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Muguka energy drink will soon be available at your local kiosk

Experts at the Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST) have come out in defence of miraa and muguka, saying despite their abuse, the stimulants have medicinal and value addition benefits with huge economic potential.

They have invented and patented a Muguka Energy drink that will soon be released into the market, and is expected to rival popular energy drink brands like Red Bull.

Muguka is mostly grown in arid Mbeere area, Embu county while miraa is cultivated in Igembe region, Meru county.

The scientific name of the plant that produces miraa and muguka is Cathaedulis with the leaf and stem containing cathinone and cathine, two elements that cause intoxication and are used as a stimulant for recreation and medicine or herb.

Two lead scientists – Prof Joshua Arimi, a food scientist and Dr Patrick Kubai who is a clinical researcher – said studies done on miraa and muguka have proved that they contain nutritional ingredients. The team of researchers also comprise biochemists and social scientists.

The dons said other than cathinone and cathine, miraa is rich in fibre and has over 50 other compounds which scientists are extracting with the view to determine their benefits.

“In terms of value addition we have developed an infusion bag like the tea bags, a miraa chewing gum and energy drink. We are doing this because miraa and muguka contribute at least Sh13.1 billion to Kenya’s economy besides being the key economic driver in areas where it is grown,” Prof Arimi said.

He spoke on Saturday at the close of the 3rd Meru University of Science and Technology International Conference (MUSTIC), themed Science in the Service of Climate Action.

“Our objective is to improve how muguka and miraa are presented in the market which currently is not appealing to consumers. This will also make it easy for government agencies to control consumption of the product by the underage population,” he added.

Dr Kubai, who worked at the Nyamebe Level Four hospital before joining the research team said they were harnessing positive effects of miraa and muguka through clinical trials of the substances.

“For instance, you realize that people from miraa growing areas where they chew it on a daily basis don’t suffer a lot from hypertension and diabetes and we have formed hypotheses around these observations. But even before we confirm them I can assure you it has a lot to do with consumption of miraa,” he said.

Dr Kubai discounted claims that consumption of miraa and muguka leads to impotence among men, saying those presenting those symptoms must have mixed the stimulant with other drugs or were exposed to poor diet.

“Igembe region where I worked for 10 years at the Nyambene Level Four hospital has one of the highest fertility rates in Meru county and people consume miraa daily. If the compounds cause impotency then that region would not be highly populated,” he said.

MUST Vice Chancellor Prof Romanus Odhiambo said to support the activities of the researchers, the university was building the Miraa Research Institute (MRI) where all research on the crop will be domiciled.

“Scientists will look into climatic conditions in the areas it is grown, where else it can be grown in the country and the associated benefits including value addition. People especially politicians only talk of the negative side effects some of which are not science based,” Prof Odhiambo said.

“Institutions of higher learning should be consulted because through research we have diagnosed the contents in miraa and muguka and effects it has on consumers. We are also trying to develop medicinal products from miraa,” he added.

Consumption of muguka has sparked uproar among counties at the coast where consumers have abused it with claims that Mombasa residents alone spend over Sh7 billion on the stimulant annually.

Governors Abdulswamad Nassir (Mombasa), Gideon Mung’aro (Kilifi) and their Taita Taveta counterpart Andrew Mwadime banned transport and trade in the stimulant but Embu High court stopped the ban pending hearing of the case.

Their Kwale counterpart Fatma Achani slapped the produce with a Sh300,000 levy per lorry, making it difficult for traders to make money from the produce.

However, President William Ruto overruled them and pledged to pump Sh500 million into its value addition.