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Phytochemical nomenclature

I remember that for the first time I came across phytochemical terminology when I read the Atlas of Medicinal Plants (Macků, Krejča, SAS) as a child. At that time, I made the words incomprehensible only as a further confirmation of the expertise of an otherwise pleasant and logical text. I expected words such as alkaloids and saponins to be part of a precise system of plant names that I do not understand. I was so terrified that I dared to study the definition of phytochemical terms as an experienced goat.

Phytochemical nomenclature quickly and without napkins

The terms of phytochemical nomenclature are based mostly on working methods of phytochemistry:

  • alkaloids - nitrogen-containing bases
  • glycosides - substances to which sugar residues are attached
  • saponins - substances that form foam when shaking
  • bitters - substances of bitter taste (as well as acids are substances taste acid, iron)
  • tannins - substances that precipitate proteins
  • silica - volatile non-polar fraction separable from plant material by distillation
  • flavonoids - substances characterized by a certain type of aromatic skeleton
  • etc. ( lignans , phytosteroids ...)

This jargon, which I would call 'dry-latin Latin' with kindly forgiving phytochemists, is certainly useful in the first phase of the research as it allows us to talk about plant yields, even though we do not know about them anymore. Another advantage of this terminology is that the layman, regardless of reality, makes the impression of a deep state of knowledge of the substance or plant concerned.

Another specialty of phytochemical nomenclature is the formation of names of plant substances by combining scientific names and standard extensions ( Nicotiana - nicotine, Coffea - caffeine, Erythroxylon coca - cocaine, etc.). The first problem here is that such nomenclature is unambiguous. For example, caffeine was also baptized as a tein (if extracted from a tea tree), matein (yerba maté), guaranin (guarana), etc. It is enough for the lay people to fully deal with the fact that despite many different names it really is the same substance.

Various suffixes are used to indicate the substance's affinity to the phytochemical categories described above. E.g. we have panaxynol , panaxydol , panaxan, panaxin, panaxic acid (or ginseng acid translates) and many others in panaxosides (saponins, having the suffix -sid as glycosides).

It fits the phytochemical nomenclature of ginseng and eleuterokoku

Ginseng and eleutherococcus well illustrate the problems of phytochemical nomenclature - in this respect critically expressed by Davidov 's verbal overview ( davydov2000es ).

"Panaxosid" in contrast to "ginsenoside" - my point of view

Ginseng saponins are referred to in the literature as panaxosides and ginsenosides. Much more common today is the name ginsenoside. In my opinion, however, to name the unique ginseng saponins typical of the genus ginseng ( Panax ), the etymologically more acceptable group name panaxosid than the name ginsenoside . The name panaxosid is well founded because these are quite typical for the Panax family, and besides it, they are virtually nobody elsewhere in the plant kingdom. The name ginsenoside gives the impression that ginseng right ( P. ginseng ) is somewhat significant in terms of "ginsenoside" content. This is not true - although P. ginseng is actually the "most traditional" ginseng, ginseng saponins occur in almost the same amount (although in other proportions) in American ginseng ( P. quinquefolius ) and are represented qualitatively in all other ginseng , including the phylogenetically least related trigebula ( Panax trifolius ).

The situation is a bit complicated by the fact that many specific ginseng saponins were baptized with the name "ginsenoside Rx n ", where x is the lower case of the alphabet a = 1, 2, 3, ... The choice of the chemical name is on its discoverer and does not collide with other names , there is no objection to her. Therefore, in these cases, the word "ginsenoside" is acceptable, as in the phrase "ginsenoside Rb 1 belonging to the panaxosid group".

The names of specific panaxosides

To distinguish a large number of similar compounds under the name panaxoside / ginsenoside , the designation based on extraction methods is again used - panaxosides stretched for chromatography are referred to as "Rf" ( relative to front - that is, relative to the face of chromatography), alphabet letters like Ra , Rb, Rc etc., or ginsenoside A, ginsenoside B, ginsenoside C etc. This labeling system appears to have served well phytochemicals alone, but it is too unsymmetrical for us.

"Eleutherosides" - Inappropriate name for the content of eleuterokok ostnitého

As regards Eleutherococcus senticosus , incorrectly Siberian ginseng , well-intentioned Brechman's attempt to name the complex of its active substances "eleutrosides" according to the ginseng panaxosid / ginsenoside model, Davidov ( davydov2000es ) finds it particularly inappropriate. "Eleutherosides" deserve little of the eleutero prefix, as unlike panaxosides have previously been described from other plants, and the suffix -oside because they are not specific glycosides but a group of chemically diverse substances. Unlike ginseng, the adaptogenic properties of eleutherococcus are not a matter of unique chemical compounds, but a combination of substances otherwise known from other plants - syringin (lilac, Syringa ), daukosterol (carrot, daucus), hederasaponin (ivy, Hedera ) ) and more.

| 24.1.2009