Journal of Ethnobiology & Ethnomedicine. 3(1):1-12.
Catha edulis (qat) is an evergreen tree or shrub whose young leaves and stems are widely chewed in Eastern Africa. The aim of the present study was to document ethnomedicinal value of Catha edulis as used traditionally by the Ameru andAembu communities of Kenya.
The study was conducted between the months of September (2014) and February (2015), and involved 42 key informants (32 males and 10 females) aged between 45 and 84 years. Snowball and purposeful sampling techniques were used in the selection of key respondents. A semi-structured questionnaire was administered to collect ethnomedicinal data using faceto-face interviews and discussions with key respondents
Eleven traditional varieties based on information from key informants were identified and described. Out of these, 5 were from Embu County while 6 were from Meru County. Plant samples were collected and deposited at the University of Nairobi herbarium as voucher specimens. A total of 13 ethnomedicinal uses of qat were documented. Of these, 62% were reported only in Meru County while 15% were reported only in Embu County. The remaining (23%) were reported in both Meru and Embu counties. The major parts of the plant reported to have medicinal value were leaves. Young stems and roots had scanty medicinal value. Chewing fresh material was identified as the major method of crude drug preparation, althoughin some cases such as in the treatment of diarrhea, gonorrhea and toothache, boiling of fresh material was reported. The main mode of administration of drug is oral and there was no precise dosage reported for any given ailment.
The present study indicates that there is a rich knowledge of ethnomedicinal uses of qat particularly in Meru which forms groundwork for further efficacious study of the plant as that may provide a lead to the discovery of novel bioactive therapeutic agents. In addition, the traditional varieties of C. edulis identified by some morphological characters of taxonomic importance provide a vital clue of possible existence of infraspecific taxa of C. edulis which, to date, has no documented infraspecific taxa.
KEY-WORDS: Qat, ethnomedicinal, traditional varieties, psychostimulant