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whitewind

Catha edulis - History, Cultivation and Use

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Family: Celastraceae

Genus: Catha

Species: edulis

Common Names: Khat, Ghat, Gat, Qat, Qaat, Jaad, Jimma

Description

Khat is a slow growing shrub or small tree that grows to between 2 m and 5 m tall, depending on region, rainfall and genetic strain. The evergreen leaves are serrated and 5 to 10 cm long and 1 to 4 cm broad, with the new tip growth frequently showing distinctive caramel colour. The flowers are produced on short axillary cymes 4 to 8 cm long. Each flower is small, with five white petals. The fruit is an oblong three-valved capsule containing 1 to 3 winged seeds. Flowering branches have opposite leaves, non-flowering branches are alternate.

Cultivation

Propagation is from cuttings, which are relatively straightforward but are better taken from the alternate branches, which are the main growth stems (opposite branches being the flowering stems which may root but are not ideal for cutting growth). In some areas, cuttings should be taken over Autumn (Fall) and re-potted in Spring when the new growth starts. Standard rooting hormone (preferably as a gel) can be used, and the cuttings placed in a humid environment.

Division of plants can also be undertaken, when a plant is cut back frequently to create bushy growth many new shoots can develop, usually at the base of the plant. These can be carefully dug up and replanted.

Khat can produce seeds very prolifically when allowed to develop (too much harvesting or cutting back will strongly inhibit flower production) and should be harvested as soon as they are ripe (the pod begins to split). As the ripening occurs at different speeds across the entire plant, many harvests should be undertaken over the ripening period. Seed is best sown quickly, but may store for up to 2 years in good conditions. Seed sowing into moist but well-drained soil, preferably in a humid environment but under cover to prevent too much water saturation of the soil (especially in wetter areas). Shade is recommended for young plants, gradually hardening off to full sun as they reach the end of the first seasons growth.

Planting out should not be undertaken until the plant has another season growth, when it will be large enough to establish itself quickly in the ground. Other than access to sun and water, Khat requires little maintenance, but irrigation in dry periods is recommended for good growth. It takes seven to eight years for the Khat plant to reach its full height, but harvesting can happen after 5 years. Plants are watered heavily starting around a month before they are harvested to make the leaves and stems soft and moist. A good Khat plant can be harvested four times a year, providing a year long source of income for the farmer (where legal). Plants are best trimmed back to create a hedge or small shrub for easy harvesting, and fed heavily in spring to help new growth. Sugar-cane mulch will help moisture retention in dry soils, and help improve poor soils over time.

Harvesters in traditional areas transport Khat by packaging the leaves and stems in plastic bags or wrapping them in banana leaves to preserve their moisture and keep the cathinone potent. It is also common for them to sprinkle the plant with water frequently or use refrigeration during transportation.

History

Khat's exact place of origin is uncertain. It may have first been grown in Ethiopia, explorer Sir Richard Burton suggested that the plant was later introduced to Yemen from Ethiopia sometime in the 15th century, and states that the eastern city of Harar is suggested is the birthplace of the plant. However, Khat chewing has a long history amongst communities in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia) and the Arabian Peninsula, dating back probably many thousands of years.

The Ancient Egyptians considered the Khat plant a divine food, which was capable of releasing humanity's divinity. The Egyptians used the plant for more than its stimulating effects; they used it for transcending into "apotheosis", with the intent of making the user

god-like.

The earliest known documented description of khat is found in the Kitab al-Saidala fi al-Tibb كتاب الصيدلة في الطب, an 11th century work on pharmacy and materia medica written by Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī, a Persian scientist and biologist who wrote "Khat is a commodity from Turkestan. It is sour to taste and slenderly made in the manner of batan-alu. But khat is reddish with a slight blackish tinge. It is believed that batan-alu is red, coolant, relieves biliousness, and is a refrigerant for the stomach and the liver."

