Facts about Khat – Catha edulis

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Khat Quick Facts
Name: Khat
Scientific Name: Catha edulis
Origin East Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula
Colors Initially green turning to red to brown
Shapes Narrowly oblong, trigonous, pendulous three-valved capsule which contains one to three seeds
Taste Astringent and slightly sweet
Health benefits Beneficial for fatigue, depression, obesity, improve memory, influenza, alleviate pain, gonorrhea, increase aggression, veneral disease, asthma, colds, fevers, coughs, headaches
Khat, (Catha edulis), also spelled qat or chat, also called miraa, is a flowering plant belonging to the family Celastraceae. The plant is native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It has been cultivated and used for centuries in Yemen, Somalia, Madagascar, Kenya and Ethiopia and is grown and used to a lesser extent in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Zaire, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Swaziland and South Africa. Few of the popular common names of the plant are Abyssinian tea, Chaat, Chat, Gat, Gomba, Jaad, Jimma, Kaht, Kat, Khat, Kijiti, Kus es Salahin, Miraa, Qaad, Qat, Qaat,  Qut, sTchaad, Tchat, Tea of the Arabs, Tohai, Tohat, Tschut and Veve. It is also known as Chat Tree and Flower of Paradise. Its fresh leaves and twigs are chewed by many people for 4–6 hrs. per day. The practice involves placing fresh khat leaves on one side of the mouth and slowly chewing them to extract the juice, which is swallowed; the leaves remain in the buccal cavity.

These bitter-tasting leaves and young buds are chewed for the stimulants cathinone and cathine, which produce a mild euphoria. Khat is an important cash crop in Yemen, Somalia, and Ethiopia and is often cultivated in areas that do not support other agricultural plants. Though the drug is central to social life in some countries, the plant and cathinone are considered controlled substances in much of Europe, the United States, and China.

Plant Description

Khat is a tall, erect, glabrous, slow-growing evergreen shrub or tree that normally grows about 1–5 m (3 ft. 3 in–16 ft. 5 in) tall, bole straight and slender, up to 20 cm in diameter. However, it can reach heights of up to 10 m (33 ft.) in equatorial areas. The plant is found growing in evergreen sub montane or medium altitude forest, commonly near the margins, or in woodland often on rocky hills. It grows in wide range of moderately acid to alkaline soils, from sandy loams to heavy clays, adequately deep and well drained, with high organic matter content in the topsoil. It is not salt tolerant. Bark is thin, smooth and pale grey-green in cultivated plants, rough on large trees. Branches are terete, pale to brownish-grey. Young twigs are usually flattened, dull green to brownish-red.

Leaves

Leaves are alternate on orthotropic and opposite on plagiotropic branches. Oblong to elliptic or obovate shaped evergreen leaves are between 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long and 1–4 cm (0.39–1.6 in) broad. Young leaves are a reddish-green, later turning to yellowish-green. It is cuneate to attenuate at base, acute to acuminate, sometimes obtuse at apex, margin glandular crenate-serrate, leathery, glossy, mature leaf leathery, with reticulate venation.

Flowers

Inflorescence is an axillary, regularly dichasial cyme up to 2.5(–3.5) cm long and many-flowered. Peduncle is 6–12 mm long. Bracts are usually triangular, up to 2.5 mm long and persistent. Flowers are bisexual, regular, 5-merous, 2–4 mm in diameter. Pedicel is 1–2.5 mm long; sepals basally connate, broadly ovate to sub orbicular, 0.5–1 mm long, with fimbriate margin. Petals are free, elliptical-oblong, 1–1.5 mm long, white or pale yellow, with finely serrulate to fimbriate margin. Stamens are free, alternating with and slightly shorter than petals. Disk is intra-staminal, fleshy, and shallowly 5-lobed; ovary superior, broadly ovoid, 3-celled, styles 3, short, with small stigmas.

