Kanna is non-psychoactive in small doses and has been reported to have empathogenic (impartial-emotional) effects and antidepressant qualities. It is also a mild serotonin inhibitor, enhancing the effects of other psychoactive substances like ketamine and MDMA. It also slows the breakdown of acetylcholine, which plays a role in memory and learning.
Those who experience mood disorders report that is kanna safe helps with anxiety, stress, and depression, while those who don’t have those issues rarely notice anything. Kanna’s mood-boosting effects are a result of the plant’s four similar alkaloids: mesembrine, mesembrenone, and tortuosamine. Mesembrine and mesembrenone are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which means they prevent neurons from absorbing the neurotransmitter, and instead allows it to stay active in the brain .
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Mesembrine also boosts the activity of vesicular monoamine transporter 2, or VMAT2. This protein helps transport various neurotransmitters out of cells to have an effect on the brain and body. It is possible that this may explain the mind-expanding effects some people report, although those have yet to be scientifically confirmed longer periods of time.*.
Some research using fMRI has shown that kanna can affect the amygdala, which is responsible for fear and anxiety. One study used a patented kanna extract, Zembrin, on humans and found that it significantly reduced anxiety-related amygdala activity.
Scientists haven’t done any studies on pets taking kanna, so it is best to avoid giving them the herb intentionally. However, if your cat or dog accidentally eats some, they’re probably fine; it’s well-tolerated by animals and doesn’t interact with any medications they might be taking.