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THE DISTRIBUTION OF MESEMBRINE ALKALOIDS IN SELECTED TAXA OF THE MESEMBRYANTHEMACEAE AND THEIR MODIF

THE DISTRIBUTION OF MESEMBRINE ALKALOIDS IN SELECTED TAXA OF THE MESEMBRYANTHEMACEAE AND THEIR MODIF

  1. helikophis
    Twenty species from nine genera of the Mesembryanthemaceae
    (Aptenia, Bergeranthus, Delosperma,
    Drosanthemum, Glottiphyllum, Lampranthus, Oscularia,
    Ruschia, and Sceletium) as well as the reportedly
    psychoactive preparation ‘kougoed’, prepared from
    ‘fermenting’ Sceletium tortuosum, were screened for
    the presence of the mesembrine alkaloids. Using gas
    chromatography (GC) with a nitrogen-phosphorous
    detector (NPD) three putative alkaloids were detected
    in Sceletium tortuosum whose mass spectra corresponded
    to those of 4'-O-demethylmesembrenol,
    mesembrine and mesembrenone. All the Mesembryanthemaceae
    plants investigated were shown to have
    Dragendorff-positive compounds on thin layer chromatograms
    (TLC); those containing mesembrine alkloids,
    as shown by later GC MS analysis, exhibited
    similar Rf values to the Sceletium alkaloids. However,
    using the technique employed in this study which
    encompassed the use of column and gas chromatography,
    the only genus containing mesembrine alkaloids
    to any significant extent was Aptenia. Alkaloid levels
    were found to be extremely low in all other taxa investigated.
    When a ‘modern’ technique for the preparation
    of a fermented Sceletium product, ‘kougoed’, was
    carried out it was found that levels, as well as the
    ratios, of the three alkaloids changed markedly. Substantial
    increases in total alkaloid levels were
    observed when the Sceletium material was crushed
    and bruised prior to drying for alkaloid extraction
    whereas no such changes occured when intact plants
    were oven dried at 80°C prior to alkaloid extraction.
    It is speculated that of the many potentially usable
    Mesembryanthemaceae plants available to the indigenous
    peoples, Sceletium was selected because it is the
    only genus with alkaloid levels high enough to elicit a
    psychoactive response. The traditional preparation
    technique also appears to have evolved as a method of
    producing a dry, stable, and relatively palatable
    preparation of increased pharmacological activity.