Preparations and Use

Khat use in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula predates the use of coffee and is used in a similar social context. The fresh leaves and tops are chewed or, less frequently, dried and consumed as tea, in order to achieve a state of euphoria and stimulation; it also has anorectic side-effects. The leaves or the soft part of the stem can be chewed with either chewing gum or fried peanuts to make it easier to chew. Frequently Khat is bundled in to a quid of 30 to 40 fresh leaf bunches.

In other countries, Khat is sometimes chewed at parties or social functions. It may also be used by farmers and laborers for reducing physical fatigue or hunger, and by drivers and students for improving attention. Within the counter-culture segments of the elite population in Kenya, khat (referred to locally as Veve or Miraa) is used to counter the effects of a hangover or binge drinking, similar to the use of the Coca leaf in South America.

In more recent times, preservation in alcohol has been experimented with, fresh leaves being packed in to alcohol which is subsequently filtered and served as an alcoholic beverage.

Effects

Khat consumption induces mild euphoria and excitement, similar to that conferred by strong coffee. Individuals become very talkative under the influence of the plant. The effects of oral administration of cathinone occur more rapidly than the effects of amphetamine pills, roughly 15 minutes as compared to 30 minutes in amphetamine. Khat can induce manic behaviors and hyperactivity similar in effects to those produced by amphetamine.

Dilated pupils (mydriasis) are prominent during khat consumption, reflecting the sympathomimetic effects of the drug, which are also reflected in increased heart rate and blood pressure.

Withdrawal symptoms that may follow occasional use include mild depression and irritability. Withdrawal symptoms that may follow prolonged Khat use include lethargy, mild depression, nightmares, and slight tremor. Khat is an effective anorectic (causes loss of

appetite). Long-term use can precipitate the following effects: negative impact on liver function, permanent tooth darkening (of a greenish tinge), susceptibility to ulcers, and diminished sex drive. Use of Khat can cause constipation.

It is unclear if the consumption of Khat directly affects the mental health of the user or not. Occasionally, a psychosis can result, resembling a hypomanic state in presentation.

Chemistry and Pharmacology

The stimulant effect of the plant was originally attributed to "katin", cathine, a phenethylamine-type substance isolated from the plant. However, the attribution was disputed by reports showing the plant extracts from fresh leaves contained another substance more behaviorally active than cathine. In 1975, the related alkaloid cathinone was isolated, and its absolute configuration was established in 1978. Cathinone is not very stable and breaks down to produce cathine and norephedrine. These chemicals belong to the PPA (phenylpropanolamine) family, a subset of the phenethylamines related to amphetamines and the catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine. In fact, cathinone and cathine have a very similar molecular structure to amphetamine. Khat is sometimes confused with methcathinone (also known as Cat), a Schedule 9 substance that possess a similar chemical structure to the Khat plant's cathinone active component. However, both the side effects and the addictive properties of methcathinone are much stronger than those associated with Khat use.

When Khat leaves dry, the more potent chemical, cathinone, decomposes within 48 hours leaving behind the milder chemical, cathine.

When the Khat leaves are chewed, cathine and cathinone are released and absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth and the lining of the stomach. The action of cathine and cathinone on the reuptake of epinephrine and norepinephrine has been demonstrated in lab animals, showing that one or both of these chemicals cause the body

to recycle these neurotransmitters more slowly, resulting in the wakefulness and insomnia associated with Khat use.

Receptors for serotonin show a high affinity for cathinone suggesting that this chemical is responsible for feelings of euphoria associated with chewing Khat. In mice, cathinone produces the same types of nervous pacing or repetitive scratching behaviors associated with amphetamines. The effects of cathinone peak after 15 to 30 minutes with nearly 98% of the substance metabolized into norephedrine by the liver.

Cathine is somewhat less understood, being believed to act upon the adrenergic receptors causing the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine. It has a half-life of about 3 hours in humans. Because the receptor effect are similar to those of cocaine medication, treatment of the occasional addiction is similar to that of cocaine. The medication bromocriptine can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours.

Health

In 1980, the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified it as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence (less than tobacco or alcohol), which means the WHO does not consider Khat to be seriously addictive.

