The Organismic Kingdom Plantae Health And Social Care Essay


Being one of the most addictive drugs on the market, cocaine has its origin dating nearly 6000 years back. Cocaine as society knows it, is a stimulant drug. It extracted from the erythroxylon coca leaf or solely coca leaf, which is generally found in South America. Being part of the alkaloid group, cocaine’s chemical structure consists of three parts: a lipophilic group, a hydrophilic group, and an aliphatic group, which joins the first two groups. [1] Cocaine has two chemical forms: Firstly the hydrochloride salt, which is the powdered form and often liquefied with water to be injected. Secondly the freebase form, which has not been neutralized by an acid to make the hydrochloride salt.[1]In the medical field cocaine is often used for topical anesthesia and vasoconstriction for surgery [2] of the otolaryngological region, but also for decongestion. Cocaine’s toxicity has a profound impact on the cardiovascular system, central nervous system and the respiratory system. Sympathetic stimulation of the cardiovascular system may lead to hypertension, tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, and cardiac arrest. Other serious complications include direct cardiotoxicity, angina, myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accident, transient ischemic attack, pulmonary edema, hepatotoxicity, intestinal ischemia, seizures, and CNS depression.[2] Cocaine plays an enormous effect on the birth weight of a child. Being a central nervous system stimulant,[3] it has a sympathomimeticdriven vasoconstrictive effect [3] on not only the mother, but also on the fetus. Due to its structure it can enter the placenta through diffusion and can cause restricted intrauterine growth, developmental delay and premature birth.


[1] University of Arizona. MethOIDE [Online] [s.a.] [access 2013, February 10]; Available:

[2] Simmer JJ. Cocaine topical anesthetic [Online] 2012 [access 2013, February 10]; Available:

[3] Gouin K, Murphy K, Shah PS. Effects of cocaine use during pregnancy on low birthweight and preterm birth: systematic review and metaanalyses. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology 1(12) [Online] 2011 [access 2013, February 10]; Available:

[4]Hoffman, L. Biological concepts kingdom: Plantae. Unpublished class notes from Dr. Hoffmann on medical important plants. Cape Town: Stellenbosch University; 2012.


Nicotine was first brought to Europe in the early 1500s by Spanish conquistadors in form of tobacco. It was regarded back then as a cure for headaches. In 1807 nicotine was successfully extracted by the Italian researcher Gaspare Cerioli and was regarded as tobacco’s "essential oil". The compound got its name from Jean Nicot, the inventor of snuffing tobacco, who made his invention popular in France. Being one of 4 000 chemicals in cigarettes, it is one of the most used drugs , which is legally and socially accepted.

Nicotine is found in several types of plants. The most common one is the tobacco plant, which is part of the nightshade family. Plants such as peppers, eggplants, potatoes and tomatoes also produce nicotine, but not a great amount. The leaves of the tobacco plant get harvested and dried and then is used in cigarettes, cigars or simply as tobacco.

In modern times nicotine is synthetically produced. The scientific name for nicotine is nicotiana tabacum. This alkaloid is a nitrogen-containing chemical and is one of several compounds found in the tobacco leave.

Nicotine is seen as a dangerous product. However the synthetically produced nicotine is found in gum, stickers and similar items to help people break their smoking addiction. It is also used to treat ulcerative colitis Parkinson’s disease.

Even though nicotine is used to treat diseases, it has a massive impact on the birthweight of a child. Women that smoke tobacco expose their unborn baby to chemicals such as carbon monoxide and cyanide. These contribute to fetal hypoxia and cause a reduced birthweight. The restriction the blood vessels in the placentae caused by nicotine causes the baby to receive less nutrients and oxygen, which cause a decreased birthweight. Studies show that smoking reduces the risk of preterm births which are caused by gestational hypertension. However it increase the change of preterm births due to other mechanisms.

