Tobacco (Nicotine) – Chemical Constituents and Uses

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Nicotiana tabacum 'Tobacco' (Solanaceae) plant

Nicotiana tabacum ‘Tobacco’ (Solanaceae) plant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Morphology, Biological Source and Distribution of Tobacco:

Tobacco consists of the dried leaves of Nicotiana tobacum belonging to the family Solanaceae.

Tobacco plant is a stout, ever green and viscid annual plant with a thick erect stem and few branches. The flowers are light-red, white or pink in colour. Various varieties like bidi tobacco, cigar tobacco, chewing and hookah tobacco are cultivated in India. Tobacco is cultivated on a commercial scale to a large extent in China, United States and India.The other countries producing tobacco are Brazil, Russia, Turkey and Italy. In Andhra Pradesh, it is produced in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Orissa and Bihar.

Chemical constituents of Tobacco :

The tobacco contains pyridine-piperidine type of alkaloids. The most prominent alkaloid is nicotine and other alkaloids are nornicotine and anabasine.

Uses of Nicotine :

  • Nicotine exerts stimulant effects on heart and nervous system.
  • It has no medicinal uses.
  • It is a powerful quick acting poison, even 40mg dose when taken orally is fatal to humans.
  • In European countries, rectified tobacco seed oil is used as edible oil.
  • It is used in the manufacture of nicotinic acid and nicotinamide.
  • Tobacco and nicotine are the known insecticides for centuries.
  • Nicotine contains wide range of insects and used against soft bodied insects like aphids and acts as a contact poison.
  • It is also effective against white flies, moths, termites, butterfly-larvae, red spider mites etc.,
  • Nicotine is sprayed as nicotine sulphate on crops.
  • It is advantageous over other synthetic insecticides that it is safer, easy to handle, less toxic to warm blooded animals.
  • As it is volatile in nature, it evaporates earlier and does not leave harmful residue on the marketable products.
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