Khat Facts

Name Khat
Scientific Name Catha edulis
Native East Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula. It has been cultivated and used for centuries in Yemen, Somalia, Madagascar, Kenya and Ethiopia and is grown and used to a lesser extent in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Zaire, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Swaziland and South Africa
Common Names Abyssinian tea, Chaat, Chat, Gat, Gomba, Jaad, Jimma, Kaht, Kat, Khat, Kijiti, Kus es Salahin, Miraa, Qaad, Qat, Qaat,  Qut, sTchaad, Tchat, Tea of the Arabs, Tohai, Tohat, Tschut, Veve
Name in Other Languages Afrikaans: Khat, Boesmanstee, Boesmantee
Albanian: Khat
Amharic: Sh’ati (ጫት)
Arabic: Alqatu (القات), qat (قات)
Armenian: Khat (խաթ)
Azerbaijani: Khat
Bengali: Khát
Bulgarian: Khat (кхат)
Burmese: khat (خط)
chinese: Kǎtè (卡特)
Croatian: Khat
Czech: khat, kata jedlá
Danish: Khat
Dutch: Khat, Qat
English: Khat, Arabian-tea, Miraa
Esperanto: Khat, Ĉato
Estonian: Khat, Katapõõsas
Filipino: Khat
Finnish: Khat, Katpensas, Khatpensas
French: Khat
Galician: Qat
Georgian: Khat (ხატ)
German: Khat, Katstrauch, Arabischer Tee, Abessiniertee, arabischer Kathstrauch
Greek: Chat (χατ)
Gujarati: Khāṭa (ખાટ)
Hausa: Cin abinci
Hebrew: Khat, קאת
Hindi: Khat (खत)
Hungarian: Khat, kat
Icelandic: Khat
Indonesian: Khat, Qat
Irish: Khat, cait
Italian: Khat, cat, ciat
Japanese: Chatto (チャット)
Javanese: Khat
Kannada: Khāṭ (ಖಾಟ್)
Kazakh: қ
Kinyarwanda: Ingamwa, Muheshe, Nembo, Nembwe, Umusongati
Korean: Kateu (카트)
Kurdish: Khat
Lao: Khat-خط     
Latin: Khat
Latvian: Khat, Katas koks
Lithuanian: Khatas, Arabinis dusūnas
Macedonian: Kat (кат)
Malagasy: Katy
malay: Khat
Malayalam: Khāṟṟ (ഖാറ്റ്)
Maltese: Khat
Marathi: Khat (खट)
Mongolian: Khan (хан)
Nepali: Khat (खट)
Norwegian: Khat
Oriya: Khata  (ଖତ)
Pashto: خټ
Persian: خات, قات
Polish: Khat, Czuwaliczka jadalna
Portuguese: Khat, cafa, cata, cate, cha-da-Arabia
Punjabi: Khaṭa (ਖੱਟ)
Pushto: قات
Romanian: Khat
Russian: Kata (ката), Кат
Serbian: Khat (кхат)
Sindhi: Kẖt (خت)
Sinhala: Khāṭ (ඛාට්), kat (කාට්)
Slovenian: Khat
Somali: Jaad
Spanish: Khat, Té de Arabia, cat, miraa, tschat, kat,
Sudanese: Khat
Swahili: Miraa
Swedish: Khat, kat
Tajik: Xaet (хает)
Tamil: Kāṭ (காட்)
Telugu: Khāṭ (ఖాట్)
Thai: Khād (คาด), Khạt (คัต)
Turkish: Khat, Gat
Ukrainian: Xat   (хат)
Urdu: کھٹ, قات
Uzbek: Khat
Vietnamese: Khat
Welsh: Khat
Zulu: Khat
Plant Growth Habit Tall, erect, glabrous, slow-growing evergreen shrub or tree
Growing Climates Evergreen sub montane or medium altitude forest, usually near the margins, or in woodland often on rocky hills
Soil Wide range of moderately acid to alkaline soils, from sandy loams to heavy clays, sufficiently deep and well drained, with a high organic matter content in the topsoil. It is not salt tolerant
Plant Size 1–5 m (3 ft. 3 in–16 ft. 5 in). However, it can reach heights of up to 10 m (33 ft.) in equatorial areas
Bark Thin, smooth and pale grey-green in cultivated plants, rough on large trees
Branches Terete, pale to brownish-grey; young twigs usually flattened, dull green to brownish-red
Leaf Oblong to elliptic or obovate shaped evergreen leaves are between 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long and 1–4 cm (0.39–1.6 in) broad. Young leaves are a reddish-green, later turning to yellowish-green
Flowering season July–September
Flower The shrub’s flowers are produced on short axillary cymes that are 4–8 cm (1.6–3.1 in) in length. Each flower is small, with five white petals
Fruit Shape & Size Narrowly oblong, trigonous, pendulous three-valved capsule which contains one to three seeds
Fruit Color Initially green turning to red to brown
Propagation From cuttings
Flavor/Aroma Faintly aromatic
Seed Obovoid, flat on one side, 3–3.5 mm long and 1.5 mm wide, with a large membranous wing 5–5.5 mm × 2.5–3 mm
Taste Astringent and slightly sweet
Plant Parts Used Leaves, twigs

Fruit

Fertile flowers are followed by narrowly oblong, trigonous, pendulous three-valved capsule which contains one to three seeds. They are about 6–12 mm long and are initially green turning to red to brown as they mature.  Seeds are obovoid, flat on one side, 3–3.5 mm long and 1.5 mm wide, with a large membranous wing 5–5.5 mm × 2.5–3 mm. Testa is dark-brown, rugose-papillose; embryo with two long, thin cotyledons and small plumule embedded in the endosperm.