Nicotine increases the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by up to five-fold. Nicotine hinders the part of the brain that is responsible for the controlling of the breathing. It leads to different breathing patterns and respiratory responses that negotiates respirational arousal and auto-resuscitation. Smoking during the pregnancy causes the mother to have more pauses in breathing due to the inhaling and exhaling of the smoke. This effects the infant in a way that it has a decreased ability to wake up from slumber in reaction to low oxygen environments.

A common death syndrome among pregnant women is that of stillbirths. Nicotine tightens the blood vessels that are in the placenta and in the umbilical cord. . This forces the fetal to breath through a thin passage which cause it to receive a smaller amount of nutrients and less oxygen and can cause a stillbirth. The risk of a stillbirth increases depending on the amount the mother smokes during the whole pregnancy.

Nicotine does not only have effects on the infant, but also on the user itself. The pharmacological effects of people exposed to nicotine is increased heart rate, heart muscle oxygen consumption rate, and heart stroke volume.[1] Daily smokers also experience a higher alertness, exhilaration and feel more relaxed (after smoking). These effects are known as the psychodynamic effects. It is also known that nicotine is highly addictive. People who suddenly stop experience withdrawal symptoms. These comprise cravings, a sense of emptiness, anxiety, depression, moodiness, irritability, and inattentiveness.[1] The American Heart Association states that quitting smoking and breaking free from the nicotine is one of the hardest addictions to break free from and can be compared to stop using heroin.

Word count: 595 words


[1] Nordqvist C. What is nicotine? Medical News Today [Online] 2012 [access 2013, February 25]; Available:

[2] Wegner C. Nicotine effects on early pregnancy cell development. Live Strong [Online] 2010 [access 2013, February 25]; Available:

[3] Wickström R. Effects of nicotine during pregnancy: human and experimental evidence. Curr Neuropharmacol. 5(3) [Online] September 2007 [access 2013, February 25]; Available:

[4] Hoffman, L. Biological concepts kingdom: Plantae. Unpublished class notes from Dr. Hoffmann on medical important plants. Cape Town: Stellenbosch University; 2012.

[5] Why risk for sudden infant death syndrome is greater in babies of mothers who smoke [Online] [s.a] [access 2013, February 25]; Available:

[6] Leventhal AM, Kahler CW, Ray LA, Zimmerman M. Refining the depression-nicotine dependence link: patterns of depressive symptoms in psychiatric outpatients with current, past, and no history of nicotine dependence. Addict Behav. Author manuscript [Online] 2010 [access 2013, February 25]; Available:

[7] Earhart M. Medical use of nicotine. Live Stromng [Online] 2010 [access 2013, February 25]; Available:


Since the 17th century has quinine been used for medical purposes and was seen as the discovery of that century. Quinine is won from the bark and the root tissue of the cinchona succirubra tree and it native to South America. Quinine is a cinchona alkaloid that belongs to the aryl amino alcohol group of drugs.[1]The active compounds of the cinchona are not only quinine, but also quinidine, cinchonine and cinchonidine. These are considered basic compounds and are always preserved as a salt. Due to their simplicity there a various ways of preparations, that include bisulphate, dihydrochloride, gluconate, hydrochloride, sulphate salts. It is often found dissolved in tonic waters. Methods of consumption are in form of oral capsules, oral tablets and compounding powder. Quinine’s medical does not lie in preventing malaria, but in treating the malaria infection. Even though there are safer and more effective alternatives to fight malaria, Quinine remains an central antimalarial medication. It is commonly used in combination with other antimalarial prescriptions. In malaria-stricken areas, Quinine still plays a vital role in the administration of malaria during pregnancies. It is used in the first trimester of the pregnancy. Quinine is toxic and does have minor and major side effects. Minor side effects are commonly headaches, blurred vision, spinning sensation, muscle weakness and upset stomach. The severe side effects are often hematologic, dermatologic, gastrointestinal, renal, respiratory, ocular, cardiovascular, hepatic, nervous system, hypersensitivity and metabolic. These are categorized into cardiotoxicity, neurotoxicity and ocular toxicity.

