× Digital News Videos Africa Health & Science Opinion Columnists Education Lifestyle Cartoons Moi Cabinets Arts & Culture Gender Planet Action Podcasts E-Paper Tributes Lifestyle & Entertainment Nairobian Entertainment Eve Woman TV Stations KTN Home KTN News BTV KTN Farmers TV Radio Stations Radio Maisha Spice FM Vybez Radio Enterprise VAS E-Learning Digger Classified Jobs Games Crosswords Sudoku The Standard Group Corporate Contact Us Rate Card Vacancies DCX O.M Portal Corporate Email RMS


Study: Miraa causes liver and kidney disorders

By By GATONYE GATHURA | Feb 28th 2014 | 3 min read


Eldoret, Kenya: As debate on the health side effects of miraa rages on, a new study on goats has revealed more findings about the plant. Goats fed on miraa at the University of Eldoret in Uasin Gishu County show that the plant interferes with normal body functions, which could lead to serious liver and kidney disorders even in humans.

“These findings go on to confirm past studies done at the University of Nairobi, which have linked the long use of miraa to chemical and structural changes in the human liver,” study supervisor, Ng’wena G Magak of Maseno University, told The Standard yesterday.

Dr Ng’wena said the study, led by John Lagat Kipkemboi of the University of Eldoret, had nothing to do with the current debate on khat but is purely for the sake of advancing scientific research and education to the public.

But even as the team wanted to keep the new study, published in the March 2014  issue of the African Journal of Health Sciences, away from the public focus, drama over the plant was playing out on Tuesday at the High Court in Nairobi.

In what was a significant win for the Nyambene Miraa Traders Association, the Attorney General assured the court that at no time had the National Agency for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse ( Nacada) classified miraa as a narcotic. 

On the AG’s clarification, the traders withdrew the case but this does not stop Nacada from continuing to refer to miraa as one of the most abused drug in the country after alcohol and tobacco.


According to a Nacada 2012 drug-use study in the country, there are 1.6 million miraa users in Kenya. Nacada says that among the long term negative uses of miraa is its interference with the functioning of the liver and kidneys.

In the Eldoret study, which also involved researchers from Kabianga University College in Kericho, the team had set out to determine how the chemical in miraa (cathinone) changes blood composition and the liver structure hence functioning.

The team had purchased 14 East African male goats aged between eight and 12 months and weighing between 10 and 20kg from Kerio Valley and taken them to the University of Eldoret for this study.

The goats were put in two groups. For 45 days, one group was injected daily with a khat leaf extract while the other was treated with salt water or saline.

Blood was drawn from the animals and tested. And after the study, their livers were harvested for analysis. The team reports chemical and tissue changes in the blood and livers of goats treated with khat extract.

By increasing and using an injectable dose on the goats, Dr Ng’wena explained: “We were imitating the long term chewing of khat in humans.”

The next level, he explained, is to study whether people who have been chewing khat for a long time have indeed developed liver or kidney problems.

“We planning to study a miraa-chewing community that lives in a place called Eastleigh in Eldoret town with the aim of conclusively demonstrating that apart from other medical consequences, khat is bad for the liver and kidneys,” Ng’wena, a senior lecturer in medical physiology, said.

Share this story
‘Brown handsome’ prosecutor ejected from office
There was drama at Kangundo Law Courts when angry members of the public stormed the court premises and ejected a prosecutor on claims that he has been handling cases while drunk.
When Njonjo almost resigned over coffee smugglers
Known as the era of black gold, it began in 1976 when Ugandan farmers decided to sell their coffee in the private market.