Alkaloids pp 45-84 | Cite as

Alkaloids in Arrow Poisons

  • H. D. Neuwinger


A prime example of applied alkaloids—doubtless before medicinal use—are poisons for weapons, especially arrow poisons. The use of poisoned weapons is a fascinating aspect of man’s attempts to gain mastery over a hostile environment, to provide food, and to protect himself from his animal and human enemies. Not least important, the biologically active plants yielded drugs and remedies for his diseases. A great deal of anecdotal information has already been lost, but, in spite of their often-prognosticated disappearance, plants containing toxic principles are by no means a thing of the past. Poisons derived from plants continue to be utilized not only in hunting food and against the depredations of wild animals, but also in tribal warfare, especially in Africa. Associated with this, at present, is the extensive use of constituents of the plants providing the hunting poisons as sources of medicines; in Africa these are among the most renowned plants of traditional medicine. The dreaded arrow poisons have provided medicine for effective therapy, or have been applied as tools in research. The best-known examples are ouabain and k-strophanthin for acute cardiac insufficiency, physostigmine for treatment of glaucoma and myasthenia gravis, d-tubocurarine as a muscle relaxant in anesthesia, reserpine as an antihypertensive and psychotropic drug, and ajmaline for cases of cardiac rhythm disturbances. Often, however, the therapeutic effects of the plant extract with its complex of compounds may be more beneficial than the effects of an individual compound.


Ivory Coast Stem Bark Ergot Alkaloid Indole Alkaloid Central African Republic 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. D. Neuwinger
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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