Here's What We Like Now for Stress

Sceletium, the African herb known indigenously as kanna, is being commercialized in the US market.

Here at Functional Ingredients, we’ve been extolling the virtues of sceletium since January 2011. (You can look it up: Go to, search “sceletium” and click on the story, “The new bible for the next year.” You’ll be glad you did.) Finally, the African herb known indigenously as kanna is being commercialized in the US market.

The South African pharma company HG&H Pharmaceuticals has partnered with P.L. Thomas, out of New Jersey, to launch the Zembrin brand of Sceletium tortuosum.

We like the published safety study, which noted “unsolicited positive effects on well being.”

We like the follow-up published double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial on healthy Canadians. The study was for three active weeks with a two-week washout, finding brain-health benefits on executive function and cognitive flexibility; an enhanced ability to intelligently use information; strategy formulation; impulse control; and proper judgment. All these noted items are negatively impacted by stress. “Take Zembrin to focus on the task ahead,” counseled Nigel Gericke, founding director of HG&H.

We like the third trial, currently underway, which aims to scan the brain under the influence of sceletium and stress to further validate sceletium’s cognitive effects.

We like the successful New Dietary Ingredient filing.

We like the listing in the African Herbal Pharmacopoeia as an anti-anxiety agent.

We like how HG&H was granted Export No. 001 under the new South African Bioprospecting Act – the moral equivalent of a Fair Trade impramatur – thus vouchsafing its sustainability and authenticity (remember hoodia?).

We like how the Dutch, in 1685, noted it as a “cheerer of the soul.”

Mostly, though, we like those alkaloids. Zembrin is experiential. It seems to help you become focused and calm. Normal, healthy people seem to just get better (not that there was anything wrong with them to begin with.)

With sceletium, we hope this mild SSRI catches on with a public leery of pharma side effects.

Got stress? What else can you do?

Maintaining optimal balance between stress hormones such as cortisol and testosterone is clearly associated with dramatic benefits in long-term health, lower perception of stress, and improved vigor (mental/physical resilience). Luckily, we know that in addition to stress management techniques, we can also maintain this biochemical balance with natural approaches including exercise, diet, and supplements.

·      Exercise– virtually all forms of exercise help to reduce cortisol and maintain testosterone levels in both men and women - so pick a type of exercise that you enjoy and do it on as many days of the week as possible.

·      Diet- Eating a balanced diet with plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and unrefined/whole carbohydrates will provide the essential nutrients required by the body to mount an effective stress response.

·      Supplements- In addition to a balanced diet, certain dietary supplements are effective in naturally maintaining the normal balance between cortisol, testosterone, insulin, serotonin, dopamine – the list goes on. The bottom line is that appropriate dietary supplements can be a safe and effective natural way to bring stress response and cortisol levels back to within normal ranges and I consider them as “first-line therapy” for anybody suffering from chronic stress and exhaustion.

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