Khat Plant and chewing, why it has been banned and natural health and fitness website by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Feb 22 2014

Khat is the Celastraceus edulis plant, a flowering evergreen tree or large shrub, which grows in the Horn of Africa and southwestern Arabia. The leaves of the khat plant, which is also known as qat, are chewed for the feeling of euphoria they produce. But scientists at King's College London have discovered that they also contain chemicals that help sperm mature and fertilise an egg. In studies of mouse and human sperm, the scientists discovered that amphetamine-like compounds which belong to a group of chemicals known as phenylpropanolamines (PPAs) stimulated and extended the final maturing process in sperm. Bath salts contain manmade chemicals like mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, also known as substituted cathinones. Both drugs are related to khat, the organic stimulant found in Arab and East African countries that is illegal in the United States.

In 2013 the British government banned the use of khat. Though generally described as a mild stimulant, their concern was evidence of overuse and addiction. Long-term use or abuse has been linked to insomnia, loss of appetite, gastric disorders, depression, liver damage, and heart attack.

Clin Chim Acta. 2013. Cardiovascular complications of Khat. This article reviews current knowledge in khat (cathinone) research and its health impacts and toxicity in the cardiac system of khat chewers based on current evidence. The authors describe the process by which it is postulated to induce multiple cardiac abnormalities by illustrating multiple case reports as described from around the world.

Bath salts
Life Sci. 2014 Feb 27. Emergence and properties of spice and bath salts: A medicinal chemistry perspective. Over the past five years the number of internet sites advertising "legal highs" has literally exploded, as have user reports of experiences (both pleasurable and frightening) with these substances and the number of emergency room visits by users. Although the majority of these "legal highs" have been described as bath salts and herbal extracts, most contain neither plant derived compounds nor components of personal hygiene products. So-called "bath salts" largely contain synthetic analogs of the natural compound Khat; spice-related materials, claimed to be "legal marijuana," are mostly synthetic analogs of cannabinoid receptor ligands that were developed as research tools.

Kath Plant research and review
Addict Health. 2011. Chemistry, pharmacology, and toxicology of khat (catha edulis forsk): a review. Catha edulis is a plant grown commonly in the horn of Africa. The leaves are chewed by the people for its stimulant action. Its young buds and tender leaves are chewed to attain a state of euphoria and stimulation. Khat is an evergreen shrub, which is cultivated as a bush or small tree. The leaves have an aromatic odor. The taste is astringent and slightly sweet. The plant is seedless and hardy, growing in a variety of climates and soils. Many different compounds are found in khat including alkaloids, terpenoids, flavonoids, sterols, glycosides, tannins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. The phenylalkylamines and the cathedulins are the major alkaloids which are structurally related to amphetamine. The major effects of khat include those on the gastro-intestinal system and on the nervous system. Constipation, urine retention and acute cardiovascular effects may be regarded as autonomic (peripheral) nervous system effects; increased alertness, dependence, tolerance and psychiatric symptoms as effects on the central nervous system. The main toxic effects include increased blood pressure, tachycardia, insomnia, anorexia, constipation, general malaise, irritability, migraine and impaired sexual potency in men. Databases such as Pubmed, Medline, Hinary, Google search, Cochrane and Embase were systematically searched for literature on the different aspects of khat to summarize chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology of Catha edulis.

Catha edulis (Khat) induces cell death by apoptosis in leukemia cell lines.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003.
Khat is the Celastraceus edulis plant, a flowering evergreen tree or large shrub, which grows in the Horn of Africa and southwestern Arabia. Khat use has been associated with development of oral cancer, but its molecular effects remain controversial. This study describes a novel cytotoxic effect of whole khat extract on three leukemia cell lines. Cells were exposed to khat extract and harvested for analysis by fluorescent and electron microscopy, trypan blue exclusion, as well as immunoblotting to characterize the mode of cell death. In a separate series, cells were pretreated with a panel of caspase inhibitors for possible inhibitory effects. Khat induced a rapid cell death effect in HL-60, Jurkat, and NB4 cells that occurred within 2 h of exposure. The treated cells retained their ability to exclude trypan blue dye, a key feature in the apoptotic process. Exposed cells consistently developed morphological features of manifest apoptosis. Z-VAD, a pan-caspase inhibitor, completely inhibited toxic activity for up to 8 h, with partial inhibition by other caspase-specific agents. Western blot analysis showed specific cleavage of caspase-3 in khat-exposed cells. This study shows that khat induces cell death by apoptosis in a process sensitive to inhibition by caspase inhibitors, suggesting that subcellular interactions could be of particular relevance for the biological effects of khat in the cell death process and possibly carcinogenesis.

Effects of khat (Catha edulis) consumption on reproductive functions: a review.
East Afr Med J. 2003.
To review research findings on the effects of khat chewing on reproductive functions. Retrieval and critical review of relevant articles and abstracts cited in international and local journals, literature searches on Medline and Medchem from 1961 to 2002. Analysis of published data and limited interviews of regular khat users revealed that khat chewing lowers libido in humans and may also lead to sexual impotence following long term use. In pregnant women, consumption of khat affects growth of foetus by inhibiting utero-placental blood flow and as a consequence, impairs foetal growth. Detailed studies on the effects of khat on reproduction are lacking. However, the limited available data reveal that chewing of khat has a negative impact on human reproductive health. Khat is genotoxic and has teratogenic effects on the foetus if regularly consumed by pregnant mothers. Since low birth weight is a well-established risk factor for both perinatal and young infant death, khat chewing during pregnancy may be one of the factors contributing to infant mortality in communities where khat is commonly chewed. Khat consumption affects the potency of male sexuality by affecting spermatogenesis and plasma testosterone concentration. However, the precise mechanisms by which khat may affect the male reproductive physiology have not been elucidated.

Mechanism of action of cathinone: the active ingredient of khat (Catha edulis).
East Afr Med J. 2000.
To review the current understanding of the mechanism of action of cathinone, the active ingredient of khat. Published experimental studies on the nature and action and effect of cathinone on the central nervous system both in animals and humans. Data was taken from work published on the mechanism of action of cathinone and also from work where the action of cathinone and amphetamine was compared. Data from various studies on cathinone was compared for common themes with regards to its action and similarity with the known mechanism of action of amphetamine. The experimental work shows that cathinone is a liable substance, structually related to amphetamine, and similarly to amphetamine, increases the levels of dopamine in the brain by acting on the cathecholaminergic synaspes. Hence the psychostimulant effect of khat can be accounted for by the mechanism of cathinone, which is considered to be its main active ingredient.

Emails
Q. I just ordered kava from you but i would like to inquire about an herb called khat. why is it so hard to find in the U.S.? i know you can buy the 'seeds' on-line but i'm afraid they won't be authentic. do you sell it and if not will you be? thanks for your help!
     A. I don't know much about it and why it is not sold here in the US. Our research staff just attended a supplement trade show and we did not see any companies selling khat plant or seed.

Q. Is khat a drug, does it help with impotence?
     A. Khat is a plant, and as such has compounds that could act as a drug in the body. I don't know how it influences erectile function or whether it has sexual enhancement attributes.

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