The Coca botanical family Erythroxylaceae

Alkaloids also occur in many other plant families. It is relevant to mention the Coca plant family (Erythroxylaceae L.), distributed in the tropics and endemic to South America, especially in the regions of Peru and Bolivia, where the coca bush (Erythroxylum coca) has been known for at least 5000 years109. Typical characteristics of this family are elliptic, light green leaves (4-7 x 3-4 cm), small, white flowers and small, reddish-orange drupes318. Nowadays, it is distributed in the Andean region, the African tropics and in Southern Asia. There are many L-ornithine-derived alkaloids in this plant family, from which three species, the aforementioned E. coca and also Erythroxylum truxilense and Erythroxy-lum novagranatense, contain cocaine, ecgonine, cinnamylcocaine, a-truxilline, truxilline, methylecgonine, tropine, hygrine, hygroline and cuscohygrine. These strong alkaloids are commonly used as drugs in mainstream medicine and are also, at times, the object of pathological or criminal activity - the source of many personal human tragedies. Zanolari et al.110 reported on new alkaloids from Erythroxylum vacciniifolium Mart., a Brazilian endemic plant used in traditional medicine. From the bark of this plant, nine tropane alkaloids (catuabines H-I, three of their hydroxy derivatives and vaccinines A and B) have been isolated. These tropane alkaloids are interesting for their ester moieties. The genus Ery-throxylum has some 250 species and apart from the cocaine-producing species has not been examined systematically by modern analytical methods.

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