Chilibukha, vomit nut

The range is quite extensive – from India to Northern Australia; the plant is found in Vietnam, about. Sri Lanka, in Africa – in culture, in the tropical zone.

Deciduous low tree with opposite oval leaves. The flowers are small, greenish, five-membered, with a tubular corolla, collected in semi-umbels in the axils of the leaves. The fruit is berry-shaped, spherical, bright orange-red, large, similar to a small orange. The peel is hard, the intercarp is in the form of a colorless gelatinous pulp, which contains 2-6 seeds.

Medicinal raw materials are seeds (Semen Strychni). They are 1.5-2.5 cm in diameter, 4-5 mm thick, disc-shaped, somewhat curved, yellowish-gray in color, the surface is silky-shiny, covered with numerous adpressed hairs, radially diverging from the center. In the center there is a small rounded scar, from which a roller of converging hairs extends to the edge of the seed, where the root of the embryo protrudes in the form of a papilla. The seeds are very hard, horn-shaped, after prolonged boiling they can be cut lengthwise. A narrow central cavity, a large endosperm and a small embryo with heart-shaped cotyledons are found on the edge.

Chilibukha seeds contain 2-3% of the amount of alkaloids, consisting of almost equal parts of their strychnine and brucine, the remaining 4 known alkaloids are no more than 0.1% and do not matter.



Strychnine nitrate is used as a central nervous system stimulant; galenic products (tincture and dry extract) of chilibukha are used as a means of stimulating metabolism. Chilibukha preparations are used strictly according to the doctor’s prescription (list A). Brucine is used as a chemical reagent.

An advantageous source for obtaining strychnine is Strychnos Ignatii Berg. The seeds of this Philippine species, known as “Ignatius beans” – Faba Sancti Ignati, contain up to 3% alkaloids, with strychnine accounting for 30% of the total alkaloids. The sum of the alkaloids of the wood of the roots of Strychnos corrubrina L., as well as the bark of the root of Strychnos tieute Lesch .., which gives a terrible arrow poison – Upas tieute, consists almost entirely of strychnine.

Both types of chilibukha are characteristic of the flora of the Sunda and Moluccas Islands.

From a chemotaxonomic point of view, S. Ignatii is of particular interest. In addition to strychnine, it contains the alkaloid diabolin, isolated from the South American species Strychnos diaboli Saudw. – devilish chilibuha and from the African S. henningsii – Hennings chilibuha. Diabolin thus forms a phytochemical link between Asian, African and South American Strychnos species. Diabolin is also an indole alkaloid, similar to curarine, toxiferin and other arrow poisons.

The plant contains indole alkaloids.



Alkaloids are called natural nitrogen-containing compounds of the main nature, formed in plants. Groups of proteinogenic amines (for example, tyramine) and betaines (stakhidrin, trigonelline, etc.) adjoin the alkaloids, which are considered as transitional compounds from the simplest nitrogen-containing compounds (methylamine, trimethylamines, etc.) to the alkaloids proper.

Of natural pharmacologically active substances, alkaloids are the main group from which modern medicine draws the largest number of highly effective drugs.

According to world literature, by the end of the past decade, the number of alkaloids isolated from the higher plants of the Earth’s flora exceeded 5000. According to modern concepts, alkaloid-bearing plants make up 10% of the entire world flora. The families Equisetaceae, Lycopodiaceae, Ephedraceae, Liliaceae, Amaryllidaceae, Dioscoreaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Nymphaeaceae, Ranunculaceae, Berberidaceae, Menispermaceae, Papaveraceae, Fabaceae, Rutaceae, Cactaceae, Punicaceae contain the largest number of alkaloid-bearing genera and species. Loganiaceae, Apocynaceae, Borraginaceae, Solanaceae, Rubiaceae.

