Fingerprint analysis of thermolytic decarboxylation of tryptophan to tryptamine catalyzed by natural oils

Cláudia P B Martins, M. Ali Awan, Sally Freeman, Tomás Herraiz, John F. Alder, Simon D. Brandt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A number of N,N-dialkylated tryptamines show psychoactive properties in man which resulted in a renewed interest in psychopharmacological research. Attempts to manufacture these derivatives are increasing within a clandestine environment, where literature procedures are adapted and information is exchanged on the Internet. One such example is based on the thermolytic decarboxylation of tryptophan to tryptamine as the precursor to psychoactive derivatives. This procedure was proposed to make use of household solvents such as turpentine substitute and white spirit to facilitate decarboxylation. Discussions on websites also suggested the catalytic use of natural oils in order to accelerate these reactions. In this research, the analytical characterization of this preparation procedure was carried out using gas chromatography-ion trap single and tandem stage mass spectrometry in electron and chemical ionization mode that led to the identification of previously unreported 1-mono and 1,1-disubstituted tetrahydro-β-carboline (THBCs) by-products. The tryptamine product and several THBC by-products were determined quantitatively and a "fingerprint" analysis of the crude products allowed for the differentiation between the essential oil catalysts involved as indicated by the presence of tetrahydro-β-carbolines and their imine intermediates. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)115-120
    Number of pages5
    JournalJournal of Chromatography A
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2008


    • Decarboxylation
    • Forensic
    • GC-MS
    • Hallucinogens
    • Tetrahydro-β-carbolines
    • Tryptamines


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