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Strychnine

Strychnine

The plant source of alkaloid strychnine was discovered in 1818. This discovery was made by French chemists Joseph-Bienaime Caventou (1795-1877) and Pierre-Joseph Pelletier. Strychnine comes from the seeds of the nux vomica tree that grows in India. Pelletier was eventually successful in developing a means of extracting strychnine from this source. While strychnine was just one of many plant alkaloids isolated by Caventou and Pelletier, it is unique because of its complex structure of interlocking rings.

Strychnine Medicine

Although strychnine is a poison, it has been used in the past as a medicine. Strychnine was once prescribed as a remedy for heart and respiratory complaints and as a stimulant (or body "upper"). It is no longer used today because the size of an effective dose would be toxic.

Synthesizing Strychnine

American chemist Robert Burns Woodward (1917-1979; winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in chemistry) was successful in synthesizing (blending artificially) numerous complex organic compounds. For example, in 1944 he worked with William von Eggers Doering to synthesize quinine, a malaria treatment.

Woodward discovered the structure of strychnine in 1949. He began manufacturing the drug in 1954 using a complex manufacturing process. This process involved several stages where careful planning was needed to control the internal design of the compounds. In the synthesis of most compounds, the important factor is that the drugs become less expensive and more readily available. The simpler the manufacturing process, the better the chemical companies like it. In this case however, Woodward did something different. He synthesized a very complex molecule using a complex process from simple chemicals. This was a major manufacturing innovation and Woodward's findings proved to chemists that this type of synthesis was possible.

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strychnine

strychnine (strĬk´nĬn), bitter alkaloid drug derived from the seeds of a tree, Strychnos nux-vomica, native to Sri Lanka, Australia, and India. It has been used as a rat poison for five centuries, and rat biscuits still remain a cause of accidental poisoning in humans. Strychnine is a potent stimulant of the spinal cord; it also increases the secretion of gastric juices and heightens sensory awareness. Strychnine poisoning is characterized by violent convulsions. It is treated by keeping the victim absolutely quiet and administering barbiturate sedatives and artificial respiration. See first aid.

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strychnine

strychnine Poisonous alkaloid obtained from the plant Strychnos nux-vomica. In the past, it was believed to have therapeutic value in small doses as a tonic. Strychnine poisoning causes symptoms similar to those of tetanus, with death occurring due to spasm of the breathing muscles.

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strychnine

strychnine (strik-neen) n. a poisonous alkaloid produced in the seeds of the East Indian tree Strychnos nux-vomica. Poisoning causes painful muscular spasms similar to those of tetanus; death is likely to occur from spasm in the respiratory muscles.

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strychnine

strych·nine / ˈstrikˌnīn; -ˌnēn/ • n. a bitter and highly poisonous compound obtained from nux vomica and related plants. An alkaloid, it has occasionally been used as a stimulant.

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strychnine

strychnine C21H22N2O2, an alkaloid that is produced by Strychnos species, especially S. nux-vomica. In animals, it is a stimulant of the nervous system in general and in large doses causes convulsions. It can be lethal.

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strychnine

strychnine C21H22N2O2, an alkaloid that is produced by Strychnos nux-vomica. In animals, it is a stimulant of the nervous system in general and in large doses causes convulsions. It can be lethal.

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strychnine

strychnine poisonous vegetable alkaloid. XIX. — F., f. modL. use of L. strychnos — Gr. strûkhnos, -on kind of nightshade; see -INE5.

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strychnine

strychnine A colourless poisonous crystalline alkaloid found in certain plants.

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strychnine

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