A New Carbonyl Compound from Piper methysticum Forst.

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THE rhizomes of Piper methysticum Forst. are the raw material from which the Polynesians and other Pacific island peoples prepare their ceremonial (and soporific) beverage ‘awa (also known as kawa of kava-kava). The chemical constituents of ‘awa root were first studied over a hundred years ago, but the most extensive investigation was carried out by Borsche and co-workers1 some thirty years ago. While Borsche established the structure of several constituents, none of these compounds, curiously enough, was found to possess physiological activity. This negative result led to the surmise that activity is perhaps introduced during the preparation of the drink which involved chewing of the root2. Van Veen3 in 1938 showed that a substance, marindinin, was responsible for the drug action of ‘awa. Marindinin, however, was later shown to be identical with Borsche's dihydrokawain4 (I), a substance previously found to have no physiological activity5.

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SCHEUER, P., HORIGAN, T. A New Carbonyl Compound from Piper methysticum Forst.. Nature 184, 979 (1959) doi:10.1038/184979a0

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