Usually plants that are phylogenetically close contain alkaloids that are very similar in structure, thus forming a natural group of genera. For example, plants of the genera Atropa, Datura, Hyoscyamys, Scopolia, Physochlaina, Duboisia. Mandragora (all from the same Solananeae family) contain a well-defined group of tropane alkaloids. This far-reaching pattern, however, has exceptions that have not yet been explained. So, for example, caffeine is found in plants that are not systematically related to each other: tea (Theaceae), coffee (Rubiaceae), cocoa (Sterculiaceae), mate (Aquifoliaceae), guarana (Sapindaceae), erodium (Geraniaceae). Along with this, there are cases when their 2 very close systematically species, one is rich in alkaloids, and the other either does not contain them at all, or contains alkaloids of a different structure.

Alkaloids can be found throughout the plant, or they can be formed and accumulated only in one or more specific organs. The plant traditionally contains not one, but several alkaloids. In individual plants, there may be 20 or more of them (cinchona, hypnotic poppy, etc.), and they may be similar in structure or belong to different chemical groups. In the sum of alkaloids, 1–3 traditionally predominate quantitatively (the main alkaloids). In plants, alkaloids are dissolved in the cell sap of the main parenchyma, phloem, and other tissues in the form of salts, mainly organic acids (malic, succinic, citric, oxalic, fumaric, quinic, etc.); of mineral acids, phosphoric acid is more often involved.

The quantitative content of alkaloids is, in principle, a species characteristic, and it varies over a very wide range. For example, in black henbane they are only 0.05-0.1%, and up to 15% accumulate in the cinchona bark. In the process of ontogenetic development of plants, their alkaloid content undergoes quantitative and sometimes qualitative changes, and each species has its own regularities.

The content of alkaloids in plants is influenced by their geographical location and various factors (air and soil temperature, precipitation, duration and intensity of sunlight, shading, height above sea level, etc.), as well as human impact in the case of transferring the plant to cultivation or its acclimatization. The largest number of alkaloid-bearing species, moreover, with a high content of alkaloids, is common in subtropical and tropical states with a humid climate. Alkaloids of different structure are confined to certain latitudes, and in connection with this, their pharmacological activity changes.

There is no consensus on the biological role and causes of the formation of alkaloids in plants. The main hypotheses proposed at different times interpret alkaloids as: 1) waste products of the vital activity of a plant organism; 2) spare substances; 3) protective substances; 4) active substances necessary for biosynthesis. The latter hypothesis is currently considered by most scientists to be the most general one, which, however, does not exclude other biological functions of alkaloids.

The exceptional diversity in the structure of alkaloid molecules does not allow us to imagine a single way of their formation in plants. Their biosynthesis proceeds according to specific schemes with the most complex chemical transformations (ring opening and closing, oxidation, deamination, ring condensation, etc.) through many intermediate products. Some alkaloids begin biogenesis from amino acids, others from acetic acid (in other words, from carbohydrates).

The modern classification of alkaloids is based on the nature of the heterocycles included in their molecules, with the release into a separate group of alkaloids with an aliphatic structure and with nitrogen in the side chain.

1. Alkaloids with an aliphatic structure or with nitrogen in the side chain;

2. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

3. Piperidine and pyridine alkaloids.

4. Alkaloids with condensed and pyrrolidone and piperidine rings.

5. Quinoline alkaloids.

6. Quinazoline alkaloids.

7. Isoquinoline alkaloids.

8. Indole alkaloids.

9. Alkaloid of the imidazole group.

10. Purine alkaloids.

11. Diterpene alkaloids.

12. Steroid alkaloids (glycoalkaloids).

13. Alkaloids of unknown structure.

In conclusion of this brief review, it should be pointed out that most alkaloids are highly active substances with selective pharmacological action. The selectivity of the action of alkaloids determines their widespread use for medicinal purposes. The main forms are extraction products (tinctures, extracts, novogalenic preparations, etc.) and pure alkaloids isolated from plants, converted into soluble salts of certain inorganic and organic acids.

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