Chemical and DNA Analyses for the Products of a Psychoactive Plant, Voacanga Africana

Abstract

Voacanga africana (Apocynaceae) is a small tropical African tree. The root bark and seeds of this tree contain a number of alkaloids, including ibogaine (a hallucinogenic/aphrodisiac compound in bark), tabersonine (a major constituteent of seeds) and other voacanga alkaloids, traditionally used in Africa for religious purposes. Recently, some kinds of products containing this plant (root bark and seeds) have been distributed in the drug market in expectation of its hallucinogenic/aphrodisiac effects. There has been no report that has discussed quantitative analyses of these alkaloids in the products and their botanical origins. In this study, to investigate the trend of such a non-controlled psychotropic plant of abuse, a simultaneous analytical method was developed using LC/MS for the voacanga alkaloids including ibogaine and tabersonine in the commercial products of V. africana. Moreover, the botanical origins of these products were investigated by DNA analyses. As a result of the LC/MS analyses, the products were classified into two chemical types; an ibogaine-type and a tabersonine-type. The samples of the ibogaine-type contain ibogaine (0.05-0.6%) and other voacanga alkaloids; voacamine, voacamidine and voacangine, while those of the tabersonine-type mainly contain tabersonine (0.6-1.6%). The sequence analyses of chloroplast DNA, trnL-F region suggested that most of the products were derived from V. africana or closely related plants. They were classified into four genotypes based on nucleotide sequence of the trnL-F IGS region. The proposed methods of chemical and DNA analyses would be useful for investigating the trend in the distribution of the products of V. africana.

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