Both the traditional tribespeople and modern-day Rastafarians of Southern Africa know a thing or two when it comes to boosting their moods on a bad day. Their centuries-old secret comes in the form of a beautiful succulent called kanna—aka Sceletium tortuosum—a plant native to the region. Still largely unknown in North America, this mood-lifting herb is the active ingredient in our Cup of Sunshine® tea. If you want to turn a bad day around, this beneficial tea is as reassuring to your state of mind as it is tasty.
Southern Africa’s inland desert climate is perfect for growing kanna. This low-growing, herbaceous subshrub absorbs plenty of moisture from the seasonal rains to produce flowers and thrive throughout the year. Its leaves are flat and succulent, its roots fibrous, its branches willowy, and its wispy flowers range from yellow and pink to white. As a member of the ice plant family, kanna loves to spread and blanket the ground. To make it into our tea, our wild collectors and farmers harvest the leaves, dry them until they are withered, and cut them to our specifications. We then blend them with honeybush, another sun-kissed plant with sweet and gentle roasted notes.
Native tribes consider kanna sacred and have used it in healing and rites-of-passage rituals for generations, giving it the same name they used for the eland antelope, also called kanna, a revered animal on the Western Cape. The San and Khoi people, in particular, are the first known keepers of this herbal wisdom; the Rastafarian Cape Bush Doctors protect that herbal knowledge today.
As hunter-gatherers and pastoralists, the San and the Khoi would travel long distances by foot, and by chewing on fermented kanna, they could curb their thirst and digestive discomfort. It was first in this form, known as kougoed, derived from the Afrikaans “to chew stuff,” that kanna earned a reputation as a medicinal desert plant. Upon returning home from battle, San and Khoi warriors would also take kanna to help them overcome fear and stress.* And during healing dances and ceremonies, participants would ingest it, sometimes blending it with other herbs to lift their moods.*
Kanna’s mood-lifting benefits can be attributed to a group of alkaloids in the plant that help the brain maintain its natural levels of serotonin, the chemical that nerve cells produce to regulate moods. And it doesn’t take much kanna to maintain serotonin levels; a little goes a long way, making it a great herb to bring a little cheer and perspective on a tough day.**
If you aren’t yet familiar with kanna, you may want to get to know it. Cup of Sunshine tea makes a smart addition to your pantry or office desk, and kanna’s succulent leaves make a beautiful potted plant. Find out more about this sacred herb here.
**Please note: Do not use this product if you are taking antidepressant or antianxiety medications, including SSRIs and SNRIs, unless otherwise directed by your healthcare practitioner. Consult your healthcare practitioner prior to use if you are taking other prescription medications. Do not use if you are pregnant and breastfeeding. Not recommended for use with children or adolescents under 18 years of age. Processed in a facility that also processes milk products.