Influence of the conditions under which the poppy is grown on the alkaloid content of the opium obtained

Abstract

There is now a large body of published data showing that the chemical composition of plants is subject to considerable fluctuations according to the geographical area in which they grow or are cultivated. N. N. Ivanov (7), (8), M. I. Knyaginichev (10) and others have established, for example, that there is an extremely wide variation in the albumen content of wheats cultivated in different areas, as may be seen from the following figures:

Details

Author: T. N Ilinskaya, M.G. Yosifova
Pages: 38 to 41
Creation Date: 1956/01/01

Influence of the conditions under which the poppy is grown on the alkaloid content of the opium obtained

The following two articles have been transmitted by the Representative of the U.S.S.R. on the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

T. N Ilinskaya
M.G. Yosifova

There is now a large body of published data showing that the chemical composition of plants is subject to considerable fluctuations according to the geographical area in which they grow or are cultivated. N. N. Ivanov [(7)] , [(8)] , M. I. Knyaginichev[ (10)] and others have established, for example, that there is an extremely wide variation in the albumen content of wheats cultivated in different areas, as may be seen from the following figures:

Type of wheat

Where cultivated

% albumen

Lutescens 0.62
Chelyabinsk Province
24.4
Lutescens 0.62
Minsk Province
9.8
Kanred
Rostov Province
19.3
Kanred
Ukrainian SSR
8.6

The work of S. L. Ivanov [(4)] , [(5)] ,[ (6)] on fatty vegetable oils is well known. He has established that oleaginous plants have a higher oil content when grown in the north than when grown in the south. Thus white mustard contained 37.4% fatty oil at Kotlas, and 18.9% at Kharkov. In addition, the oils obtained in the north have a higher degree of non-saturation, as is shown by the higher iodine counts.

For example, linseed oil from Archangel had an iodine count of 195 as against 180 for Moscow and only 154 for Tashkent.

V. V. Arasimovich [(1)] says that the sugar content of the ichksyl variety of melon is 6.9% in the central Volga region, and 11.7% in central Asia. Tomatoes grown in Moscow have a 2.9% sugar content, and those grown in the Crimea 5% (13, 18).

The starch content of Soviet varieties of potatoes ranges from 14% to 24% [(14)] . Furthermore, the quality of the produce differs in different years in the same district. Thus during nine years of cultivation the sugar content of Voltman potatoes ranged from 14.4% to 22.7%.

Kok-saghyz roots grown in Leningrad Province contained 7.12% of rubber and those grown in Kazakhstan 4.63% [(12)] .

Considerably less study has been devoted to the effect of the district in which plants are grown on their content in alkaloids, glycosides, essential oils, etc., but the available data show that the content in these substances is also subject to appreciable fluctuations.

According to A. A. Shmuk (15,16,17), the nicotine content of makhorka varies from 1.5% to 8% according to the district in which it is grown. The alkaloid content of the lupin ranges from 0.83% to 1.6%. In his work on the influence of geographical factors on the morphine content of the opium poppy, Annet [(20)] concludes that districts of high and low morphine content may be distinguished. This is confirmed by Wisner [(23)] , who states that the morphine content of the opium poppy in different countries fluctuates between 2% and 15%.

The alkaloid content of cinchona bark depends on the height above sea level at which the tree is grown. The amount and composition of quinine alkaloids is shown by Howard's data (see Reimers, [22] ):

Height above sea level in metres

Quinine

Quinidine

Cinchonidine

500 0.47 0.30 0.05
1,800 2.06
traces
3.47

According to A. I. Yermakov [(2)] , [(3)] , hoary erysimum (Erysimum canescens) grown in Moscow Province and picked at flowering time contained 1.1% glucosides, as against 1.8% for plants picked in Poltava Province.

It is also known that there are variations not only in the amount of alkaloids but also in their composition according to the conditions under which plants grow.

S. Yunusov [(19)] says that Japanese chemists have found the alkaloid coclaurine in the evergreen shrub Cocculus laurifolius. Grown in the Batum Botanical Gardens, this plant contained no coclaurine at all but on the other hand it was found to contain two new alkaloids of an entirely different structural type.

There is a reference in Henry [(21)] to the effect that Duboisia myoporoides contains alkaloid in the basic form of scopolamine in the northern districts of Australia and hyoscyamine in the southern districts.

* * *

The All-Union Institute for Scientific Research on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (VILAR) has for a number of years been making geographical sowings of three varieties of the opium poppy: Tarbagatai 20, Tian-Shan 27 and China 42.

The sowings were made in a uniform manner as regards choice of plot, preparation of the soil, sowing conditions and tending.

According to the instructions, the poppy was sown in furrows directly in the soil, during the first two or three days after field work began. Sowings were made in double drills with 60 and 30 cm. between the rows, the seeds being covered to a depth of 1.5 to 2 cm.

