Published On: Tue, Sep 24th, 2013

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, , 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 .
  • 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 residue on the marketable products.
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