Forensic Toxicology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 77–83 | Cite as

Chemical constituents and DNA sequence analysis of a psychotropic herbal product

  • Hiroyuki Kikuchi
  • Nahoko Uchiyama
  • Jun Ogata
  • Ruri Kikura-Hanajiri
  • Yukihiro Goda
Original Article


In recent years, the distribution of a variety of psychotropic products, especially “spice” and “herbal blends,” which are advertised to have narcotic-like effects, has become more widespread in the Japanese illegal drug market. We recently found two synthetic annabinoids, cannabicyclohexanol and JWH-018, that serve as adulterants in herbal products purchased via the Internet. In this study, we focused on a herbal product being sold as incense, which showed unknown components by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). The product did not show any peak corresponding to the above synthetic cannabinoids, but seven other peaks were identified by high-performance liquid chromatography and LC-MS. We identified them as N-methyltyramine (1), (R)-normacromerine (2), (R)-macromerine (3), (S)-vasicine (4), mescaline (5), harmaline (6), and harmine (7) by polarimetry, LC-MS, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, high-resolution mass spectrometry, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. We also used DNA sequence analyses to identify the plant species of the product. As a result of the sequencing of trnL-F, internal transcribed spacer (ITS), and rpl16 intron regions, three sequences derived from Coryphantha macromeris (Cactaceae), Peganum harmala (Zygophyllaceae), and Turnera diffusa (Turneraceae) were observed. Compounds 2 and 3, both phenethylamines, were reported to cause hallucinogenic effects and are frequently found in Coryphantha genus (Cactaceae). Therefore, the plant source of these compounds was considered to be C. macromeris. Compound 5 is known to be a psychoactive phenethylamine found in peyote (Lophophora williamsii) and San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi). The β-carboline alkaloids 6 and 7 are known to be found in the seeds of P. harmala. Therefore, there seems to be no contradiction between the chemical constituents and the plant species estimated by DNA analyses, except for compound 5. This is the first report dealing with identification of the psychoactive cactus C. macromeris and its constituent compounds in a herbal product distributed in the illegal drug market.


(R)-Normacromerine (R)-Macromerine Herbal product Coryphantha macromeris LC-MS DNA analysis 


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Copyright information

© Japanese Association of Forensic Toxicology 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hiroyuki Kikuchi
    • 1
  • Nahoko Uchiyama
    • 1
  • Jun Ogata
    • 1
  • Ruri Kikura-Hanajiri
    • 1
  • Yukihiro Goda
    • 1
  1. 1.National Institute of Health SciencesTokyoJapan

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