The genus Sceletium, classified under the Aizoaceae family, is indigenous to the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape province of South Africa. There are currently eight reported species divided into two main “types” with five species in the tortuosum and three in the emarcidum type. It has been observed that, in general, mesembrine‐type alkaloids such as mesembrenol, Δ7mesembrenone, mesembranol, mesembrenone, mesembrine and epimesembranol as well as some non‐mesembrine type such as Sceletium A4, tortuosamine and joubertiamine occur in the tortuosum type; the emarcidum type is devoid of alkaloids. Morphological identification of species type presents a formidable challenge, where subtle differences are found in the secondary veins that branch off from the middle vein toward the leaf margin. In view of the fact that the plant contains a complex mixture of closely related compounds, in particular alkaloidal components, separation techniques and their application to evaluate specific chemical components are an important aspect which permits accurate characterization and quantification. In addition, the development of appropriate analytical methods for chemotaxonomic studies has provided valuable information to confirm specific plant identity. Importantly, these methods are also required for the quality control of plant material used to manufacture complementary and traditional medicines containing Sceletium.
Part of the book: Alkaloids