||Aside from levels of nicotine and similar chemicals, the leaves of the Australian plant Duboisia hopwoodii (pituri) are often said to contain hyoscyamine and/or scopolamine. However, a friend has told me that this is untrue, and that all investigations into the chemistry of the plant’s leaves since 1879 have shown them to only contain nicotinic alkaloids. I had previously presumed that the reason this plant wasn’t more commonly used as a tobacco substitute was due to the undesirable tropane alkaloids it supposedly contains; but if it doesn’t contain tropanes, I wonder why it isn’t more widely smoked?|
||The majority of leaf analyses that we are aware of for pituri have turned up only nicotine and related alkaloids, though hyoscyamine and scopolamine have commonly been found in the plant’s roots, which have not been traditionally consumed.1,2 However, at least one analysis of Duboisia hopwoodii leaf from Western Australia detected hyoscyamine (1.9% of the alkaloid content), along with nicotine (77.1% of the alkaloid content), nornicotine (20.2% of the alkaloid content), and trace amounts of several other nicotinoids.3|
With most plants, chemical profiles can vary between different strains of the same species. Factors such as where the plant is grown, the season, or even the time of day that the plant is harvested can also contribute to fluctuations in alkaloid content. Nevertheless, studies conducted to date suggest that most pituri leaves owe their psychoactivity to nicotine and nornicotine. We can’t say why this plant isn’t touted as a tobacco substitute, but we were unable to locate (via an online search on May 26 2009) any ethnobotanical vendors selling pituri seeds, plants, or dried herb.
1.Rothera ACH. “The alkaloids of pituri obtained from Duboisia hopwoodii”. Bio-Chemical Journal. 1910;193-206
2.Barnard C. “The Duboisias of Australia”. Economic Botany. 1952;6(1):3-17.
3.Luanratana O, Griffin WJ. “Alkloids of Duboisia hopwoodii”. Phytochemistry 1982;21(2):449-51.
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