Immediate effects:

Increased heart rate, blood pressure

Euphoria

Hyperactivity

Decreased appetite

Long-term effects:

Depression

Sometimes hallucinations

Delayed response inhibition

Increased risk of myocardial infarction

Psychosis in extreme cases in the genetically predisposed

Oral cancer

Indeterminate effects:

Death and stroke following acute coronary syndrome (either from impaired insight into symptoms by the Khat chewer, delay to care, or poorly understood pathophysiological mechanisms)

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More info about Khat and other ethnobotanicals can be found here.

Edited by whitewind
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Sounds lovely but doesnt resolve anything. This read is a dime a dozen in internet terms and i worry about the generic-ness of this write up and also the governmental style paranoia to the effects. However i commend you on a good reference for newbs if this is found. Chewing gum, no way man...thats just sick. Try some salami with fresh leaves. I said this awhile ago but ill say it again. You will never look back. Also catha edulis is refuted to be the moses burning bush....no for real. : )

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Hi Santiago,

I'm not sure I know what you're getting at when you talk about 'not resolving anything', I just thought it would be nice to have a bit of background info on the site as we don't have anything and yet there's a lot of info about Khat cultivation. Many people in Australia love this plant and I love the history and use so I just thought I would bung it up here for anyone who doesn't know but would like to.

Khat is a great stimulant, equal to or better than coffee (which is my favourite drink), heaps better than tea or mate, and it's not something that's likely to cause much serious addiction, at least not any more than tea, coffee or mate already do. I think mild stimulants like these cause little harm unless the person has a poor heart or circulatory system (which is sadly quite common in our culture) but a good run will cause me more upset than your average strong coffee or chew on Khat leaves. Most of the legal issues with it, I believe, stem from the fact that our culture doesn't chew, it sips.

Edited by whitewind
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actually i thought My burning bush was said to be Dictamnus which has a flammable oil it exudes during summer and the fact that the area in question was quite rocky with flint excetera so any rock movement could ignite said plant.

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Whitewind i didnt mean to come across so gruff, i suppose having read a fair bit on the subject i was hoping for the x-factor in your write up. Not resolving anything basically meant not really explaining anything new. Thats all, however it still may be of great interest to those who dont per se engross themselves in the subject. Cactus doesnt really interest me, i have many but i probably am more interested in my orange trees than my cactus. So in that regard im very heavily biased towards khat as my stong point which is why im a heavily biased reader anyway...no harm. It is a super constructed read and great post.

Hey Moses, you bring up a great point. My father reads all these old books and he pulled me across one day and i read a passage in this book which said kat was the burning bush ie bible history. That always stuck in my mind. Ill have to get the reference. One day thinking i would do a thread on it i did a bit of research online as to the origins of the burning bush. It seems that the tree may still be growing somewhere (or cuttings of of course). In some church grounds. Possibly by memory though in the 1500's that church was pillaged and burnt and so too the tree. Does that tree still exist (burning bush)....i cant really remember so i will have to go back and look, or mayby someone else can here.

So one possibility if you go on my father as a reference and some spotty old passage in some unamed book, catha edulis being the buring bush.....perhaps, mayby not. Acacia do seem to grow (what spp im not sure either) as well as harmala. It is known that harmala and acacia were often brewed in the area. Did they know that this would effect them in a certain way.....i believe they certainly would of. Being mainly 99% non religious in beliefs myself (1%) just in case haha.....i dont believe in the buring bush anyway. There is no way known to the real world a bush is going to burn by itself and start talking.......not unless under the influence of a certain brew.

So mayby ill post back with more time on the theory of the burning bush, so far i believe i have rounded it to catha edulis, acacia spp and or peganum harmala.

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Actually more about the burning bush would be interesting. To be honest, I can't take much credit for the write-up a lot was lifted wholesale from Wikipedia, especially the Chemistry and Pharmacology, the main adjustments I made were to the plant description and adding a section on Cultivation, which I thought would be interesting for ethnobots. What I would love to find out is more on the history, cultivation and use within Australia. The more recent history of cultivation is something I might work on, especially as the main creator of new strains lives here at the forums!

