A chemical that occurs naturally in the leaves of an African plant could boost men’s fertility, researchers told the 20th annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology on Monday 28 June.
Khat (Catha edulis) is a plant that has been cultivated for centuries in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Chewing the leaves of the plant releases cathinone, a stimulant that produces feelings of euphoria. Cathinone is not very stable and is broken down into cathine (pseudonorephedrine) and norephedrine; all belong to a group of chemicals called phenylpropanolamines (PPAs), which are structurally similar to amphetamines and adrenaline.
Until now there have been conflicting reports of the effects of PPAs on male fertility. Amongst people who chew khat leaves there is a belief that it improves a man’s sex drive and ability to maintain an erection, but there is a question mark over whether prolonged use might adversely affect the male reproductive system, possibly causing abnormalities in sperm.
Emma Mason | WordMason, UK
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