Terpenoids And Phenolics

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4.5.1 Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) Can Be Both Good and Bad

Pokeweed (Figures 4.14, 4.15, and 4.16) is a common perennial garden weed with lush green shoots and bright red stems (due to presence of anthocyanin pigment). Leaves of its green shoots are harvested in the spring in Appalachia, boiled several times, each time pouring off the hot water. All parts of the plant except the above-ground leaves that grow in the spring contain toxic triterpene saponins (phytolaccigenin, jaligonic acid, phytolaccinic acid, esculenic acid, and pokeberrygenin).15 The ritual of boiling several times is to make sure that the green leaves are rendered edible by removing any low amounts of toxic saponins. Only green leaves are used for this purpose; older leaves, which become reddish in color, are not safe to eat. The toxic saponins are in highest amounts in the

FIGURE 4.13 A hops plant vine (Humulus lupulus). (Photo courtesy of Peter Kaufman.)

roots, less in the mature leaves and stems, and least in the fruits. If these parts are ingested, they cause severe stomach cramping, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, slow and difficult breathing, spasms, hypotension, severe convulsions, and death.15

Hallucinogenic Berries North America
FIGURE 4.14 Young vegetative shoot of pokeweed, Phytolacca americana. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Larry Mellichamp, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.)

It is essential to know the identification of this plant when it is being collected. Pokeweed poisonings were commonplace in the 1800s in Eastern North America. The berries and roots of pokeweed were eaten by mistake, the collectors thinking the parts collected were parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), or horseradish (Amoracia lapathifolia).15

4.5.2 Cannabis sativa (Marijuana or Hemp): Hallucinogenic and Medicinal Uses

Marijuana has been used for more than 4000 years for the treatment of catarrh, leprosy, fever, dandruff, hemorrhoids, obesity, asthma, urinary tract infections, loss of appetite, inflammatory conditions, and cough.15 More recently, it has been used in medicine to treat patients who have glaucoma (an eye disease) and to alleviate the adverse side effects of chemotherapy used to treat patients who

FIGURE 4.15 Flowering and fruiting shoot of pokeweed, Phytolacca americana. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Larry Mellichamp, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.)

have had cancer. These are the only legal medical uses of marijuana at the present time.

The fibers from this plant also have been used to make fibers for ropes and clothing. This plant was brought to the New World by European settlers to grow primarily for this purpose, not for medical or psychoactive drug purposes.

Marijuana contains 20 sedative-type drugs. These are called tetrahydro-cannabinoids. The most active cannabinoid metabolite is tetrahydrocannab-inol (THC). This and the other cannabinoids are produced in glandular hairs on the shoots of the plants (Figure 4.17).21 The plant's sedative effects were recognized by the Chinese, but its widespread use as a psychoactive drug plant has only been fairly recent.15

4.5.3 Mayapple: Source of a Phenolic Compound

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) is an understory (beneath the forest canopy) plant found in deciduous forests native to Eastern North America and Canada (Figure 4.18).22 All parts of the plant except the ripe fruits are toxic to humans and other animals. The leaves and roots contain the toxic, phenolic compound, podophyllotoxin.14 The ripe fruits, in contrast, are edible. They are large, yellow

Psychoactive Plants South Carolina
FIGURE 4.16 Fruits of pokeweed, Phytolacca americana. (Photo by Dr. Larry Melli-champ, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.)
FIGURE 4.17 Scanning electron micrograph illustrating glandular hairs (Trichomes) on leaves of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). (Photo by Dr. P. Dayanandan, Department of Botany, Madras Christian College, Tambaram, Madras, India.)

fleshy berries which are used to make mayapple jelly, marmelade, or to eat fresh. In the southern U.S., a drink is prepared from the juice of the fruit and combined

FIGURE 4.18 Illustration of a may apple (Podophyllum peltatum) plant in flower. About 1/20 normal size. (Photo by Peter Kaufman.)

with Madeira and sugar or squeezing the juice from the fruit into lemonade or other fruit-drinks.23

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