The family Celastraceae consists of about 50 genera and 800 species of trees, shrubs, or climbers known to produce a series of phenethylamine alkaloids that might hold some potentials as sources of dopaminergic agents. About 30 plant species of Celas-traceae are medicinal in the Asia-Pacific region.
A classic example of neuroactive Celastraceae is Catha edulis Forsk., or Khat, the leaves of which are used daily by millions in a number of African and Arab countries to invigorate the intellect and to assuage hunger. Mounting evidence suggests that that ( + )amphetamine and ( — )cathinone produce their central stimulant effect via the same dopaminergic mechanism by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain by acting on the catecholaminergic synapses (101,102).
Tripterygium wilfordii Hook f. (Tripterygium hypoglaucum, Tripterygium forrestii (Loes.). or thunder God vine or lei gong teng (Chinese). is a climber that can reach a length of 10 m from East Asia to South China to Burma. The leaves are simple, crenate-ovate to elliptic, 5-15 cm X 2.5-7 cm. The flowers are whitish with five petals and 9 mm across. The fruits are three-winged and brownish red (Fig. 75).
In China, the plant is used to treat rheumatic inflammation. The anti-inflammatory property is substantiated, and a surprising amount of evidence is available. Note that the main anti-inflammatory principle of Tripterygium wildfordii is a diterpene triepoxide known as triptolide, which posseses potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties (103,104).
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