Standard Article

Alkaloids, Pharmaceutical Analysis of

Pharmaceuticals and Drugs

  1. R.K. Gilpin1,
  2. C.S. Gilpin2

Published Online: 10 JAN 2014

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a1902.pub2

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Gilpin, R. and Gilpin, C. 2014. Alkaloids, Pharmaceutical Analysis of. Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. 1–27.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Wright State University, Dayton, OH, USA

  2. 2

    Select-O-Sep, LLC, Freeport, OH, USA

  1. Update based on the original article by R.K. Gilpin and C.J. Hann, Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry © 2000, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 10 JAN 2014


As a major class of compounds, alkaloids are naturally occurring bases with a wide range of structures, chemical, and physical properties, and pharmacological activities. The use of alkaloids as medical agents in the form of crude plant powders and extracts predates the modern pharmaceutical industry by almost four millennia and in some instances prior to modern science. Mass poisonings have resulted from their inadvertent usage and was prevalent in Europe during the Middle Ages as the result of the general populace eating bread contaminated with Claviceps purpurea. The C. purpurea fungus produces an ergot alkaloid that first affects the central nervous system causing hallucinogenic effects and later death if enough is ingested. Ergot poisoning in the Middles Ages is perhaps best known for its effect on the painters “of-the-day” and their impressionistic styles and use of vivid colors.