The experimental plots were set at 100 square metres, and the experiments were repeated not less than three or four times.

Observations were made during the growing period to check the length of the individual development stages and measurements were taken of the height of the plants and the degree of foliation. In addition, specimen plants were selected from each plot, before the crop was harvested, in order to measure the increase in organic mass.

Table 1

CONTENT IN THE FIVE MAIN ALKALOIDS AND TOTAL ALKALOIDS CONTENT OF OPIUM FROM POPPIES GROWN IN DIFFERENT DISTRICTS - 1947

   

Percentage of alkaloids content of opium

 

District where grown

Variety

Morphine

Codeine

Papaverine

Thebaine

Narcotine

Total for all alkaloids

Krasnodar
Tarbagatai 20
13.10 1.49 0.41 0.67 5.68 34.20
"
Tian-Shan 27
13.00 1.00 0.48 1.32 3.30 36.90
"
China 42
13.50 1.27
traces
0.54 12.30 34.30
Voronezh
Tarbagatai 20
10.40 1.79
traces
1.30 7.50 42.30
"
Tian-Shan 27
8.18 1.25 0.70 0.83 4.70 33.90
"
China 42
10.20 1.62 0.40 2.30 6.10 38.70
Bitzy, Moscow Prov.
Tarbagatai 20
12.00 2.30 0.17 1.10 6.00 37.50
" " "
Tian-Shan 27
8.00 2.20 0.15 1.92 8.40 38.00
" " "
China 42
9.48 2.10 0.10 2.10 4.50 35.00
Vologda
Tarbagatai 20
10.40 2.17
none
0.81 8.40 40.70
"
Tian-Shan 27
5.50 2.60
none
0.86 4.00 36.80
"
China 42
6.60 2.53
none
1.50 6.30 41.60

The crop was gathered in the form of opium, to obtain which the capsules were lanced with special knives. The lancing was done during the period of initial technical maturity in 15-20% of the opium-yielding capsules. They were repeated four or five times every other day. On each occasion only technically ripe capsules were lanced. The opium was collected the day after lancing, dried, pulverized by grinding in a mortar and then analysed for content in the six main alkaloids by Klyachkina's method [(9)] , and for total alkaloid content by the method devised by the VILAR's Chemistry Department [(11)] .

The tests results are given in Tables 1, 2 and 3. As regards the alkaloid narceine, it occurred only in traces in all the samples, and hence no figures are given for it.

The first thing to be noted is the exceptionally wide variation in the content in the main alkaloids of opium obtained from poppies grown in different geographical areas. The morphine content, for example, ranges from 5.50% to 13.50%, codeine from 0.36% to 2.60%, papaverine from zero to 2.30%, thebaine from 0.14% to 7.00%, narcotine from 4.00% to 12.30% and total alkaloids from 26.3% to 41.6%.

The districts in which the poppy was grown were, in order of latitude, Krasnodar, Voronezh, Moscow and Vologda (see Table 1).

Proceeding from Krasnodar to Vologda, the morphine content decreases and this is particularly noticeable with the Tian-Shan 27 and China 42 varieties. The codeine content decreases in the other direction, from Vologda to Krasnodar.

Comparing the soil and climatic conditions under which the poppy was grown in these districts, it can be said that from south to north the natural fertility of the soil and total temperature during the growing period decrease. Total rainfall is much the same in all these districts, but its effect is necessarily different because of the great differences in temperature. Clearly, the changes in the humidity/warmth ratio, and in soil conditions are responsible for this variation in the morphine and codeine content of the opium.

West of Vologda, poppy was grown in the Tartu district (Estonian SSR) and east of Vologda in the Kirov district (see Table 2). In the mild, damp, warm climate of Tartu, the opium has a higher morphine content and a lower codeine content than in Vologda. On the other hand, with the low temperatures in the Kirov district, the morphine content is lower and the codeine content higher.

Sowings were also made west of Krasnodar, in Poltava Province (Table 3) and east of Krasnodar, in Kuibyshev Province. It can be said of the opium from these districts that it has a lower codeine content than that from the more northerly districts.

Table 2

   

Percentage of alkaloids content of opium

 

District where grown

Variety

Morphine

Codeine

Papaverine

Thebaine

Narcotine

Total for all alkaloids

Tartu
Tarbagatai 20
13.10 1.58 0.94 0.67 5.68 34.20
"
Tian-Shan 27
11.20 1.95 0.53 0.58 8.70 40.10
"
China 42
13.28 0.90 0.17
traces
6.70 39.80
Kirov
Tarbagatai 20
11.40 2.30 0.01 0.30 6.00 39.50
"
Tian-Shan 27
10.50 2.20 0.27 1.10 12.20 40.10
"
China 42
11.10 2.00 0.10 1.60 10.10 39.80

Table 3

   

Percentage of alkaloids content of opium

 

