Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Alkaloids in our food

A large, diverse class of organic compounds prevalent in the plant kingdom that contain nitrogen and function as bases. Often alkaloids profoundly affect the body’s physiology, and purified alkaloids are even more active. Examples of potent alkaloids include morphine, cocaine, quinine, strychnine, nicotine, CAFFEINE (COFFEE), and theobromine (CHOCOLATE). Depending upon the application and the dose, alkaloids may be used in therapy or they may cause toxicity. Socrates was killed by the alkaloid coniine that occurs in hemlock. Eating quail that have eaten poison hemlock can cause food poisoning in humans. Alkaloids such as nicotine and caffeine are addictive substances. Morphine and cocaine are controlled substances due to their addictive properties.

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