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About the AJPPS Cover Illustration


The AJPPS cover illustration depicts a flowering twig and fruit pod of esere, the Calabar bean plant (Physostigma venenosum Balfour), and the chemical structure of its principal alkaloid, eserine (physostigmine), on a background of pharmaceutical solid dosage forms. This concept broadly captures the rich history and culture of southern Nigeria and the many contributions of tropical Africa to the foundations of modern medicine. The physostigma plant grows across tropical West and Central Africa and is particularly abundant in southern Nigeria and Cameroon. The Efik people of Calabar have from antiquity used the seeds of esere as an ordeal poison to assess guilt when serious infraction of native norms was alleged. Prepared secundum artem, a measured decoction of the dried seeds when given to the innocent would elicit vomiting and no serious sequelae whereas the guilty would succumb to excessive salivation, lacrimation, colic, diarrhea, convulsions, cardiac dysrhythmias, delirium, coma, and death. While the Africans were content to rely on the face validity of their stratagem for quickly disposing of felonious allegations, Scottish missionaries repatriated samples of esere seeds to Europe in the mid 1800’s for scrutiny. Subsequent systematic studies by English botanists, chemists and physicians led to the discovery of the phytochemical eserine or physostigmine and its physiological effects as a cholinesterase inhibitor. German-born chemist Otto Loewi conducted studies of physostigmine that led to the discovery of chemical transmitters for which he was awarded the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Enabling the authentication and acceleration of subsequent progress was the first successful chemical synthesis of physostigmine by the African American chemist, Dr. Percy Julian, in 1935. Physostigmine remains in clinical use for treatment of myasthenia gravis, to facilitate gastric emptying, and to quickly reverse the effects of poisoning with atropine, sedatives, antidepressants and neuromuscular blocking agents. The discovery of physostigmine as a reversible cholinesterase inhibitor led to the discovery of acetylcholine as a parasympathomimetic, which led to the discovery of chemical neurotransmission, the enunciation of receptor theories of drug action, and the birth of pharmacology as a scientific discipline standing astride the healing professions of pharmacy and medicine.