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Abstract

The habit of chewing fresh leaves and twigs of khat (Catha edulis) for their stimulating amphetamine-like effects is highly prevalent in East Africa and southwest on the Arabic peninsula. There is an extensive literature on khat providing information about its history, botany, production, geographical distribution, chemistry and pharmacology, and exploring the social, economic, medical, psychological and oral aspects related to its use. Some of this literature dates as early as the 11th century; however, most of it appeared after the first scientific description of khat by Peter Forskal in 1775. This review provides a panorama of khat and the various aspects of its use. A non-technical description of the plant chemistry and pharmacology is included. The medical, psychological and oral aspects are emphasized, and the current knowledge about the microbiological effects of khat is also presented.