As Plantas e seus Alcalóides – Correlações Evolutivas (Parte I)

Portas da Percepção

hempadao 5 julho, 2013

por Catiusia

Alcalóides são compostos do metabolismo secundário, produzidos principalmente nas partes em crescimento das planta (brotos, ápice de caule e folhas novas). Até onde conhecemos sobre eles, sabe-se que exercem primariamente a função de defesa nas plantas, mas acredita-se que possam ter funções mais complexas na inter-relação das plantas com animais, inclusive com seres humanos. São eles os responsáveis pela ação psicoativa dos enteógenos. Existe uma notável correlação entre alguns poucos grupos vegetais e a grande maioria dos alcalóides psicoativos conhecidos até então. Ao se considerar a escala evolutiva do reino vegetal, fica ainda mais evidente que essa associação está presente nos grupos mais evoluídos de plantas, ou seja, nas famílias de plantas do grupo das angiospermas (ou Magnoliophyta, para os botânicos). São muito raros os alcalóides descobertos em outros grupos de vegetais, como em musgos, pteridófitas (samambaias) ou gimnospermas (pinheiros, cicas, etc.), onde são praticamente inexistentes.

Não conhecemos nem a terça parte de todos os alcalóides existentes e nem tampouco sabemos tudo sobre os quais já conhecemos. Dos alcalóides conhecidos sabemos que são formados por um grupo muito restrito de componentes químicos, basicamente estruturas totalmente orgânicas (sem qualquer elemento mineral na molécula) e com a presença de nitrogênio (N) e indol em sua estrutura química. Muitos são derivados do aminoácido triptofano que é o precursor da serotonina, o neurotransmissor responsável por funções como regular nosso humor e sono, liberar hormônios e também é o coadjuvante das sensações de euforia e bem estar. Sendo assim, os compostos psicoativos são todos muito semelhantes em estrutura química, o que também define o tipo de ação que provocam no organismo.

Uma família de plantas que ilustra essa associação estreita entre produção de alcalóides psicoativos e determinados grupos vegetais é o grupo onde estão a Argyreia nervosa, Rivea corymbosa e espécies de Ipomoea. Essa família, chamada Convolulaceae, abriga diversas plantas produtoras de alcalóides psicoativos e outras conhecidas por serem tóxicas, sendo a toxicidade também devida aos alcalóides.

Os principais alcalóides produzidos por essas plantas são erginas e componentes das ergolinas, os quais assemelham-se com a estrutura quimica do LSD. São pelo menos sete alcalóides diferentes produzidos por Argyreia nervosa com algum tipo de ação psicoativa. Esta espécie é conhecida como Hawaiian Baby Woodrose (ou trepadeira elefante), mas apesar do nome não é originária do Hawaii, e sim da região asiática onde hoje encontra-se a Índia. Embora esta espécie tenha uma história de uso medicinal relativamente antiga em algumas tribos asiáticas, é interessante notar que somente a partir dos anos de 1960 é que as propriedades psicoativas das sementes de Argyreia foram descobertas, o que representa uma data muito recente, em comparação com outras plantas enteógenas conhecidas há muito mais tempo. Os estudos de Richard E. Schultes e Terrence Mckenna, dois renomados pesquisadores de plantas e seus usos como enteógenos, apenas citam vagamente esta espécie ou não reportam nenhum uso de Argyreia nervosa antes de 1960.

Na medicina ayurvedica, a Argyreia nervosa é considerada uma planta adaptógena ou uma rasayana, que são as ervas e seus extratos ou substâncias utilizadas para promover a saúde física e mental, bem como melhorar os mecanismos de defesa do organismo e aumentar a longevidade. Na língua sânscrita, Argyreia é chamada Vridhadaraka, que significa “anti envelhecimento”, o que parece afirmar sua relação como planta adaptógena, pois os relatos de uso citam sua utilização na cura espiritual, como um poderoso remédio anti estresse e promotor de saúde mental. Essas práticas medicinais não foram muito difundidas no mundo ocidental moderno, onde o conhecimento empírico sobre as formas de uso de muitos outros compostos psicoativos não tem raízes naturais como ocorre na tradição dos povos do oriente.

Considerando o exemplo de Argyreia nervosa e o fato da evolução recente dos alcalóides nos grupos mais derivados de plantas, parece haver um paralelo de duas correntes de pensamento: No mundo ocidental, estamos (re)descobrimento os alcalóides e suas propriedades no organismo humano, bem como aprimorando uma percepção sobre a simbologia associada às experiências com enteógenos, quando nos comparamos aos povos antigos, que já possuíam esse conhecimento há muito mais tempo. E, por outro lado, estamos apenas começando a conhecer o vasto mundo dos compostos vegetais psicoativos e seus efeitos, pois tais substâncias são características das plantas mais recentes na história evolutiva e, provavelmente, estão sendo aprimoradas por elas e muitas outras substâncias ainda surgirão.



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