District where grown

Variety

Morphine

Codeine

Papaverine

Thebaine

Narcotine

Total for all alkaloids

Poltava Province
Tarbagatai 20
10.60 1.39 0.31 1.30 6.50 31.00
" "
Tian-Shan 27
7.80 1.30 0.30
-
9.96 36.10
" "
China 42
7.85 1.05 1.75 1.86 5.20 26.30
Kuibyshev Province
Tarbagatai 20
11.10 1.57 1.08 0.14 8.4 26.90
" "
Tian-Shan 27
9.60 1.06 1.78
traces
4.90 40.30
" "
China 42
10.50 0.36 2.30
none
6.60 36.90

Table 4 PERCENTAGE OF MORPHINE AND CODEINE CONTENTS OF ABSOLUTELY DRY OPIUM

     

Tarbagatai 20

Tian-Shan 27

China 42

No.

District where grown

Year when grown

Morphine

Codeine

Morphine

Codeine

Morphine

Codeine

1.
Tartu
1946 9.40 2.80 7.28 2.24 8.20 2.40
 
"
1947 13.10 1.58 11.20 1.95 13.28 0.90
2.
Bitzy, Moscow Province
1947 12.00 2.30 8.00 2.20 9.48 2.10
 
" " "
1949 14.20 1.80 12.50 1.50 9.10 2.40
 
" " "
1950 14.26 1.80
-
-
-
-
 
" " "
1951 11.74 2.13
-
-
-
-
3.
Voronezh
1945 14.50 1.13 11.10 0.95 14.35 0.60
 
"
1947 10.40 1.79 8.18 1.25 10.20 1.62
4.
Krasnodar
1946 12.34 2.04 10.40 1.60 13.60 2.20
 
"
1947 13.10 1.49 13.00 1.00 13.50 1.27
5.
Kuibyshev
1945 10.20 1.88 8.10 1.86 10.10 1.50
 
"
1947 11.10 1.57 9.60 1.06 12.20 2.0

In a number of districts, the geographical poppy sowings were continued over a period of years, and the results of these experiments show that in the same district the composition of the opium was not uniform where weather conditions differed during different years: where a higher morphine content occurred in any one year, the codeine content of the opium was usually lower, whereas a decrease in morphine content was accompagnied by an increase in the codeine content (see Table 4).

In view of the close genetic relation between morphine and codeine, it can be assumed that reciprocal conversions of the one alkaloid into the other are possible, depending on the conditions under which the poppy is grown. Observations have shown that deficient moisture during the early period of growth, or excessive moisture in the latter half of the development period, generally have the effect of reducing the morphine content of the opium.

As regards papaverine, a point to be noticed is that opium from Vologda contained none of it whatever (see Table 1), whereas opium from Kuibyshev, according to data over a three-year period, had a very high papaverine content (Table 5).

Table 5

   

Percentage of papaverine content of opium

   

Tarbagatai 20

Tian-Shan 27

China 42

Kuibyshev
1945 1.43 1.74 2.60
"
1945 1.30 1.30 1.00
"
1947 1.08 1.78 2.30

The Kuibyshev district compared with the others has a small amount of rainfall and fairly high temperatures during the growing period. Under these conditions, the plants experience a shortage of moisture, and this apparently promotes the formation of papaverine in the opium. This assumption s confirmed by the following data (Table 6).

The years 1946 at Krasnodar and 1950 at Tartu were hot, dry ones, whereas 1947 and 1951 were very wet.

So far it has not been possible to establish any clear principles governing changes in the thebaine and narcotine contents of the opium.

The total alkaloids content of the opium is a little higher in northern districts than in southern ones, but it cannot be concluded from this that alkaloids form more readily in the northern districts, seeing that the absolute yield of alkaloids is considerably greater in the south owing to the heavier opium crop.

Conclusions

  1. The percentage content in the six main alkaloids and the total alkaloids content of the opium are subject to variation according to the soil and climatic conditions of the district where the poppy is grown.

  2. The morphine content decreases from south to north, according to the latitude in which the poppy is grown; the codeine content and the total alkaloids content change in the opposite direction, while the absolute yield of alkaloids is higher in the south owing to the heavier opium crop obtained there.

Table 6

   

Percentage of papaverine content

District where grown

Year

Tarbagatai 20

Tian-Shan 27

China 42

Krasnodar
1946 1.54 0.59 1.25
"
1947 0.41 0.48
traces
Tartu
1950 0.84 0.35
-
"
1951
traces
traces
-
  1. Increased humidity in the first half of the poppy's growing and development period combined with optimum temperatures promotes the formation of morphine.

Lower temperatures promote the formation of codeine. A drop in morphine content as a result of any particular set of conditions is accompanied by an increase in codeine content. Lower humidity in conjunction with higher temperatures stimulates the formation of papaverine (Kuibyshev), whereas no papaverine is formed where temperatures are lower and humidity higher (Vologda).

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