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Alkaloids are naturally occurring chemical compounds containing basic nitrogen atoms.

The name derives from the word alkaline and was used to describe any nitrogen-
containing base. Alkaloids are produced by a large variety of organisms, including
bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals and are part of the group of natural products (also
called secondary metabolites). Many alkaloids can be purified from crude extracts by
acid-base extraction. Many alkaloids are toxic to other organisms. They often have
pharmacological effects and are used as medications, as recreational drugs, or in
entheogenic rituals. Examples are the local anesthetic and stimulant cocaine, the
stimulant caffeine, nicotine, the analgesic morphine, or the antimalarial drug quinine.
Some alkaloids have a bitter taste.

Alkaloid classifications
Generally speaking, alkaloids are categorized under three main categories,depending on
their biogenic origin. For those containing at least a nitrogen atom in a ring system
derived from amino acids (i.e. alkaloids derived from phenylalanine are not grouped in
this category), they are true alkaloids. The alkaloids derived from phenylalanine are
categorized as protoalkaloids. While the remaining ones, such as steroidal alkaloids and
purine alkaloids, are classified as pseudoalkaloids.

Alkaloids are usually classified by their common molecular precursors, based on the
metabolic pathway used to construct the molecule.[citation needed] When not much was known
about the biosynthesis of alkaloids, they were grouped under the names of known
compounds, even some non-nitrogenous ones (since those molecules' structures appear in
the finished product; the opium alkaloids are sometimes called "phenanthrenes", for
example), or by the plants or animals they were isolated from. When more is learned
about a certain alkaloid, the grouping is changed to reflect the new knowledge, usually
taking the name of a biologically-important amine that stands out in the synthesis
process.[original research?]

• Pyridine group: piperine, coniine, trigonelline, arecoline, arecaidine, guvacine,

cytisine, lobeline, nicotine, anabasine, sparteine, pelletierine.
• Pyrrolidine group: hygrine, cuscohygrine, nicotine
• Tropane group: atropine, cocaine, ecgonine, scopolamine, catuabine
• Indolizidine group: senecionine, swainsonine
• Quinoline group: quinine, quinidine, dihydroquinine, dihydroquinidine,
strychnine, brucine, veratrine, cevadine
• Isoquinoline group: opium alkaloids (papaverine, narcotine, narceine, morphine,
codeine, heroine), sanguinarine, hydrastine, berberine, emetine, berbamine,
• Phenanthrene alkaloids: opium alkaloids (morphine, codeine, thebaine)
• Phenethylamine group: mescaline, ephedrine, dopamine
• Indole group:
o Tryptamines: serotonin, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, bufotenine, psilocybin
o Ergolines (the ergot alkaloids): ergine, ergotamine, lysergic acid
o Beta-carbolines: harmine, harmaline, tetrahydroharmine
o Yohimbans: reserpine, yohimbine
o Vinca alkaloids: vinblastine, vincristine
o Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) alkaloids: mitragynine, 7-
o Tabernanthe iboga alkaloids: ibogaine, voacangine, coronaridine
o Strychnos nux-vomica alkaloids: strychnine, brucine
• Purine group:
o Xanthines: caffeine, theobromine, theophylline
• Terpenoid group:
o Aconitum alkaloids: aconitine
o Steroid alkaloids (containing a steroid skeleton in a nitrogen containing
 Solanum (e.g. potato and tomato) alkaloids (solanidine, solanine,
 Veratrum alkaloids (veratramine, cyclopamine, cycloposine,
jervine, muldamine)[2]
 Fire Salamander alkaloids (samandarin)
 Others: conessine
• Quaternary ammonium compounds: muscarine, choline, neurine
• Miscellaneous: capsaicin, cynarin, phytolaccine, phytolaccotoxin

Physicochemical properties
Low-molecular weight alkaloids without hydrogen bond donors such as hydroxy groups
are often liquid at room temperature, examples are nicotine, sparteine, coniine, and

The basicity of alkaloids depends on the lone pairs of electrons on their nitrogen atoms.
As organic bases, alkaloids form salts with mineral acids such as hydrochloric acid and
sulfuric acid and organic acids such as tartaric acid or maleic acid. These salts are usually
more water-soluble than their free base form.