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Our scientific research

Sceletium tortuosum (known as kanna) has been used for centuries in modern-day South Africa by the San and Khoikhoi communities. These communities use the plant for performance- and mood-enhancing purposes, including the relief of thirst and hunger, and to combat fatigue. The first written report of traditional use is from a Dutch expedition near Capetown in 1685.

Our CSO, Dr Nigel Gericke, has been researching Kanna for more than 30 years. In this talk, he discusses the past, present and future of kanna research.

History of kanna
How does kanna work?

The kanna plant contains over 20 alkaloids. Kanna’s active compounds have several known and yet to be discovered pharmacological characteristics, including being a rapid-acting serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI), clearly differentiated from common (S)SRIs through its beneficial polypharmacy. These alkaloids allow targeting of signalling pathways implicated in several neuro-psychiatric and inflammation-related illnesses.

Our compounds and indications

Kanna Health is developing KH-001, a unique proprietary form of a naturally-occurring alkaloid from kanna, for the treatment of premature ejaculation (PE).


PE is a distressing condition in which men orgasm too quickly before or during sexual intercourse. There are currently no treatments approved by the FDA, even though it affects up to 20% of men. These men report lower levels of sexual functioning and satisfaction, decreased self-esteem, and higher levels of personal distress. Partners of these men also suffer, and report sexual dissatisfaction and frustration, as well as problems in the relationship.


Kanna Health is also developing a proprietary library of kanna-inspired new chemical entities (NCEs) whose pharmacological and pharmacokinetic properties can be fine-tuned to target a range of important clinical indications.

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