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the story of the origin of khat is that goats in ethiopia liked (and like) to chew the young khat-leaves and jumped around agitated after that. The herders saw that and tasted the leaves, they felt the stimulation and chewed more...

Quite the same story of origin has coffee which is believed to be discovered by goats too.

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http://books.google....epage&q&f=false

^I think some one posted this already but its an interesting and relevant read about this plant, most of the terminology seems to be in current use in africa. An example of the kiosks here the nyambene massive with the magic sticks!

post-12026-0-77730900-1350649021_thumb.j

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In the villages near Mombasa you can also see such shops ;-)

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in yemen the plant is so strongly integrated that it is even pictured on the banknotes:

http://www.banknotes.com/YAR11.JPG

(the kath-plant is in the center, the plant on the right side is a coffee plant.

A friend gave me this banknote as souvenir from his journey

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There are many threads here on general cultivation and especially cuttings, but not so many info on raising from seed and how to treat the seedlings.  I chose not to start a new thread and ask in this which has a nice title and nice general info... 

 

I have 2 seedlings which I started from seed, but unfortunately I got the seeds to late in the season.. 

 

so here is my biggest one, the other is a bit smaller. 

 

P1140747.jpg

 

questions are

 

1 - I dont see anything red - does this mean its a greeny/narrow - leaf variety? 

2 - this is currently on my roof and acclimatised to sun. Even though these days we have warm days again (automn here) eventually in 15- 30 days out mild cold will come. Should I protect this in a semi-protected spot (I do have a shed on the roof)  or I could leave on the roof. We dont get extreme temps here, once I measured -5  on some cold dawn, but thats the rarity. We havent had a cold winter for a long time here.  So how cold hardy are the seedlings of this size?  are the narrow leaved ones supposed to be hardier?  are seedlings hardier than mature plants as with cacti (I guess not but it doesnt hurt to ask) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi there.

 

usually the red color on the stem appreciate lately and not at the early stage of the plant, 

 

about the temperature - my kaht (it big plant and not a seedling) looking great at full sun, at the cold season (last winter it was cover with snow for 3 days)dropping all the leaves and look like it died, but when the spring back, she start growing again, and two weeks later she shiny again.

my last seedling was died because i didn't acclimatize him to the sun - so i think the seedling is much more sensitive..

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Here is that seedling now. I took it from the roof and took it to a more protected spot. It endured some winds up there, seems to be getting stronger. Its smaller brother doesn't look so good, still alive but struggling. 

 

 

P1150371.JPG

P1150372.JPG

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^^^^ its still alive and acclimatised to direct sun. 

 

but I have some seedlings at 4-5 leaves which seem to curl and loose some leaves.. could it be from fungusgnats / flies while they where inside? they are outside now.. could it be too much watering?  

 

I also messed with the roots of another one trying to see if there were gnats in the soil, this dried all of its leaves and one baby leaf, and now only has one baby leaf to support it - its dying.. 

 

any ideas?

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hey whats up. may you all have a nice 2018

 

here as some updates of my cathas. Now that they are a bit bigger some maybe you could help suggesting a strain or something. 

 

shape of both of them is pretty awkward, so I provide close-up photos

 

first two pictures is a plant that used to have broad I guess leaves, it came as a big rooted cutting but went a long period of stress doing nothing and it propably didnt help I received it in the heart of winter. After loosing most of its leaves it seems to be coming back, and I was super excited to see it sprouting from the base. 

 

third picture is my own seed grown and it seems like a more narrow leaf variety. It was recently transplanted and it seems to liking it. It too went through period of stress. 

 

I dont know if I was doing something particularly wrong, or that they are indeed slow and easily stressed. Any thoughts appreciated 

DSCN5414.jpg

DSCN5415.jpg

DSCN5416.jpg

Edited by sagiXsagi

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