Alkamides, or alkylamides, are fatty acid amides produced by plants from the genera Echinacea, Acmella, Spilanthes, and Heliopsis among others. Alkamides contain varying head groups, an amide moiety, and a fatty acid tail with varying numbers of carbons and double and triple bonds. Extracts from these plants have been used worldwide by native peoples for the treatment of numerous medical disorders, including bacterial and viral infections, inflammation, liver and kidney disorders, and pain. In vitro, these molecules display a variety of different activities depending on the cell type tested. Studies with neurons, macrophages and mast cells have revealed interactions between alkamides and a number of different cells surface receptors and intracellular signaling molecules. Generally, the alkamides have been found to exert suppressive effects, inhibiting cellular activation. In this report we introduce the structure of alkamides and review their effects in a number of different cellular systems. We also describe structure:function studies that have been performed with alkamides. While these studies have not as yet revealed general rules for alkamide activity, interesting insights have been revealed. The stage is set for the development of synthetic, designer alkamides with targeted in vivo activities.
Part of the book: Natural Drugs from Plants