Sceletium Tortuosum can be used in healing depression, including major depressive disorder, anxiety, social phobia, and low libido. It is also used to facilitate the psycho therapeutic process and for support in alcoholism rehabilitation and smoking cessation.
Sceletium tortuosum has one of the oldest documented histories of herbal use of any South African medicinal plant. The earliest written records of the use of this plant date to 1662 and 1685. In 1738 Kolben stated that Sceletium was “the greatest cheerer of the spirits, and the noblest restorative in the world”. The vernacular name “kougoed” for Sceletium tortuosum was first documented in 1830, alluding to the well-known Nama practice of chewing this plant. In 1928 Laidler stated that Sceletium was prized by Europeans as a ginseng-like herb. More recently, in 1971, Herre reported that storekeepers in Namqualand bought Sceletium tortuosum from the locals and resold it. In 1994, Rood stated that Sceletium tortuosum was a good calming herb.
Since there is documented historical use of tinctures (i.e aqueous-ethanolic extracts) of the plant, the whole plant extract itself is regarded as the active, rather than any individual phytochemical components. Early scientific evidence, based on preliminary in vitro receptor binding studies conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health in USA, indicated that the total alkaloid complex of Sceletium has multiple mechanisms of central nervous system action. These actions include binding to nicotinic sites, as well as serotonin-uptake inhibition, nor-adrenalin uptake inhibition, and dopamine uptake inhibition. The isolated Sceletium alkaloid mesembrine had preliminary in vitro serotonin-uptake inhibitory activity, and this was independently confirmed by Strathclyde Institute of Drug Research.
Sceletium Tortuosum is fully supported by the South African San Council.
It is a predominant and widely recurring feature of San rock art in southern Africa. Quite apart from its economic importance as one of the major objects of the hunt, the eland was symbolically linked to fertility, marriage, rainmaking, divination, dancing, trance and healing. The Khoi of the Little Karoo certainly referred to Sceletium and the eland by the same term ‘Kanna’ (sometimes also spelt ‘channa’ or ‘canna’ (c.f. Burchell, 1822). Hence, the derivation of the place-name ‘Kan- naland’ (or ‘Canna Land’, Raper and Boucher, 1988) which was used by the early white settlers in reference to the Little Karoo, was doubtless a reflection of the fact that Sceletium and eland co- occurred in abundance