Sanguinarine - How toothpaste can cause cancer and mustard can cause swollen limbs

  • quaternary benzophenanthridine glycoside alkaloid synthesized by plants belonging to the Papaveraceae, Fumariaceae, and Rutaceae families
    • quaternary compounds possess a permanent positive charge, making them exceedingly lousy at passing through fatty things like cell membranes
    • specific plants include Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot), Chelidonium majus (Greater celandine), and Argemone mexicana (Mexican prickly poppy)
  • the seeds of Argemone mexicana look very much like mustard seeds, which can (and has) lead to the adulteration of foods cooked using mustard oil with sanguinarine
    • people consuming said foods this thing called epidemic dropsy, which features such exciting symptoms as your limbs swelling up (extremity swelling with pitting edema), anemia, heart failure, renal failure, and glaucoma
  • found in some mouthwashes and toothpastes since it kills bacteria (helping to reduce dental caries) and has antiinflammatory effects (apparently helping to reduce gingivitis)
    • Viadent, a toothpaste/mouthwash brand that contains sanguinarine, has been linked to oral leukoplakia
  • has been shown to induce apoptosis in certain cancer cell lines, possibly related to its ability to inhibit the activation of nuclear transcription factor NF-kB (which is involved in regulating cell growth and apoptosis and stuff) or promote the production of reactive oxygen species and/or mitochondrial membrane depolarization
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- Allen CL, Loudon J, Mascarenhas AK. Sanguinaria-related leukoplakia: epidemiologic and clinicopathologic features of a recently described entity. Gen Dent. 2001 Nov-Dec;49(6):608-14.
- Chang MC et al. Induction of necrosis and apoptosis to KB cancer cells by sanguinarine is associated with reactive oxygen species production and mitochondrial membrane depolarization. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2007 Jan 15;218(2):143-51. Epub 2006 Nov 1.

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