Duboisia hopwoodii (F. Muell.) F. Muell.
Duboisia hopwoodii is a plant species from the nightshade family (Solanaceae) native to Australia.
Its tips and leaves, locally called „Pituri“, are commonly known as a narcotic herb either used as a social drug by Aboriginal communities, or consumed as a stimulant and hunger-suppressing preparation (1). Pituri is also known as a pain killer (1;2). It must, however, be handled with great care: it is highly toxic as it contains considerable quantities of tropane alkaloids, similar to Hyoscyamus niger or Atropa belladonna.
One of its main phytochemical constituents is L-scopolamine, an important pharmaceutical active constituent.
Scopolamine as such is used in various medicinal drug preparations, e.g., in ophthalmology. Contemporary pharmaceutical industry manufactures over twenty active pharmaceutical substances containing tropane moiety in their structure, which are applied as mydriatics, antiemetics, antispasmodics, anesthetics and bronchodilators (3).
In Western medicine scopolamine is also needed for the transformation into N-butylscopolamine, a drug substance used as an intestinal antispasmodic (e.g., in Buscopan®).
There is currently an interest in Duboisia harvests in Australia, which was the reason why we were asked to provide assistance in a cultivation project.
Duboisia hopwoodii grows in small bushes which can easily be managed in cultures
In cooperation with an Australian partner we can now offer a solution to the cultivation issue. We can also offer to work towards the isolation of the purified alkaloid and provide assistance in obtaining a European Certificate of Suitability.
(1) Watson PL, Luanratana O, Griffin WJ. The ethnopharmacology of pituri. J Ethnopharmacol 1983; 8(3): 303-11.
(2) Westhorpe RN, Ball C. Pituri and other Aboriginal medicines for pain relief. Anaesth Intensive Care 2011; 39(1): 3.
(3) Grynkiewicz G, Gadzikowska M. Tropane alkaloids as medicinally useful natural products and their synthetic derivatives as new drugs. Pharmacol Rep 2008; 60(4): 439-63.