Word count: 245 words


[1] Achan J, Talisuna AO, Erhart A, Yeka A, Tibenderana JK, Balirain FN, Rosenthal PJ, D’Alessandro U. Quinine, an old anti-malarial drug in a modern world: role in the treatment of malaria [Online] 2011 [access 2013, February 15]; Available:

[2] Chan E. Quinine toxicity identified after

40 years. HKJOphthalmol 3(1) [Online] [s.a.] [access 2013, February 15]; Available:

[3] Hoffman, L. Biological concepts kingdom: Plantae. Unpublished class notes from Dr. Hoffmann on medical important plants. Cape Town: Stellenbosch University; 2012.

Opium (morphine, heroin, codeine)

Taking a look at opium over the course of history, one discovers that it has been around for nearly 5500 years. It has its origin in modern-day Iraq, where it was first cultivated. From there it found its way to Europe, The Far East and the rest of the world. Opium is now known to be the origin of morphine, heroine and codeine among others.

Opium is dried latex which has been obtained from the opium poppy, which is also known as Papaver somniferum. The method to acquire the latex is by an insertion of a particular depth is made into the non-ripe capsule (fruit) of P. somniferum.[2] This is then left for a day. The coagulation process which occurs during the wait, causes the colour of the latex changes from white to brown. This is then scratched off and rolled up into small bitter-tasting brown balls,[2] which are wrapped into poppy leaves to sun dry.[2] After the drying process it is powdered and can be used directly or it is exposed to further purification procedures.

Opium consists predominantly (75%) of components that have no organically important effects. The remaining part of the poppy plant contains numerous active compounds, which are categorized as opioid alkaloids. The exact number is unknown. However, there are at least 20 known ones. The five major alkaloids are codeine, morphine, noscapine, papaverine, and thebaine.

Morphine is the most abundant one in the plant. It contributes 15 percent of the extract. It has been used for thousand of years for medicine and as a narcotic. Morphine has medically three principle uses. It is used as an painkiller to aid severe and chronic pain, a respiratory narcotic and as an antidiarrheal medication. Codeine is mostly used as a cough suppressant. However, it can be used as a analgesic which can relief the pain from toothache. The medical use of heroin is quite extensive. It finds use in acute pain conditions caused by trauma or injury, post surgical pains, heart attacks, chronic painful conditions, such as in the end stages of cancer, and some terminal illnesses.

Like every other drug, the opiates derived from opium can be categorized into short-term and long-term effects. The short-term effects of the opiates appears soon after a dose and last several hours. These are oft a rush of ecstasy, an increase in body temperature, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in their limbs.[3] From when the drug kicks in until it wears of and the user crashes, they will alternate from a wakeful to a drowsy state during this period. Due to its high addictiveness, user’s thoughts are consumed by the drug and this has as an effect that they neglect nutrition and personal hygiene. This makes the users more vulnerable to disease. This is a typical withdrawal symptom. In addition to this the user can come across restlessness, body pain, insomnia, diarrhoea, vomiting, and cold flashes.[3] Long-term users can suffer infections in their heart and valves, collapsed veins, liver disease and complications regarding the breathing.

Word count: 504 words


[1] Hoffman, L. Biological concepts kingdom: Plantae. Unpublished class notes from Dr. Hoffmann on medical important plants. Cape Town: Stellenbosch University; 2012.

[2] Grieve M. Poppy, white. 2003. [Online]. Available: [access 2013, February 18].

[3] Staggs J. Short-term and long-term effects of opiate addiction. [Online] 2008 [access 2013, February 18]; Available:


Lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD, was first synthesized in 1938 by the Swiss scientist Dr. Albert Hoffmann. The botanical source of LSD is a fungus that infects flowers of rye and other wheat species.[1] The fungus is scientifically known as claviceps purpurea or commonly as ergot. After the infection the wheat grain is substituted by a solid dark purple, resting mycelium, which is to referred to as ergot. During this stage, the resting sclerotia can be reaped along with the wheat grain and turned into flour. Claviceps purpurea comprises around 20 alkaloids, which are all highly toxic. The most significant alkaloids are the ergometrine, ergotamine and the ergotoxine groups. It furthermore holds lysergic acid, which is the key element for the synthetic hallucinogenic drug known as LSD. Ergot has a high toxicity level depending on the amount of intake. Victims may experience muscle twitching and cramping, high fevers, serious seizures and insomnia. If the victim suffers from chronic poisoning, a narrowing of the vascular system will occur. This sets up

