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Meru Scientists Develop Miraa Chewing Gum, Energy Drink, and Wine, Highlighting Positive Benefits

Professor Joshua Arimi shows the energy drink developed from muguka at the Meru University Photo: The Star

Following public discourse about the negative effects of Miraa, a team of scientists from Meru University Of Science and Technology is determined to change its image by developing energy drinks, wine and also chewing gum from the plant.

“We have been researching mainly on nutrition and vital chemical composition of miraa and muguka,” food scientist Joshua Arimi said on Thursday, June 27 during the launch of the university’s 3rd International Conference on Science of Climate Action.

The professor argued that the plants despite their unattractiveness could be of benefit if their potential was properly harnessed, and hence was the motivating factor to conduct research into value addition by innovating aesthetically pleasing products.

This therefore led to the development of chewing gum, the wine named Miraa Bamboocha and Muguka Energy Drink.

According to the professor scientifically the two Muguka and Miraa are the same plant known as Catha Edulis (khat). Both plants are rich in vital chemicals and polyphenols, which are micronutrients or chemicals occurring naturally in plants.

They are also good in fibre and nutraceutical compounds (substances derived from food sources that are considered to have nutritional or therapeutic effects).

The image of Miraa and Muguka has recently taken a hit after it was banned in the Coastal region after claims that it was being peddled to underage users, which could have adverse effects on their health.

Arimi argues that value addition was necessary to regulate the stimulants to be suitable for consumption by underage users as well as tap into other benefits the plant offers.

He also corrected misconceptions about the drug that have sparked controversy in the Coastal region, where individuals have been reported displaying zombie-like behaviour.

“Why are they coming up now? How does it make people zombies in Mombasa and not in Embu and Meru? There must be another thing that is contributing to that behaviour and mannerism in Coast and not miraa and muguka,” Arimi said.

He maintained that the main chemical components found in miraa and muguka, cardinal and cathine, are known to cause stimulation which refutes the drowsiness allegations, adding that there are over 50 others that are yet to be looked into

“We are expounding to see what benefits the other compounds have as the two were only used to classify miraa and muguka as a drug, but we think there are other benefits we can derive from the plant,” the professor said.

Arimi called on the government to allocate funds for miraa research to further explore its potential benefits.

Vice Chancellor Romanus Odhiambo said the institution has been conducting research for a decade seeking to find the benefits of miraa, adding that people should change their outlook on the drug and base it on facts.

“There has been a lot of talk in Kenya about miraa and muguka and as a university, we wanted to report to the whole country we have been doing research on both for the last 10 years.

“People only talk about the negative things they imagine which are not based on research and sense,” he said.

He also announced that they would be putting up the Miraa Research Institute that will advance research, and offer more information on how the commodity could be of advantage in different sectors.

“The Miraa Research Institute will tell Kenyans more about miraa. What is miraa, how it is grown and various species they have in the country,” he said.

Apart from chewing, the commodity can make juices, wines and even yoghurt, Odhiambo added.

“Why can’t we think about building a factory for miraa products and value addition because according to research, we have seen it can make many products,” he noted.

The miraa and muguka market contributes around Kshs 13 billion to the economy with Somalia standing as the primary destination for miraa exports from Kenya.

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