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Ayahuasca: alkaloids, plants & analogs
assembled by Keeper of the Trout
Section 3 : Part 2 :
Phalaris : Age and regrowth

Age related differences can be quite dramatic. Alkaloid content has been consistently noted to be highest in young growth with tryptamine content dropping with age. Not only is the alkaloid level highest in the new growth but artificially induced growth (regrowth following mowing) shows a consistent increase over the initial levels[ Reported by Appleseed, Barnes et al. 1971, Marten et al. 1973, Moore et al. 1967, Parmar & Brink 1976, Woods & Clark 1971 and others]. [Woods & Clark 1971 found that gramine levels in leaves of clipped plants (strains were known to be high gramine producers) had around four times the alkaloid of material which had been allowed to grow freely.]

Second re-growth (following a second cutting) often shows an increase from the initial value but falls short of the concentration in the first regrowth. The initial growth shows the lowest concentrations and, in a few cases, was apparently devoid of alkaloids!

In seedlings, this is another story:

Mack and coworkers studied N-Methyltransferase activities over the first 16 days of life in P. tuberosa cv. Australian Commercial seedlings.

No activity was seen until day three, it then increased four fold within three days and then gradually declined over the course of the study. PIM and SIM activity peaked on day 5. SIM consistently showed around or over twice the activity of PIM.

As an aside:

PIM = Primary Indole Methyl-transferase: the enzyme responsible for catalyzing the reaction from tryptamine to N-Methyltryptamine. [or 5-MeO-tryptamine to 5-MeO-MMT] Also referred to as NMT (N-methyltransferase) this may be misleading as different N-methyl-transferases exists with quite distinct specificities. NMT is also used as an abbreviation for N-Methyltryptamine and N-Methyltyramine (both of which are made using different NMTs).

PIM and SIM, or whatever you want to call them, use S-Adenosyl-methionine (SAM) as the methyl donor and are readily purified from plant material (with a decent lab).

SIM = Secondary Indole Methyl-transferase: the enzyme responsible for catalyzing the reaction from N-Methyltryptamine to N,N-Dimethyltryptamine. [or 5-MeO-MMT to 5-MeO-DMT]

Baxter & Slaytor 1972 reported detecting DMT and 5-MeO-DMT in fresh young seedlings of Australian Commercial as opposed to additional trace amounts of 4 other tryptamines in dried material. They found Australian Commercial to contain 0.1% DMT and 0.05% 5-MeO-DMT by dry weight.

Using Xanthydrol both to differentiate compounds and to spectrometrically estimate concentration , McComb and coworkers evaluated the 5-MeO-DMT concentration in new growth of Phalaris tuberosa leaves (cv. Hardinggrass) and found 0.236% in 7 day old fresh leaves, 0.105% in 9 day old fresh leaves and 0.077% in 21 day old fresh leaves. 21 day old leaves which had been frozen for 3 days showed 0.076%. 21 day old leaves which had been dried showed 0.071%. (all figures are % dry weight)

Marten et al. 1973 also found that increasing maturity decreased alkaloid content.

Woods & Clark 1971 found that cutting every second week caused sharp increases.

Parmar & Brink 1976 evaluated P. arundinacea growing in British Colombia.

At Tranquil, they found tryptamines in both upper and lower parts of the grass on Aug. 28, only in the upper part and less so on 22 Sept. and minimally on 14 October when the plants had been frosted. In the first two cases, the lower leaf blades showed only traces and none on 14 October. [Hay was cut on 23 August.]

Upper 4 leaf blades
Tranquil site, BC
Total tryptamines as
mg per gram of dry wt.
Sample date28 Aug22 Sept14 Oct
Initial growth 1167044
Regrowth after haying 17011074

This agreed with the observations of others that tryptamine production was highest in young chlorophyllaceous tissue.

They found no tryptamines in stem or sheath which agreed with Parmar 1975 observing the same to be true as well as for the root and rhizome. [Other workers using more sensitive techniques have routinely found a wide variety of trace alkaloids; some have claimed that no Phalaris is tryptamine free but sometime the only difference between `trace' and 0 is the sensitivity of the assay and measuring device.]

Coulman noted that, in strains producing gramine and hordenine, the gramine in regrowth was 5 times higher in the leaf blades than in either the sheath or stem, and hordenine was twice as high in the sheath as in the blades (four times as high as the stems)

A point to keep in mind is that all strains Coulman examined were selected for lack of tryptamines & b-carbolines and a low gramine content, hordenine was the major alkaloid; reaching 2 mg per gram of dried sheath [1.8 in upper sheath and 2.04 in lower].

Coulman also found that the alkaloid levels dropped as the foliage matured.