As numerous historical documents - on fireclay, papyrus, or paper - testify, alkaloids, nitrogen containing natural substances, have been companions of mankind from ancient time. Valued as drugs and stimulants, some species are also feared because of their addictive potential, and often it seems impossible to distinguish these effects unambiguously. The chemistry of alkaloids has been captivating chemists for ages and generations. This is the first comprehensive reference work providing a concise overview of structure, properties, and history of these unique and fascinating substances! The volume is organised into three main sections. Part 1 examines the chemically relevant aspects by means of carefully selected examples. After a structural classification, structure elucidation (including common pitfalls) is discussed. Moreover, chiroptical properties and synthetic pathways are detailed. Part 2 is devoted to biological and biochemical aspects. It rationalizes chemotaxonomy and biogenesis by means of examples (indole and 1-benzyl isoquinoline alkaloids) and presents details about the functionality of several alkaloids produced by plants and animals.
Part 3 finally describes the cultural and historical significance of the most important alkaloid sources. Exciting anecdotes and historical reports illuminate the use of hemlock, ergot, opium, tobacco, coffee, and cinchona, to name only a few. The unique and comprehensive explanation of the most important features of alkaloids makes this book a compendium valuable not only for experts but also for the layman interested in pharmacy.