10 Things You Didn't Know About Nicotine

By Lindsay M Fox

Nicotine, a chemical most
commonly found in the plants of
the Solanaceae family, is an
alkaloid and is found
accumulated in the leaves of
these plants, though the
biosynthesis of this chemical
occurs in the roots of the plants.

Nicotine is one of the major
components of addictive plants like tobacco (0.6%-3.0%)
and is the reason behind their addiction in humans due
to its psychoactive nature.
The follow are 10 interesting facts about nicotine.

1. Etymology

The name nicotine comes from the scientific name of the
tobacco plant Nicotiana tabacum. The scientific name of
the tobacco plant is itself named the French ambassador
to Portugal Jean Nicot de Villemain. Villeman is credited
for sending tobacco seeds and plant saplings to Paris in
1560 for its use in medicinal purposes.

2. Extraction

Nicotine was first extracted from the tobacco plant by
German physician Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Posselt and
chemist Karl Ludwig Reimann in 1828. After its discovery
Posselt and Reimann labelled it as a poison. In fact
nicotine is an antiherbivore chemical, which causes
addiction when consumed in small amounts (1mg or
less) and death if taken in high amounts (30mg-60mg).

3. Chemistry

Nicotine is an alkaloid with the chemical formula
C10H14N2. Its IUPAC name is 3[{2,5}-1-
methylpyrrolidin-2-yl]pyridine. It has a molecular mass of
162.12g/mol. Nicotine is a hygroscopic liquid which is
miscible with water as a nitrogenous base. Its density is
1.01g/cm3, melting point -79oC and boiling point 247oC.
The nicotine molecule has a half life of 2 hours and its
metabolism is hepatic. Nicotine is also optically active
and has two enantiomeric forms.

4. Nicotine as an insecticide

As already said nicotine is an antiherbivore drug which if
taken in large amounts is fatal to life forms. That is why
nicotine laden tobacco has been used as an insecticide
even before the World War II. But after the WWII its
usage drastically lowered due to the availability of cheap
synthetic insecticides which are more readily available
than tobacco and less harmful to mammals. But in the
recent times the hype surrounding organic farming has
again increased the interest of the farmers in the use of
tobacco as a pesticide as an alternate to chemical

5. Nicotine addiction

Our central nervous system has certain nicotinic
acetylcholine receptors. Nicotine binds to several of
these and increases the amount of several
neurotransmitters. Among these neurotransmitters
dopamine is one such neurotransmitter which is
significantly increased during nicotine use and is
responsible for the sense of euphoria and relaxation
caused by the use of tobacco (nicotine) products.

6. Psychoactive effects of nicotine

Nicotine is a psychoactive substance as it is mood
altering. It causes both euphoria and relaxation. In the
body nicotine is metabolised in the liver. First after its
metabolism nicotine results in the release of glucose
from the liver and epinephrine from the adrenal medulla.
This sudden release of glucose and epinephrine causes
euphoria after the intake of nicotine. After the initial
euphoria nicotine leads to relaxation, increased alertness
and sharpness by working on different neurotransmitters
of the body. Nicotine also has pain relieving properties.

7. Side effects of nicotine intake

Tough it seems like nicotine is an excellent substance to
increase one's sharpness, induce calmness and elevate
one's mood there are more negative aspects of nicotine
intake than positive. Among these the most common side
effects of nicotine intake are an increased risk of
hypertension and heart attacks. It is sad that every
cigarette that a man smokes reduces his life span by 14
years. Moreover since nicotine has been found to affect
the working of Estrogen on hippocampus, hence in the
long run nicotine users are prone to amnesia and other
related diseases.

8. Toxicity

Nicotine is considered to be more toxic than most
common drugs like heroin and cocaine. More harm is
done by nicotine to the human body because it is readily
absorbed by the bloodstream and reaches the brain
through the lungs within 7 seconds of its intake either
orally or as nicotine patches.

9. Use of nicotine in medical science

Though nicotine is not a doctor's best friend, it is yet not
his worst foe. Nicotine known for its pain relieving
properties is being researched upon to be used as a
potential pain killer minus its harmful effects. Nicotine
has also been found to reduce preeclampsia, allergic
asthma; among others by acting as an anti-inflammatory

10. Nicotine in literature

Nicotine has been personified in popular literature as
Nick O' Teen, a humanoid villainous character in
Superman comics which was created as a part of anti-
nicotine drive to educate children about the ill-effects of
nicotine intake in any form.

Lindsay is an anti-smoking advocate and expert. She has
helped hundreds of people quit smoking and improve
their lifestyle. "One of the best methods I use to help
people quit smoking is by using the latest and most
advanced smoking alternative devices. It works 90
percent of the time," says Lindsay during an interview.

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