Tobacco. Nicotiana tabacum
Easily the most successful of these wonderful solanaceous plants is tobacco
. I would like to now add that probably the height of success for a
plant organism is to find itself someday carried around in the pockets of human beings. Imagine that? To have gone from the fields of North and South
America, to world adventurer and traveler, amazing for a plant. Some of you have some of this member of family solanaceae within reach right now.
What is amazing is that this particular nightshade
has none of the alkaloids that its cousins contain so famously. Tobacco carries its own
famous chemical; nicotine
. I am going to try very hard to stick to nicotine here but there are a couple of things we need to get out of the
Tobacco is old. really old. I know that all of us that are interested in piecing together our past struggle with time lines, or have stopped
struggling and have adopted one. I am not going to get all persnippity about dates but there are some folks that say that 'baccy has been with us, in
use, for 7000 years.
And we have been smoking it. And later we began to extract the essence of it; its sulphur
or alchemical fire.
Tobacco has truly been our constant plant companion. Although some eschew its use, it cannot be denied, in some ways we are as close to it as our
pets, in the ways that we cultivate and care for it. This is the meaning of success for a plant. Imagine the places it has been with us, and imagine
where it will go.
One of the things that I wanted to share with you on this trip to the solanaceous garden, is my fascination with the fact that Family Solanaceae is
, yet we reach for it for so many uses. Why?
I will say it simply; because some poisons are good for us. And nicotine, and the tropane alkaloids produced by its cousins, when used wisely, are
good for us. We reach for them because they are our helpful companions on this journey through space. that is why they are successful and that is why
we are and will continue to be successful.
Yes. We will see Family Solanaceae in space, if we have not already.
Tobacco nearly in space. Especially the 2 guys on the left.
Nicotine and your brain.
I am sorely tempted to just cut and paste all of this, but I will try to paraphrase and I hope that you will all go to the article and read it. It is
very well written, easy to understand, and makes clear the actions of nicotine in the brain.
Your brain works because there is a system of nerve cells that all communicate with one another as a network. The grease that makes the magic happen
in there are called neurotransmitters
. These allow the nerve cell networks to work in a sort of binary
fashion, they are either on or
off, receiving or not receiving. The main grease that allows this to all work is called acetycholine
, the more there is, the more the network
is able to pass along information and the more the network will be "on".
Nicotine works like acetylcholine, in fact it is the only drug outside of our bodies that does. Let that sink in.
This stimulation leads to:
-Increased release of acetylcholine from the neurons, leading to heightened activity in cholinergic pathways throughout your brain. This cholinergic
activity calls your body and brain to action, and this is the wake-up call that many smokers use to re-energize themselves throughout the day. Through
these pathways, nicotine improves your reaction time and your ability to pay attention, making you feel like you can work better.
-Release of glutamate, a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory - Glutamate enhances the connections between sets of neurons. These stronger
connections may be the physical basis of what we know as memory. When you use nicotine, glutamate may create a memory loop of the good feelings you
get and further drive the desire to use nicotine.
-Nicotine also increases the level of other neurotransmitters and chemicals that modulate how your brain works. For example, your brain makes more
endorphins in response to nicotine. Endorphins are small proteins that are often called the body's natural pain killer.
There are other uses that we put nicotine to in medicine and elsewhere. I would like to get to them as we go along. In the meantime, I hope that gets
the discussion rolling on tobacco and its active ingredient, nicotine.
I would also, as promised, like to get to a small bit on solanaceous food plants and arthritis, the short of it is that those with arthritis may wish
to re-evaluate how much of these foods they are eating and they may want to cut down so as not to exacerbate the inflammation.
Thank you all for being here.
edit on 18-3-2012 by Xoanon because: .