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Strychnos nux vomica
1. Strychnine (seeds)
2. Brucine (seeds, root, stems, leaves)
– Strychnine is over 10 times more potent than
brucine however it makes up only 1% of the ripe
seed of the Strychnine nux vomica.
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Morphology of Strychnos nux vomica
Molecular structure of strychnine
Common names- Kuchila, Kuchla
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Seeds of nux vomica
Circular (sometimes flat/biconvex)
2 cm in diameter & 0.5 cm in thickness
Very tough testa with very fine, short silky fibres
– Fatal dose – 1-2 seed or 30-100 mg
– Fatal period – 30 minutes to 2 days maximum
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Signs & symptoms of strychnine
• Intact seed doesn't cause any symptoms
• Crushed seed may cause signs & symptoms within 15-30
– Anxious & restlessness (mainly due to increased CNS activity)
– Sensations become acute
– Respiration & circulation are slightly stimulated
– Blood stained froth, cyanosis
– Twitching & tremors of the muscles
– Colonic convulsions with gradual increase in contractions
– Severe convulsions may cause opisthotonous position & risus
• Death may occur due to respiratory/circulatory failure
during a prolonged convulsion
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• Poisoning is usually accidental either due
overdose or contamination by rat poison or by
accidental consumption (usually by children)
of seeds of nux vomica.
• Suicidal poisoning may occur due to rat poison
• Homicidal use is rare
• Used as abortificient
• Used as tribal arrow poison
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• Strychnine & brucine are alkaloids and are extracted
with basic chloroform extraction technique.
• Brucine interferes with tests for strychnine so
separation of strychnine from brucine is mandatory.
– The chloroform extract is dried and 2 ml of H2SO4 is added
followed by 2 drops of HNO3.
– Allowed to stand for 30-60 minutes @ 10-200C.
– Then made alkaline with NaOH and extracted several times
– This chloroform is washed & evaporated to dryness.
– The residue is now brucine free and tested for strychnine.
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• Mandelin’s Test: for strychnine
– one drop of Mandelin’s reagent (1% solution of ammonium
vandate in conc H2SO4) is added to brucine free extract.
– Deep violet-blue or deep purple colour appears which
finally changes to yellow on long standing.
• Nitric Acid Test: for brucine
– To dried residue of extract is added one drop of conc HNO3.
– A blood red colour appears which changes to reddish
yellow and finally to pure yellow.
– Few drops of stannous chloride is added which causes
development of intense purple colour which is destroyed
by addition of few drops of conc HNO3
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Microcrystal Tests For Strychnine
Reagent Type/shape of crystal
Gold chloride Feathery rosettes
Potassium mercuric iodide Wedge shaped curved crystal or
Mercuric chloride Nail shaped crystal
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UV & IR Spectrometry
• After purification by TLC the elution is made with
chloroform (2 ml) and is evaporated to dryness
– The residue is then dissolved in 2 ml of 0.1 N H2SO4
and studied in an UV spectrophotometer using 1 cm
cell from 220-320 nm wavelength:
– UV (λmax in nm):
aqu acid - 254
– Absorption curve is then compared with that of
• Principal peaks in IR spectrum:
– 1664, 764, 1050, 1110, 1282
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GC of nux vomica
• Methanolic solution of purified extracted
residue is injected to GC column of 6’x4mm
(ID) with 2-3/100 SE-30 on chromosorb W,
@pressure 15 psi & temp 2220C..
Retention time for strychnine – 25.9
Retention time for brucine – 80.0
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Poisonous Parts of Aconitum
• Part of plant which carries the active
– Dried root is most poisonous part however all parts of
plant are poisonous.
