of depression.

For this reason, it's crucial to seek advice from a healthcare professional before using Kanna, ensuring you minimize the risk of adverse reactions and optimize its benefits.


A woman drinking kava tea

What Exactly is Kava?

Kava, derived from the roots of the Piper Methysticum plant native to the Pacific Islands, is renowned as a traditional remedy for anxiety. It holds a central role in ceremonies and social gatherings throughout the region.

Culturally significant, Pacific Island communities utilize kava for its well-established calming effects. It is traditionally consumed during festivities to foster social cohesion, honor guests, and facilitate spiritual experiences. Preparation involves grinding the root and mixing it with water to create a soothing kava beverage.

From the shores of Fiji to the heart of Vanuatu, various types of kava are distinguished by their earthy flavor and the numbing sensation they impart on the tongue. Its popularity stems from its ability to promote mental and physical relaxation.

This effect is attributed to its potent constituents, Kavalactones and Flavokavins, which interact with neurotransmitters in the brain to induce a state of calmness and tranquility. Kavalactones specifically contribute to its sedative and anxiolytic properties.

What are the health benefits of Kava?

Kava is celebrated for its ability to soothe both the mind and body, making it valuable for stress reduction and fostering a state of relaxation and tranquility. It is also known to aid in achieving restful sleep and providing mild pain relief. Unlike many alternatives, Kava is non-addictive and effectively reduces anxiety without compromising cognitive function.

What are the potential side effects and risks of Kava?

While generally considered safe, Kava Kava does present potential side effects worth noting. These include short-term issues such as indigestion, mouth numbness, rashes, headaches, and drowsiness.

Research indicates that regular consumption of Kava is generally safe for up to 6 months. Concerns about liver damage have been raised, although such cases are rare and often associated with prolonged use of high doses. It's noted that the majority of Kava users do not experience liver toxicity, suggesting that previous instances of liver damage may have been influenced by other factors besides Kava alone.


A cup of kava tea with flower beside

How does Kanna differ from Kava?

Kanna and Kava are increasingly popular in the US for their calming and mood-enhancing effects, yet they differ significantly in origin, active compounds, mechanisms of action, and cultural roles. These disparities impact their usage, physiological effects, and global legal status. Understanding these variations helps in selecting the ideal option based on personal preferences and requirements.


  • Plant Source: Sceletium Tortuosum plant
  • Geographic Origin: South Africa
  • Alkaloids: Mesembrine & Mesembreone
  • Mechanism: Serotonin Reuptake Inhibition
  • Taste & Sensation: Mild, earthy taste; subtle effects
  • Consumption: Raw chewing, brewed tea, powdered extracts
  • Effects: Mood enhancement, stress reduction, cognitive function
  • Cultural Significance: Used by Khoi and San tribes
  • Legality: Legal in many countries; varies by region


  • Plant Source: Piper Methysticum roots
  • Geographic Origin: Pacific Islands
  • Alkaloids: Kavalactones & Flavokavins
  • Mechanism: Interaction with GABA receptors
  • Taste & Sensation: Bitter, earthy taste; numbing sensation
  • Consumption: Prepare beverage with water from root powder
  • Effects: Deep relaxation, tranquility, anxiety reduction
  • Cultural Significance: An integral part of Pacific Island cultures
  • Legality: Legal in some countries; restricted or banned in others

Understanding these distinctions can guide your choice between Kanna and Kava based on their unique attributes and effects.


A woman using a mobilephone while drinking kanna tea

Choosing Between Kanna and Kava: Which One is Right for You?

Deciding between Kava and Kanna hinges on your specific goals and desired outcomes. If you seek a supplement to enhance energy levels, boost productivity, or support overall well-being, Kanna may be your best bet. Its serotonin-boosting qualities can elevate mood and sharpen mental clarity, making it ideal for daytime use when staying focused is key.

Conversely, if relaxation and stress relief are what you crave, Kava offers a calming solution. Perfect for unwinding in the evening, Kava helps alleviate anxiety and promotes a tranquil state conducive to restful sleep.

Still undecided? Consider trying both. Each offers unique benefits and affordability, allowing you to explore which aligns best with your lifestyle and preferences. Experimentation will guide you toward the perfect choice for your needs.


In conclusion, understanding the differences between Kanna and Kava is key to choosing the right botanical supplement for your needs. Kanna, sourced from the succulent Sceletium Tortuosum plant native to South Africa, enhances mood and reduces stress through its serotonin-boosting alkaloids. Its cultural significance adds depth to its appeal, offering mild, yet effective, relaxation benefits suitable for daytime use.

On the other hand, Kava, derived from the roots of the Piper Methysticum plant in the Pacific Islands, provides profound relaxation and anxiety reduction through its unique blend of Kavalactones and Flavokavins. Known for its earthy taste and soothing effects, Kava is cherished in Pacific Island cultures for its ability to promote tranquility without compromising cognitive function.

Whether you prioritize mood enhancement and mental clarity with Kanna or seek deep relaxation and stress relief with Kava, MN Nice Ethnobotanicals is your trusted online source for these high-quality products. Explore our selection of Amanita Muscaria, Blue Lotus, and other ethnobotanicals with prompt delivery directly to your door. Embrace hassle-free shopping and discover the perfect botanical companion for your well-being journey today.


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