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Botanical Description & Habitat

Catha edula


Common Names

Kus es Salahin


A tall plant.

Parts of East Africa and the Arabian peninsula, including Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Yemen.

Medicinal Parts

Fresh leaves.
Tender twigs and laves are harvested almost year-round.

Historical Properties & Uses

Used for disease of old age in the countries where it grows. It is chewed, like chewing tobacco, to acquire stimulation. It is said to produce a state of euphoria. Khat is therefore sometimes used to treat mental depression and combat fatigue.

Because of the amphetamine-like quality of the substance, it is also used as an appetite suppressant, and as an anti-ulcer agent.

Method of Action

Khat has Psychological and Physiological Stimulant Properties
The active constituents of khat are ephedrine derivatives, such as d-nor-pseudoephedrine, and cathinone. The norpseudoephedrine is usually thought to be the primary active constituent, yet there are enough differences in action between khat and ma huang and other ephedrine-containing plants to warrant a suspicion cathione may turn out to be the primary active chemical.

They are central stimulants of a sympathomimetic nature, acting like amphetamine, and people develop a dependence on them. This action is almost totally lost in dried leaves. The active principles in khat have been developed into a proprietary drug for appetite suppression in Switzerland. This action also depends on the ephedrine-like substances. It is really an anoretic effect.

Pharmacologically, khat inhibits protein synthesis, depresses levels of amino acids, and interferes with normal neurotransmission.

Khat has Valid Medicinal Uses
It has been noted many groups of natives in Southeast Africa seem to be unaware of the psychological properties of khat. For these people, it is simple a good herbal medicine. They use it for fevers, coughs, asthma, flu and general fatigue. In areas where it is used as a stimulant, it is seldom used medicinally.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

In the absence of other hard data, it may still be assumed observable interactions may occur between the many central nervous system drugs and the psychoactive principles in khat.

The psycho- and physicostimulant property of khat may be assumed to interact in presently unknown ways with other psychoactive central and peripheral nervous system stimulants and depressants.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Khat belongs to that class of agents with weak to moderate amphetamine like activity that can create dependence in users. It is also habituating with continued use, ever larger doses are required for the same effect. At high doses, tachycardia and extasystolic action can appear. The appetite suppressant medications should not be used any longer than four weeks at a time.

It is a common form of drug abuse in East Africa.

It is even provided as military rations in Somalia, reducing the need for sleep or food.

It may also lead to male impotency as well as oral cancer.

Preparation & Administration

Use only under medical supervision

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


Al-Meshal, A. Effect of (-)-cathinone, an active principle of catha edulis forssk. (khat) on plasma amino acid levels and other biochemical parameters in male wistar rats. Phytotherapy Research, 2(2), 63-66, 1988.

Al-Meshal, I.A., A.M. Ageel, et.al. The gastric anti-ulcer activity of khat (catha edulis Forsk.). Res. Commun. Subst. Abuse, 4, 208-215, 1983.

Braun, H. & D. Frohne. Heilplanzen-Lexikon Fuer Aerzte und Apotheker. Gustav Fisher Verlag, Stuttgart, New York, 1987.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Mar, 1993.

Halbach, H. Medical aspects of the chewing of khat leaves. Bull. WHO, 47, 21-29, 1972.

Knoll, J. Studies on the effects of (-)-cathinone. In problems of drug dependence. NIDA Research Monograph, 27, 322-323, 1979.

Krikorian, A. Khat and its use: a historical perspective. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 12, 115-178, 1984.

Le Bras, M. & Y. Fretillere. Les aspects medicaux de la consommation habituelle du cath. Med. Trop. 25, 720-732, 1965.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Schorno, H.X. Khat, suchtdroge des Islams. Pharmazie in Unserer Zeit, 11(5), 65-73, 1982.

Valterio, C. & P. Kalix. The effect of the alkaloid (-)- cathinone on the motor activity of mice. Arch. Int. Pharmacodyn. Ther. 255, 196-203, 1982.

Yanagita, T. Studies on cathinones: cardiovascular and behavioral effects in rats and self administration experiments. Problems of Drug Dependence. NIDA Res Monog. 27, 326-327, 1979.