Khat is believed to have originated in Ethiopia. It is a flowering evergreen plant native to tropical East Africa. Khat has been grown for use as a stimulant for centuries and predates the use of coffee.
Khat is an agent that has been used in social settings to induce feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Medicinally, it has been used to treat depression and to enhance work capacity. Khat has also been used as an aphrodisiac, to treat premature ejaculation, and to enhance sexual desire.
Currently, there are no well-designed clinical trials evaluating khat for any indication. Two poorly documented trials evaluated khat in cognitive function. One study revealed no difference in cognitive function in the elderly with khat use. In the other study, cognitive functioning was negatively affected by khat use.
Fresh khat leaves contain cathinone - a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act; however, the leaves typically begin to deteriorate after 48 hours, causing the chemical composition of the plant to break down. Once this occurs, the leaves contain cathine, a Schedule IV drug. Khat is currently illegal in the United States.
Abyssinian tea, African salad, Arabian-tea, bushman's tea, cat, cathine, cathinone, Catha edulis, Celastraceae (family), Celastrus edulis, chat, chaat (Arabic), gat (Arabic), herbal ecstasy, kat (Arabic), kus es Salahin (Arabic), miraa, oat, phenylpropanolamine, qat (Yemen), qut, somali tea, tchaad (Arabic), tohai (Arabic), tohat (Arabic), tshcut (Arabic).
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Khat has been evaluated for its cognitive effects; however, the results are mixed with some studies showing benefit and others showing negative effects. Additional study is needed in this area to clarify these findings.