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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