History

Khat is indigenous to the evergreen montane forests in eastern Africa, from Eritrea south to South Africa (Cape Province) and Swaziland. The primary center of origin is assumed to be in the south-western highlands of Ethiopia. According to 14th century Arabic chroniclers, khat was cultivated extensively in the mountains of Yemen and also near Harar in Ethiopia at that time. It may have been introduced into Yemen from Ethiopia in the 6th century AD, some 600 years earlier than coffee (Coffea arabica L.), but was not known to the West until the end of the 18th century. Its regular use as a stimulant is confined largely to Muslim communities of southern Arabia and eastern Africa. Yemen, Ethiopia and Kenya are the main khat growing countries, but it is also collected from the wild or cultivated in several other eastern and southern African countries and in Madagascar.

Traditional uses and benefits of Khat

  • Khat leaves are chewed mainly for their psycho-stimulant and euphoric effects.
  • It has traditionally been used to elevate mood and combat fatigue. 
  • Khat is also supposed to have anti-obesity effects due to appetite suppression.
  • Khat leaves have been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of depression and fatigue.
  • Khat is also traditionally supposed to have a role in obesity due to its appetite suppressant effects.
  • It has been used to improve memory and alleviate pain.
  • Khat consists of the alkaloid cathinone, a stimulant, which is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite, and euphoria.
  • Its fresh leaves and tops are chewed or, less frequently, dried and consumed as tea, to achieve a state of euphoria and stimulation.
  • In traditional African and Arabic medicine the leaves and roots of khat are considered a panacea against all sorts of ailments and diseases.
  • It is also used to lower the need for food and sleep, decrease sexual desires, and increase aggression.
  • Khat chewing is an age-old habit in rural areas to alleviate fatigue during fieldwork or to enliven religious and family gatherings.
  • Khat is  used  in indigenous  medical  systems for ailments such as venereal  disease,  asthma  and  other  lung conditions,  colds,  fevers,  coughs  and headaches.
  • It is used to prevent pest and malaria epidemics.
  • It is  beneficial  for  minor ailments such as headaches, colds,  body pains,  fevers,  arthritis,  as  well  as depression.
  • In Ethiopia, khat advocates claim that the plant eases symptoms of diabetes, asthma, and intestinal tract disorders.
  • Processed leaves and roots are used to treat influenza, cough, other respiratory ailments, and gonorrhea.

Culinary Uses

  • Fresh young leaves, and sometimes the tender shoot tips, are chewed for their stimulating and mildly intoxicating effects.
  • Larger leaves that are too hard for chewing and leaves that have lost their freshness may be dried and pulverized for the preparation of a paste with water, sugar or honey and sometimes also spices.
  • The paste is chewed and swallowed in a similar manner to the fresh leaves.
  • Dried leaves are also used to prepare an infusion in the same way as tea in South Africa.
  • They may be smoked liked tobacco in Arabic countries.

Other Facts

  • Freshly harvested khat has traditionally been wrapped in banana leaves to keep it moist during export to neighboring African countries.
  • In Scotland, khat has been blended and filtered to be served as a drink called “Herbal Ecstasy.
  • Wood of large trees is golden-yellow to brown, lustrous, straight grained, fine and even in texture, strong and moderately hard.
  • Wood pulp makes excellent blotting paper.
  • The first harvesting of chewable leaves is usually after the third or fourth year; although it usually requires another 6–7 years for the tree to fully mature.
  • Khat can be purchased in the United States in various ethnic bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and smoke shops.

Precautions

  • Khat may cause oral and gastric cancer, cerebral hemorrhage, severe headache, myocardial infarction (MI), duodenal ulcers, hypertension, low-birth-weight infants, and a variety of other severe effects, including addiction and associated sequelae.
  • The use of khat results in constipation.
  • Long-term use can precipitate permanent tooth darkening (of a greenish tinge), susceptibility to ulcers, and diminished sex drive.
  • Khat is an effective anorectic, causing loss of appetite.
  • It may cause high blood pressure and Migraine.
  • Long term use or abuse can cause insomnia, anorexia, gastric disorders, depression, liver damage and cardiac complications, including myocardial infarction.
  • Manic and delusional behavior, violence, suicidal depression, hallucinations, paranoia and khat-induced psychosis have also been reported.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=506067#null\

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=CAED7

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khat

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=9606

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/CAVED

http://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Qaat.html

https://uses.plantnet-project.org/en/Catha_edulis_(PROTA)

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