Alkaloid substances in plants, Information on Vinca, Ergot and Ephedra alkaloid compounds by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

April 22 2014
 

An alkaloid is any of a class of organic compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and usually oxygen that are often derived from plants. Although the name means alkali like, some do not exhibit alkaline properties.


Benefit of Alkaloids and related substances
Many alkaloids, though poisons, have physiological effects that make them useful as medicines. For example, curarine, found in the deadly extract curare , is a powerful muscle relaxant; atropine is used to dilate the pupils of the eyes; and physostigmine is a specific for certain muscular diseases. Narcotic alkaloids used in medicine include morphine and codeine for the relief of pain and cocaine as a local anesthetic. Other common alkaloids include quinine, caffeine, nicotine, strychnine, serotonin, and LSD.

 

Betel nut (areca catechu) is a psychoactive drug of the Asian continent, popular in the South Pacific islands, Southeast Asia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Betel is chewed in New Zealand and Australia by immigrants from India now dwelling in these countries. Betel nut has been used extensively since antiquity. People chew it for stress reduction, feelings of well-being, and heightened awareness. It contains three major alkaloids: arecoline, pilocarpine, and muscarine.
 

Belladonna alkaloids (atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine) and barbiturates are combination medicines taken to relieve cramping and spasms of the stomach and intestines.


Vinca alkaloids are a class of anticancer drugs that inhibit cancer cell growth by stopping cell division. The vinca alkaloids are also called antimitotic or antimicrotubule agents, or mitotic inhibitors. Vinca alkaloids were originally derived from the common periwinkle plant. Now, many vinca alkaloids have been synthesized. They include vinblastine, vincristine, vindesine and vinorelbine.

 

Ergot alkaloid information - Plant alkaloid
Ergot alkaloids are various organic compounds usually containing at least one nitrogen atom in a heterocyclic ring, occurring chiefly in many vascular plants and some fungi. Many alkaloids, such as nicotine, quinine, cocaine, and morphine, are known for their poisonous or medicinal attributes. Some ergot alkaloids are toxins found in fungi that interact with several monoamine receptors, potentially harmful to the cardiovascular, nervous, reproductive, and immune systems. Aspergillus fumigatus, a common airborne fungus and opportunistic human pathogen, can produce ergot alkaloids in broth culture.


Pyrrolizidine alkaloid
These can cause toxic reactions in humans, primarily liver disease, when ingested with foods or herbal medicines. Comfrey, a well-known medicinal herb contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are capable of causing liver damage.


Ephedra alkaloid - Ephedrine alkaloid
Dietary supplements that contain ephedra have been banned in the United States since 2004. Ephedra, also called Ma huang, is a plant or herb that contains the ephedrine alkaloid. Ephedra alkaloid has generally been marketed as an ingredient in dietary supplements. FDA has long regarded ephedra alkaloids as potential health hazards. High doses of ephedra alkaloids can lead to heart palpitations, tremors and insomnia.

 

Additional alkaloids and research studies
Aconitine is the alkaloid of aconite.
Berberine is found in barberry with a history of medicinal use in both Ayurvedic and Chinese herbalism. Berberine is also found in goldenseal herb.
Cinchonine and quinine are derived from cinchona, coniine is found in poison hemlock
Cryptolepine is a naturally occurring indoloquinoline alkaloid used as an antimalarial drug in Central and Western Africa.
Emetine is an alkaloid of ipecac.
Hordenine is an alkaloid.

Hydrastine is an alkaloid found in goldenseal herb
Ibogaine is has been studied as a treatment of withdrawal symptoms and craving in those with a history of drug addiction.
Reserpine is an extract of rauwolfia roots.

 

Alkaloid side effects
Each type of alkaloid will have a different type of side effects, therefore no generalizations can be made.

 

Questions
Is rutacarpine an alkaloid?
   Yes, rutaecarpine is found in certain herbs including Evodia rutaecarpa, a well-known Chinese herb called Wu-Chu-Yu.
 

Does the herb sceletium have alkaloids? I take Prostate Power Rx with saw palmetto and beta-sitosterol for a healthy prostate gland;
   See
sceletium for more info.


Q. I received an e-mail which seemed to hype a product previously unknown to me. It was called "AGS" and apparently this stands for alkyl glucoside. My question Do you have information about the use of AGS in treatment of cancer? And if so, could you cite a journal article on the subject?
   A. We are not familiar with alkyl glucoside supplements or information.