• Identification of root:
– Conical in shape like monk’s hood
– Usual length is 2”-4” with base diameter of around 1”
– May be confused with horse-radish
– Causes tingling, numbness of tongue & lips when
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Sign & Symptoms
• Bitter sweet taste (hence ‘mithabish’)
• Causes tingling and numbness of oral cavity and limbs
• Constriction of throat
• Pain in abdomen with nausea and vomiting
• Paralysis of peripheral terminations
• Impaired hearing and vision
• Hippus reaction in pupils
• Circulatory collapse/respiration failure may leads to unconsciousness
followed by death
• Fatal dose:
– 1 gm of root or
– 25o mg of extract or
– 2-6 mg aconitine
• Fatal period:
– 45 minutes to 24 hours
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Post mortem Appearances
• Pallor of mucus membrane of mouth
• Congestion of brain, lungs, liver and kidneys
• Mucus membrane of stomach is inflamed
• Remains of root may be present if crushed
root was ingested
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• Ideal homicidal (easily available, cheap,
certainity of death, no specific antidote,
decomposes quickly in body)
• Accidental poisoning by quackary medicinal
• Suicidal use is rare
• Used as tribal arrow poison
• Used in cattle poisoning
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• Palet’s Test:
– To the acidified extract residue is added a few drops of
mixture of 25 gm syrupy phosphoric acid & 1 gm
– The content is then heated over a small flame until
– A violet colour is obtained.
• Gold Chloride Test:
– (0.01N HCl + 5% AuCl2)
– Rectangular prism/ golden yellow needles
• Alvarez’s Reaction Test
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TLC of Aconitine
• Solvent system:
1. Methanol : Water :: 70 : 30
2. Cyclohexane : Chloroform : Diethylamine :::30:70:0.5
• HRf values for Aconitine are 20 & 65 for system1 &
• Spray reagent:
Dragendorff’s reagent (orange/red colour spots)
Acidified potassium iodoplatinate (violet/blue or brown
violet coloured spot)
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UV and IR Spectrometry
• UV Spectrophotometry:
– After purification and elution from TLC plate the
elute is evaporated to dryness.
– The residue is taken into 2 ml of 0.1 N H2SO4 and
absorption spectrum is drawn with the help of a
– λmax @234nm
• IR Spectrometry:
– Principle peaks for Aconitine KBr disk- 1092, 1273
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• Dhatura plants are abundant in India.
• Dhatura stramonium is found in Himalayan regions
• Dhatura fastuosa is found in plains.
– Dhatura alba (white flowers)
– Dhatura niger (purple flowers)
• Poisonous Parts:
– All parts are poisonous
– Maximum concentration of active principles are found in
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Morphology of Dhatura
• Fruit of Dhatura is commonly known as
“Thorn Apple” as it is a spherical shaped fruit
having multiple spikes (about a hundred) on
• Hundreds of seed are present in each fruit.
• Seeds are odourless, yellowish brown, kidney
shaped with two distinctive ridges on convex
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• Fatal dose:
Atropine – 50-60mg
Hyoscine – 10 mg
Seeds – more than 75 seeds are usually fatal for an adult while
40-50 seeds are enough to act as a stupefying dose
• Fatal period:
– Death occurs within 24 hours
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Mode of Action
• Both atropine & hyoscine block the
acetylcholine receptors and thus resulting in
sympathomimetic or parasympatholytic
• Atropine is also responsible for vagolytic
actions on heart and other vital organs
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Signs & Symptoms
• Bitter taste
• Dried mouth (xerostomia), difficulty in speech and
• Skin is dry and hot. Face is flushed.
• Conjunctiva is congested, pupils are dilated, diplopia
• Pulse is rapid and voluminous
• Tachycardia, mania, convulsions, delirium,
hallucinations and hurried respiration
• Depressive phase follows the initial excitation phase.
– Deep sleep, coma and respiration depression may lead to
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• Used as stupefying agent in highway robbery,
rapes and kidnappings
• Quackery abortions
• Adulterant in country liquor
• Occasionally used for suicides, rarely for
• Accidental poisoning in children
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• Signs of asphyxia
• Congested organs
• Fragments of dhatura seeds in stomach
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Tests for Dhatura fastuosa
1. A drop of the stomach content extract, if applied in a rabbit’s
eye, there will be an instantaneous dilation of the pupils.
2. Microscopic Test:
– one drop of glycerine is added to the dried residue of extract.
– A characteristics structure similar to eyelids is seen.
3. Vitali’s Test:
– The residue of the extract is treated with fuming HNO3 and then
dried on water bath.
– After cooling, a few drops of freshly prepared caustic potash KOH
solution is added
– The colour turns to violet very soon and turns to red on standing
before finally disappearing.
– The reappears on addition of a few drops of alcoholic KOH.
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