Zanthoxylum gilletii is an African indigenous deciduous tree which is important for its medicinal use in many communities to treat a wide range of ailments. This study was conducted to identify the alkaloids present in the bark, root and leaves of the Kenyan Z. gilletii. The plant materials were randomly sampled, dried at room temperature, powdered and subjected to thin layer chromatography (TLC), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS) analyses for the alkaloid confirmatory tests. The bark, root and leaf extract contained peroxysimulenoline, sanguinarine, fagarine I, norchelerythrine (dihydroavicine or demethylnitidine), trans-fagaramide, 8-methylnorchelerythrine and dihydronitidine alkaloids. The distribution of the alkaloids appeared to be quite variable within different plant parts and different regions. The identified alkaloids have been documented to be useful for their medicinal value in humans and also protect the plants against predation. The medicinal value of Z. gilletii may be due to its contents of varied alkaloids. The information on alkaloidal variation in the species has potential value and practical applications in chemotaxonomy, toxicology and pharmacognosy. The present findings may be useful in optimizing the processing and wild-harvesting of these alkaloids.
Key words: Zanthoxylum gilletii, chemotaxonomy, pharmacognosy, liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.
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