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Posted on April 12, 2016
Sceletium tortuosum is a succulent plant native to South Africa. It’s better known as Kanna, Channa, or Kougoed, meaning “something to chew” or “chewable item,” and the plant is often chewed, smoked, and brewed into a tea as a means of easing pain and relieving hunger. Sceletium tortuosum belongs to the family Aizoaceae, of which most plants in this species are native to arid parts of southern Africa. Scientists have since created an extract of Sceletium tortuosum to concentrate its beneficial effects into a supplement called Zembrin, which entered the North American market in 2013. Let’s take a closer look at what Zembrin is, how it works, and how it might benefit you.
Zembrin is a botanical supplement that has been studied for both safety and effectiveness in both clinical and pre-clinical trials, but even before Zembrin was studied and used, the San and Khoikhoi peoples, indigenous to South Africa, used Sceletium plants to boost mood and ease fatigue, stress, and anxiety. The plants were even used to relieve thirst and hunger and sooth colic in infants. Colonial farmers later used the plant in a tincture for psychotropic effects. The plant gained wider popularity only in the last 15 years, giving way to the eventual creation of Zembrin.
Zembrin works by increasing levels of serotonin in your body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found primarily in the brain, gut, and blood platelets that plays a role in a wide range of bodily functions; including blood clotting, bone density, and bowel function. Serotonin is most well-known for playing a part in regulating mood and contributing to happiness and general well being.
The primary alkaloid in Zembrin responsible for increasing serotonin is called mesembrine(SERT Ki of 1.4 nM). It exists in its natural levorotory form (-)-mesembrine.
Zembrin also contains alkaloids that inhibit phosphodiestrase-4 (PDE4), an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (or cAMP). cAMP is found in the cells of the nervous and immune systems. It is a derivative of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and is used for intracellular signal transduction. By inhibiting PDE4, the body has more cAMP available, leading to positive effects on mood and memory.
The primary alkaloid in Zembrin responsible for inhibiting PDE4 is called mesembrenone (PDE4 Ki of 470 nM).
Most prominently, Zembrin is used as a mood stabilizer that can rival prescription SSRIs like Prozac. Even at low doses, Zembrin can effectively alleviate stress, tension, and anxiety while boosting your overall mood. Even better, clinical trials suggest that Zembrin completely safe and has a significantly low side effect profile. There’s also little evidence of users developing a tolerance to Zembrin. Along with its effects on mood, Zembrin can help your cognitive abilities as well. Some studies showed that Zembrin led to increased concentration, focus, and motivation. Zembrin is one of many natural extracts out there with nootropic qualities. Consider giving it a try if you’re looking to add a positive boost to your life.