Sceletium – Natural Highs from the Desert

With as many as 17 million people in the USA suffering from depression each year, and doctors in Britain issuing as many as 30 million prescriptions for anti-depressants annually2, there is little wonder that people all over the world are searching for a natural herbal solution to depression. Depression is fast becoming the common cold of the 21st century.

The effects of depression can be mild to completely debilitating. Signs of depression can include a combination of sleeplessness or over-sleeping, chronic anxiety, tearfulness, general lack of motivation, moodiness, constant exhaustion, lowered libido, reliance on stimulants and alcohol, difficulty in decision making and so the list goes on. In addition to these effects, the side effects from conventional anti-depressants are also no picnic. They can range from complete loss of libido, agitation, insomnia, weight gain, tiredness, liver damage, and of course the depressing effect they have on your bank balance. Sceletium can be regarded as a good answer for those looking for a natural solution.

Sceletium tortousum is ground cover-like succulent found growing in the arid Karoo and Namaqualand areas of South Africa. Also known as “Kanna” or “kougoed”, this succulent which is a member of the Mesembryanthemaceae family, produces bright green fleshy leaves which become dry and ‘skeletonise’3, thus giving the plant it’s common name, Sceletium. Sceletium has been used for centuries in a number of forms by the Khoi-San pastoralists. It is traditionally prepared in a unique manner, by crushing or bruising the leaves. The leaves are then stored in bags and fermented for eight days before being consumed as a snuff, chewed or smoked. Medicinal uses of the plant range from an analgesic for extracting teeth, a solution for babies colic, and of course for breaking tension and anxiety, or even as a sedative3. It is also said to lower the sensation of hunger and thirst, and ultimately as the feeling of well-being increases, so energy levels in the body increase.

Today Sceletium is commonly regarded the world over, as a herbal solution to combating the effects of depression. Sceletium lowers anxiety, improves mood, and is also a useful supplement for those suffering post traumatic stress disorder, or for alcoholics and other addicts attempting to break their addiction. Sceletium’s pharmacological action is yet again proof that nature is in the business for providing solutions to people’s problems. The mesembine alkaloid in the plant functions as a natural serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI). In other words it facilitates a greater circulation of serotonin within the brain. (Serotonin is the neurotransmitter chemical that influences our sense of mood and happiness. People low in serotonin suffer from low moods and depression, Sceletium increases the serotonin circulation in the brain). It should be noted that Sceletium should not be taken in combination with other psychiatric drugs, SSRI’s, MAO inhibitors (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors.), tricyclic drugs, cardiac medicine or recreational drugs such as Ecstasy.

It is important to realise that Sceletium is simply a tool within the range of tools for beating depression. Part of depression is to suffer from a lack of drive and motivation, and the temptation to think that a pill or capsule will solve the problem is short sighted, but attractive. Sceletium will give you the leg-up to start the depression beating process. In addition to using Sceletium, I also suggest the following steps to winning against depression:

* Increase your intake of essential fatty acids. Fatty Acids such as omega-3 fish oils help to build more serotonin receptor sites. They can be found in fish such as mackerel, tuna, salmon or sardines, or are available in capsule form. Other important foods to eat include meat, eggs, cheese, pumpkinseed and flaxseed.

* Increase your intake of vitamin and minerals. Your vitamin intake should include vitamins C, B5, B6 and B12, magnesium, zinc, iron and folic acid.

* Avoid stimulants that affect the chemical balance within the brain. This includes stimulants such as coffee, tea, alcohol, soft drinks, cigarettes, sleeping pills and all recreational drugs.

* Regular exercise increases the flow of feel-good endorphins. Exercise for 20 to 30 minutes at least 3 times per week. A 20-minute walk around the block each day is a good start. Exercises that get your heart rate up are best.

* Eat foods that keep your blood sugar levels regular. These are foods with a low glycaemic index (GI) such as wholewheat bread and pasta, oats, carrots, apples, pears, grapes, oranges, plums, lentils and most beans. Small frequent meals are better than large infrequent meals.

* Get help. Apart from conventional counselling and therapy there are other options available, that will help you to deal with to the root of the problem causing the depression. This includes Neurolinguistic programming (NLP), Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), spiritual councillors, or even hypno-therapy.

* Learn to relax, activities like meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, reiki or even hiking can assist with this.

* Get as much natural light as you can. People living in the Northern Hemisphere offer suffer from what is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

* We also recommend reading Patrick Holford’s excellent book, Optimum Nutrition For The Mind (ISBN 0 7499 2213 3)

To find out more about the availability of Sceletium log onto


1. Source:,1999

2. Source:

3. Source: BE van Wyk & N Gericke. People’s Plants. Briza Publications. 2003,1999

4. Patrick Holford. Optimum nutrition For The Mind. Piatkus. 2003

Source by Jason Mordecai

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