Catha edulis is a shrub found in the arid parts of Africa and the Middle East. The Catha edulis, also called Khat, is known for its psychostimulant effects on the body. The plant grows best in warm temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius. The leaves of the plant are chewed by the locals and tribals. The compounds present in the leaves have properties like amphetamine which is a popular recreational drug.
The plant is traditionally known as Khat in Arabic, however, its biological name t is Catha. The specific name of the plant is edulis, which is taken from the Greek language and means edible.
The first evidence of cultivation of the Catha edulis plant was found in Southern Ethiopia. The cultivation started as early as the 6th Century AD. With its reach and benefits confining to the Middle East and Africa for a long time, the West came to know about the Khat plant only after the 18th Century. With several countries prohibiting psychedelic substances, the use of Khat seeds and leaves is still largely confined to the East African and Middle Eastern countries.
The seeds are readily available on multiple shopping platforms. People buy Khat seeds in large numbers because it is very easy to cultivate the plant.
The local farmers of East Africa and the Middle East grow the plant at a highland elevation of at least 1500 to 2000 meters. The commercial cultivation of the plant requires rainfall of 800 to 1000 millimeters occurring over 4 to 6 months every year. The plant can grow in almost all types of soils. Moreover, even slightly acidic or alkaline soils are good for its growth. Typically, sandy and loamy soils in which water penetration is good, are best for growing Catha edulis. Soils with a good amount of humus and organic content are essential for growing Khat.
Since it is not a major crop and the leaves and seeds have limited use, the crop is grown in a mixed cropping pattern, with a few rows of Khat growing alongside several rows of the coffee plant.
Uses and Medical Benefits
An important characteristic of Catha edulis is that it is a very mild psychostimulant. Therefore, many countries like the United Kingdom, where recreational drugs are banned, have allowed farmers to cultivate the Khat plant and use it to prepare medications for psychiatric patients.
The fresh young leaves of the plant, and sometimes its tender stem, is used as a masticatory product that produces mild intoxication. The compounds inside the leaves act as depressants for the nervous system. Thus, their extract is used as a base in CBD oils for pain management.
Traditional Arabic and African medicine prescribe the consumption of Catha edulis seeds as an elixir for curing all ailments. Over time, the seeds lose their viability for germinating. Thus, the seeds are crushed to make a fine powder. Mixing the powder with water and sugar produces the chemical base for CBD Vape juice.
The leaves of Catha edulis are beneficial because they develop flavors after drying. African tribes use the extract from the dried leaves to make special tea. The Arabs blend the same extract with tobacco for smoking.