U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized more than 50 pounds of Khat, a plant found in eastern Africa and used as a drug stimulant, at the San Francisco International Airport mail center on Wednesday, an agency spokesman announced today.

The plant, pronounced “Cot,” is illegal in the U.S. It contains cathinone and cathine, both of which are amphetamine-like stimulants, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Ed Low.

The plant is chewed if fresh and boiled into tea if dried, but has become popular to smoke as well, Low said.

If used mildly, the plant causes “increased awareness,” he said.

Side effects, however, include anorexia, tachycardia, hypertension, insomnia and gastric disorders. It can also result in symptoms including physical exhaustion, violence and suicidal depression.

The plant can also induce manic behavior, hyperactivity and hallucinations, and there have been reports of Khat-induced psychosis, Low said.

The Khat seized Wednesday was found in brown shipping boxes as they passed through the San Francisco Air Mail Center, where international mail comes in at SFO, according to Low.

Authorities said the Khat was headed for separate addresses in Seattle. No one has been arrested in connection with the case.

Low said U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers inspect all arriving international mail, and in the past year have seen about a dozen seizures of Khat at the airport.

“It’s not an infrequent thing for us to encounter,” Low said.

The Khat seized Wednesday will be destroyed.

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