the gangrenous form of the disease. The alkaloids have an extensive field in the medical sector. They are however only used in tiny doses. The alkaloids contain vasoconstriction element which are used to regulate bleeding during birth procedures and help to speed up the birthing process through the means of muscle stimulation. In addition to this they cause vasodilatation, which helps to treat high blood pressure and cerebral circulation complications and can be used in psychotherapy.

Word count: 248 words

[1]Hoffman, L. Biological concepts kingdom: Plantae. Unpublished class notes from Dr. Hoffmann on medical important plants. Cape Town: Stellenbosch University; 2012.


Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) is also known as tetrahydrocannabinol or merely as THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol is obtained from the cannabis plant. Cannabis was first used 5000 years ago in China and has become in the modern age a popular drug all around the world. Tetrahydrocannabinol is found on the top leaves and female inflorescence of the cannabis sativa plant. The resins protect the plant against dehydration, which are produced in larger amounts if it grows under heat and strong light circumstances. This characteristic of the plant is often manipulated to increase the bud production. The more buds the cannabis plant has, the more potent the sort is. The buds of the plant contain cannabidiol, cannabidolic acid and cannabigerol. However the active compound is tetrahydrocannabinol, which is made up of three connected phenyl rings.

In Africa it was originally used to relieve the pain caused during the birth process. It was also used to treat snake bites, malaria and blood poisoning. Cannabinol is used on a regular basis to stimulate the appetite of AIDS patients and provides them with a comforting sensation. The active compound of cannabis, THC, expands the bronchial veins and offers relief in asthma. Cannabis is often subscripted to people who have cancer, as it is medically proven to help stop the tumours spreading. In areas where medicinal marijuana is permitted, it is often subscripted as a medical pill or cigarettes. Cannabis has partial hallucinogenic features, but high usage does have psychological and physiological effects. In low doses, marijuana causes poor muscle coordination and judgment, short attention span, food cravings and struggle to think. In larger doses in can cause hallucinations, delusion, anxiety attacks, depression and paranoia. Research has shown that the long-term effects of marijuana are similar to those of smoking cigarettes. It can cause cancer and decreases reproduction hormones.

Word count: 300 words


[1]Hoffman, L. Biological concepts kingdom: Plantae. Unpublished class notes from Dr. Hoffmann on medical important plants. Cape Town: Stellenbosch University; 2012.



Ginseng is found in the roots of the Panex specie. It has been used for thousands of years by the people of the Far East countries as part of their herbal/natural medicine. Nowadays it is used worldwide. Taking a look at the active compound of Ginseng, one discovers that ginsenosides, which is also known as ginseng saponins, is regarded as the triggering ingredient. Ginsenosides can be subdivided into thirty different types. Researchers are uncertain which of subdivisions cause the reaction in the human body. It is proven that ginseng is nontoxic to humans, but a misuse of this product does have long-term and short-term effects on the body. The short-term effects are: hypertension, diarrhoea, sleeplessness, mastalgia, eruptions and vaginal bleeding.[1] After studies on ginseng user, Siegel discovered that the long-term effects, also known as "ginseng abuse syndrome" were: hypertension, nervousness, sleeplessness, skin rash, diarrhoea, confusion, depression or depersonalization.[1] Ginseng has a broad field of medical usages and has numerous benefits for humans. According to Radad, Gille, Liu and Rausch W,[1] studies have shown its beneficial effects in a wide range of pathological conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, immune deficiency, and hepatotoxicity.[1] It is proven that it serves as a stimulant to help restore the homeostasis, but also of assistance against aging, central nervous system disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases.[1] During the medical use of ginseng it has been discovered that it contains protective mechanisms , which are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic, and immune-stimulatory activities.[1]

Word count: 243 words