Arecoline is a strong base, with pKa ~ 6.8. Arecoline is volatile in steam, miscible with most organic solvents and water, but extractable from the latter by ether in presence of dissolved salts. Being basic, arecoline forms salts with acids. The salts are crystalline, but usually deliquescent: the hydrochloride, arecoline•HCl, forms needles, m.p. 158°C; the hydrobromide, arecoline•HBr, forms slender prisms, mp. 177-179 °C from hot alcohol; the aurichloride, arecoline•HAuCl4, is an oil, but the platinichloride, arecoline2•H2PtCl6, mp. 176 °C, crystallizes from water in orange-red rhombohedrons. The methiodide forms glancing prisms, mp. 173-174 °C.
In many Asian cultures, the areca nut is chewed along with betel leaf to obtain a stimulating effect. Arecoline is the primary active ingredient responsible for the central nervous system effects of the areca nut. Arecoline has been compared to nicotine; however, nicotine acts primarily on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. Arecoline is known to be a partial agonist of muscarinicacetylcholine M1, M2, M3 receptors and M4, which is believed to be the primary cause of its parasympathetic effects (such as pupillary constriction, bronchial constriction, etc.).
LD50: 100 mg/kg, administered subcutaneously in mouse.
Owing to its muscarinic and nicotinic agonist properties, arecoline has shown improvement in the learning ability of healthy volunteers. Since one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease is a cognitive decline, arecoline was suggested as a treatment to slow down this process and arecoline administered intravenously did indeed show modest verbal and spatial memory improvement in Alzheimer's patients, though due to arecoline's possible carcinogenic properties, it is not the first drug of choice for this degenerative disease.
Arecoline has also been used medicinally as an antihelmintic (a drug against parasitic worms).
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