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About Sceletium

Sceletium Tortuosum is a low to the ground flowering creeper that grows almost exclusively in South Africa. For hundreds of years, native tribes prized its calming effects, which appear to be very similar to those of St. John's Wort, except the potency is significantly greater. The plant is nowhere near as common in the wild as it once was, with most of it being grown in controlled environments.


The Name

Sceletium Tortuosum (often shortened to simply Sceletium) is the Latin name for a plant the grows in South Africa.

It is known by a few other names. Among them are:



Kougoed / Kaugoed (Afrikaans)
Kanna / Canna (Hottentot)
Mesembryanthemum (Afrikaans)
The plant grows almost exclusively in South Africa, though it has been introduced in limited quantities to other countries (without much success unless hydroponics are involved). It is now considered quite rare due to over harvesting of it over many years and more recently, due to its native habitat being changed by development. Very recently, a disease has hit hard the few remaining examples in the wild.

These days, it is grown mostly in nurseries under very controlled conditions. Though the plant has an excellent ability to manage water resources, it is very sensitive to soil type and temperature.

The plant is a low to the ground creeper that produces white flowers of considerable aesthetic appeal. It is known as a succulent, which means that it has special characteristics which enable it to thrive in a hostile (in this case, low water) environment. Sceletium Tortuosum has an exceptional ability to store water, limiting evaporation to the bare minimum and thus is able to thrive even in very low rainfall areas.

The plant grows well in winter and in summer the leaves skeletonize.

The plant has been used by hunter gatherers who inhabited what is now South Africa for well over 1,000 years. Its primary use was by warriors returning from battle, who took it to help dispel the fear and depression that was common after violent conflict.

The first documented use of it under Western auspices occurs in 1662, when an explorer / trader named van Riebeeck started to barter with local tribes for it, after finding out about its effects on stressed individuals. In 1685, the Governor of the Dutch Cape Colony, van der Stel noted how the native tribes prized it and would travel far to collect the best examples.

Over the ensuring years, the effects of this plant were known to only a small number of Westerners. But now, with the problems of depression and anxiety in Western society reaching unprecedented levels, the demand for safe, effective natural treatments mean that people are becoming acutely aware of Sceletium Tortuosum.

Of Interest
Sceletium has been tested by the University of Natal. When compared to other plants with a known presence of mesembrine alkaloids, the concentration in Sceletium was found to be far higher. Please click here for an abstract of the report.


The Anxiety Disorders Association of America has a good site on various types of anxiety illness in the US. Click here to visit.


The US government runs an excellent website on mental illness. Click here to visit.


An excellent report on how Pinitol assists in creatine retention. This article is of great interest to athletes and professional body builders and is available here as a MS Word document.



Depression is one side of a coin: the other is anxiety. Work, health and just life in the modern world can overwhelm many. In this Time article that you can access here, anxiety disorders are examined.


St. John's Wort is a traditional remedy for depression. A clinical study here, as reported by the BBC, shows that the remedy is not effective compared to placebo...but wait! Please look below.


Another clinical study reported by the BBC here says that St. Johns Wort is as effective as imipramine, a commonly prescribed drug, in treating depression.


The above should serve as a warning: clinical trials are far from definitive, though they do provide a good indication of a substances effectiveness.


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