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Farming amphetamines: Khat (Catha edulis Forsk) a traditional plant with psychoactive and medicinal properties
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Medicinal and Aromatic Plants of the Middle-East
Zohara Y, Dudai N.
Medicinal and Aromatic Plants of the World
Khat (Catha edulis Forsk., Celastraceae) is a flowering perennial shrub with a long history of use and cultivation in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Young khat leaves are traditionally chewed in social gatherings to attain special states of mind, aimed especially at awakeness and enhanced mind focus. Since khat chewing contains amphetamine-like molecules and reponedly causes addiction among users it is banned in most countries, but it is part of social life and legal in some countries. The main phannacoactive compounds present in khat leaves are the phenylpropylamino alkaloids (S) cathinone and (S)-cathine. L-Phenylalan:ine serves as a key biosynthetic precursor of phenylpropylalkaloids. Phenylalanine is converted by a series of not yet fully characterized reactions involving chain-shortening to benzaldehyde, then ligation to decarboxylated pyruvate, oxidation and incorporation of an amino group to yield (S)-cath inone, the most active compound accumulating in young leaves. (S)-Cathinone is subsequently reduced to (S)-cathine, the main compound accumulated in mature leaves, but pharmacologically less active than (S)-cathinone. The pharmacological prospects of khat uses and some personal experiences of one of the authors in khat chewing are described here.
Khat, Catha edulis, Celastraceae, cathinone, phenylpropylamino alkaloids, amphetamines
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