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Sceletium – Does it work and is it safe?

Sceletium Tortuosum has been used for many years by the San people but has only recently begun to be studied. It was used to ease stress, calm children, and even ease hunger and thirst pangs. It’s primarily used to calm from stress and anxiety, because it is thought to increase serotonin in the body. Which is why we use it in The Calm Bomb and The Calm Bite. However other uses are being explored, such as weight loss due to it minimising hunger cravings which can help lower calorie intake.


But is it safe and does it work? Below are some clinical studies:

Taken directly from “Sceletium – A review update” – Article in Journal of Ethnopharmacology

Clinical case reports:
Gericke (2001) reported on three case studies where Sceletium tortuosum, also known as kanna, in tablets and capsules had been prescribed or recommended by a general practitioner, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist, respectively.

Depression, insomnia and anxiety – Case study

In the first case, the patient, a medical doctor, was suffering from severe depression of 4 months duration, with poor appetite, weight loss, insomnia, decreased energy and drive, anxiety, emotional liability and suicidal ideation. The patient was started on a tablet of 50mg Sceletium daily. The patient initially reported a transient increase in anxiety after taking medication, which would last up to 3h, but was no longer apparent after the first week of treatment. A sustained improvement in mood was reported, with a marked decrease in generalised anxiety. The patient’s insomnia improved at the onset of treatment. This low dose of Sceletium proved to be an effective anxiolytic and mood- elevator in this patient. The Sceletium was discontinued after 4 months of continual use with no signs or symptoms of withdrawal.

Personality disorder, dysthymia – Case study

In the second case, a patient with a personality disorder was diagnosed as suffering from dysthymia by her psychologist. The patient felt despondent, socially withdrawn, felt tearful and empty, and had a feeling of pervasive sadness. There was no suicidal ideation, but mood was depressed alternating with anxiety, and there was loss of motivation and interest, with hypersomnia. In addition to ongoing therapy, Sceletium was recommended as a tablet of 50 mg daily. Within 10 days the patient said that her mood had lifted, and she was able to feel more focused, more engaged and not so socially “distant”. She doubled her dose of Sceletium to two 50 mg tablets daily just prior to her exams a month later, and described feeling less anxious and more able to cope with her usual examination anxiety. An interesting development on Sceletium was that the client described feeling less inclined to over-indulge in alcohol. The conclusion was made that while the client had personality problems that required ongoing therapy, the Sceletium had helped her feel more contained, had lifted her mood, and had also helped with the anxiety.

Major depression – Case study

In the third case, the patient presented with Major Depressive Disorder, with symptoms of depressed mood, increased sleep, over-eating, anxiety, psychomotor agitation, and thoughts of death. The patient had initially attempted self-medication with a St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) product over the preceding 2 weeks, with minimal effect. The patient was started on Sceletium, 50 mg in the morning and at lunchtime. On the first day of Sceletium treatment the patients mood felt lifted, and her sleep pattern improved from an excess of 14 hours of sleep a day to 8 hours a day. The patient reported an increase in energy and was able to spontaneously resume her housework. After 6 weeks of treatment with Sceletium together, she fully recovered and healthy mood was maintained.

Is Sceletium safe?

The well-established history of use of Sceletium, extant long-term local use, and increasing use of manufactured Sceletium products with no known severe adverse effects, suggests that Sceletium is safe for human consumption. This is further supported by the documented safety in dogs treated with 10mg/kgSceletium given twice daily (Hirabayashi et al., 2002) and cats treated with 100 mg/kg per day (Hirabayashi et al., 2004), and dogs with dementia treated with up to 90 mg/kg per day. (Hirabayashi et al., 2005). These doses are far higher than the dose of approximately 1–2mg/kg per day that humans typically ingest in the form of tablets or capsules. Animal studies (Hirabayashi et al., 2004, 2005) indicate potential veterinary applications for Sceletium, including sedative for cage-stress and travel-stress, and treatment of excessive nocturnal barking in dogs and crying in cats.


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