A review of the neuropharmacological properties of khat

Anteneh M. Feyissa, John P. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


Background: The psychostimulant khat (Catha edulis Forsk), is a herbal drug cultivated and chewed as a recreational and socializing drug in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula for centuries. Due to increasing air transportation and the loosening of customs restrictions, it is now readily available in the Western Countries mainly used by immigrants from khat growing areas causing a concern to policy-makers. Objective: We conducted this review to further gain an insight to the neuropharmacological effects of khat. Methodology: PubMed search engine with key terms 'khat' or 'qat' or 'mirra' or'qaad/jaad' or 'cathinone' was used to obtain articles relevant to khat chewing. In total 284 English written articles published from 1959 to 2007 were screened. Results: Most of the studies focused on cathinone, the postulated active psychostimulant alkaloid in khat. There were few studies which investigated the entire plant extract in either in vitro or animal studies. In the majority of the studies it was reported that both cathinone and cathine, another psychoactive constituent, have actions that are similar to those of amphetamine. Conclusions: It seems that the well investigated khat alkaloids have many features similar to amphetamines; however there is a need for a more thorough examination of khat itself in well designed in vitro, animal and human studies with a range of comparator drugs before confirming the claim that khat is a "natural amphetamine".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1147-1166
Number of pages20
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2008


  • Cathinone
  • Dopamine
  • Khat
  • Neuropharmacology
  • Psychosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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