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Planta Med. 2012 Feb;78(3):260-8. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1280367. Epub 2011 Nov 21.

In vitro permeation of mesembrine alkaloids from Sceletium tortuosum across porcine buccal, sublingual, and intestinal mucosa.

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Department of Chemistry, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa.


Sceletium tortuosum is an indigenous South African plant that has traditionally been used for its mood-enhancing properties. Recently, products containing S. tortuosum have become increasingly popular and are commonly administered as tablets, capsules, teas, decoctions, or tinctures, while traditionally the dried plant material has been masticated. This study evaluated the in vitro permeability of the four major S. tortuosum alkaloids (i.e., mesembrine, mesembrenone, mesembrenol, and mesembranol) across porcine intestinal, sublingual, and buccal tissues in their pure form and in the form of three different crude plant extracts, namely water, methanol, and an acid-base alkaloid-enriched extract. The permeability of mesembrine across intestinal tissue was higher than that of the highly permeable reference compound caffeine (which served as a positive control for membrane permeability) both in its pure form, as well as in the form of crude extracts. The intestinal permeability of mesembranol was similar to that of caffeine, while those of mesembrenol and mesembrenone were lower than that of caffeine, but much higher than that of the poorly permeable reference compound atenolol (which served as a negative control for membrane permeability). In general, the permeabilities of the alkaloids were lower across the sublingual and the buccal tissues than across the intestinal tissue. However, comparing the transport of the alkaloids with that of the reference compounds, there are indications that transport across the membranes of the oral cavity may contribute considerably to the overall bioavailability of the alkaloids, depending on pre-systemic metabolism, when the plant material is chewed and kept in the mouth for prolonged periods. The results from this study confirmed the ability of the alkaloids of S. tortuosum in purified or crude extract form to permeate across intestinal, buccal, and sublingual mucosal tissues.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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