How childbirth in rural Africa, petunias and deadly marine snails combined to open the door for new types of drug.

In the future, sufferers of chronic pain may simply need to sip petunia tea or pop a petunia seed pill in order to alleviate their symptoms. These petunias would have been genetically modified to produce small, circular peptides very similar to conotoxins, produced in the wild by a family of marine molluscs called cone snails. (more…)

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I’ve been performing some internet searches that could cause red flags in the office, but on the other hand it’s a story of citizen science and lab safety. There is a growing trend for people to perform solvent extractions at home, but what they’re extracting is tetrahydocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana, and they’re using highly flammable butane or isopropyl alcohol for the extraction.

Illustration of cannabis plants. Hermann Adolf Köhler (1834 – 1879)

Now there’s a bit of me that’s quite admiring of these home grown chemists, methodologies are available online and improvements are shared. However, in my experience, the venn diagram of people who are strongly pro-pot and people who are anti ‘scary chemicals’ has a pretty large central cross over. That leads to a lot of discussion about how smoking ‘hash oil’, the resinous product of these home extractions, is ‘more pure’. I’m not sure I agree, it’s still a mixture of compounds rather than pure THC, and despite claims of the oil being 90% THC by these home extractors, my survey of the literature suggests something topping out at 65%. And what about the additives in the solvent itself? But I’m not here to niggle over how good these extractions are, rather to make a point about how a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

(more…)

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Trippy

It might sound far out (man), but it seems LSD can treat alcohol dependency according to a meta-analysis of previous clinical trials.

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD, or (8β)-N,N-diethyl-6-methyl-9,10-didehydroergoline-8-carboxamide to give it its systematic name, was discovered by Albert Hoffman in 1943 and you can find out more about this amazing compound in our podcast. As mentioned in the podcast, Sandoz, the firm Hoffman worked for, thought that LSD might be useful in treating alcoholism and depression but that all kind of got side-lined with the rise in use of LSD as a mind expanding drug in the 60s. (more…)

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The sleepy secret secreted by the opium poppy has brought pain relief to millions. But just as it’s helped to save lives, it’s also responsible for taking them. Simon Cotton tells the tale of the addictive analgesic, morphine, in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.


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clausometer

What powers Santa’s sleigh?

So, on Saturday evening, Santa will fire up the reindeer and set off around the globe once again. In fact, you can track his flight. But how do those reindeer fly, it could all be to do with Christmas Spirit, but it’s long been suggested there’s a slightly more pharmacological explanation (more…)

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Why would a drug feature in the treaty that ended the first world war? And what made aspirin so successful as a painkiller? Brian Clegg explains in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.



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Sulfa drugs revolutionised early 20th century medicine and saved millions of lives. Simon Cotton discovers the origins of the first effective antibiotic in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast

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It may be intended to protect coca plants from being eaten, but cocaine has founded a huge narcotics industry. Simon Cotton discovers the chemistry behind the high in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast

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‘Turn on, tune in, drop out,’ was what Timothy Leary urged Americans to do in the 1960s, exploring the psychedelic hallucinatory effects of lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. John Mann takes his own trip to discover the origins and effects of this potent substance in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast

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A subtle tweak turns a molecule of love into the fearsome ‘go faster’ drug crystal meth. And speed kills, as Simon Cotton discovers in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast

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