Essay on The Poison of Physostigmine

Essay on The Poison of Physostigmine

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Physostigmine is a white crystalline alkaloid extracted from the beans of Physostigma Venenosum plant. The poisonous effects of Physostigma Venenosum have been known since nineteenth century. William Freeman Daniel was the first scientist who observed the first use of calabar beans. He traveled to Africa with a exploring discovering mission. Somehow, he ended up at the Old Calabar near the Niger river. He observed the people, the culture, they way of life that they were lived in, and government. He documented everything that he saw at the Old Calabar. Interestingly, he noticed that justice system was harsh. The documented that court was composed of the king and several chiefs and Calabar beans were used as a justice system.
He said, if the person judged guilty, he/she was forced to undergo an ordeal called “chopping nut”. The beans were crushed, and then soaked in water until a creamy white fluid resulted. The guilty person was required to drink this fluid and then made to walk around until the poison took effect. If the person died, this was considered proof of his or her guilty. If the person happened to vomit up the poison before it took effect, he or she was then considered to be innocent and set free. Can this ordeal really distinguish between the guilty and the innocent? The answer will be no. According to Walter Sneader, “If the person confident of his innocence might have swallowed the ordeal poison rapidly, and which could have overwhelmed his stomach and causing vomiting; where as guilty person, fearing to face the test, might have held the liquid in his mouth, facilitating buccal absorption of the alkaloid or swallowed it slowly”. It has also been proposed that the chief who administered the poison might have prede...


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...involuntary twitching of muscles. The mechanism underlying the toxic effects is that physostigmine targets the acetylcholinesterase and inhibits its activity, which inhibits the hydrolysis of acetylcholine, so increased acetylcholine will be useful to treat cholinergic disorders. Physostigmine, as a tertiary amine and can easily crosses blood-brain barrier. It is a soluble lipid and able to cross-placental barrier mainly by passive diffusion. It is rapidly absorbed from GI tract, subcutaneous tissues and metabolized largely destroyed in body.

Physostigmine is the antidote for atropine poisoning. Currently, physostigmine salicylate is used for glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, scopolamine, and myasthenia gravis. FDA only approved the treatment of Glaucoma for the adults. In addition, in the case of poisoning, FDA approved Physostigmine for both adults and pediatrics.

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