There is a proliferation of information (some accurate and some very definitely not) out in the market about the new natural wonder for anti-anxiety and anti-stress. There are also plenty of extracts claiming to have the right ‘purity’ etc to provoke the desired effect. But not all extracts are created equally and this article attempts to inform manufacturers about what they should be looking for, when considering adding Sceletium to their anti-anxiety ,anti-stress, weight-loss or other remedies, whether as soft gels, pills or tinctures.
The world is cottoning on to the fact that natural remedies are as effective and even perhaps more potent than their chemically synthesised reproductions. One such ‘natural medicine’ is the ancient African solution to stress and anxiety – Kanna or Sceletium tortuosum (sub-family: Mesembryanthemaceae).
Kanna has been historically used by the SAN people of Southern Africa as a means to connect with the sprit world. This was achieved through a trancelike state effected by the chewing on this dried succulent groundcover and the subsequent swallowing of the enriched saliva. It is not an hallucinogenic as often thought.
In the modern world, studies have shown that Sceletium tortuosum elevates mood and promotes a feeling of well-being. It achieves this through the active molecules in the plant (the whole plant), serving as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor.
11 is better than four
Historically, the focus has been on the first set of identified alkaloids, which weremesembrine, mesembrenone, mesembrenol and tortuosamine. But, the pharmacology of Sceletium is far more intricate though. Subsequent science has in fact, proven that it is the combination of ALL of the identified alkaloids working together that have the best effect.
Therefore, when looking to buy Sceletium tortuosum extracts, pharmacists and manufacturers should be looking for a ‘standardised’ total alkaloid content and not just a non-standardised mesembrine measurement, as mesembrine can differ from region to region and even from plant to plant. In fact, there are currently 11 identified alkaloids and it is the sum of these that provokes the desired effect and not any single one in particular. In measuring the total alkaloids, the geographical, environmental and climatic factors are mitigated.
S.tortuosum contains approximately 1 – 1.5% total alkaloids but can be extracted and concentrated to a purity of 10% (maximum and source material dependant). This means that less extract is required in the final product. Final products are now cheaper to make but because the ‘actives’ are purer, the desired result is achieved (see our post on how to keep a consumer happy).
Another key in the purchasing decision-making, is to look at the process by which these extracts are made – mostly trade secrets. A good extract process will not involve harmful heat or chemicals that can lead to the denaturing of the source material and will have measured the plant material at source, throughout the process and post – and will happily provide these details.
Something not always considered when ordering this particular extract, what purpose the extract is being used for and what medium it is intended for, example, bar, juice, capsule etc. This influences the extraction method. And it is vital that the extract company is informed upfront. To explain, S.tortuosum as a raw material is extremely fickle and one of the most difficult extract processes to follow (if wanting to get the right results). If not done properly the active actually becomes salty negating and destroying its purpose. Performing an ethanol extract for capsule use won’t work for liquid based delivery mediums. Performing only a water extract, will not achieve the high purities.
The moral of the story – please make sure that when you are buying S.tortuosum, you are buying the real deal. All the good that the science says this plant can do, will not be achieved if it is not at the right purities and the extracts are not standardised.
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