Veratramine is a teratogenic steroid alkaloid found in plants of the genus Veratrum. The Veratrum genus is one of coarse, highly poisonous herbs, also known as corn lilies. It is their toxic characteristic that has made them an interesting target for research in a variety of areas, including cancer research and cardiovascular research, and the full extent of its applications is still being studied.
Veratramine was found to significantly inhibit the hedgehog signaling pathway in NIH/3T3 cells in a study involving several different kinds of steroidal alkaloids. The hedgehog signaling pathway has been found to be a vital force behind tumor self renewal in some types of tumor-initiating cells, and inhibition of the pathway is being targeted as a possible treatment for those types of cancers.
Veratramine also produces a characteristic excitatory action on the central nervous system, accompanied by changes in serotonin content in the hypothalamus. Results indicate that Veratramine may be a serotonin agonist, a mechanism that would explain Veratramine’s action in the experiment. A different study showed that Veratramine prevents or abolishes the cardioaccelerator action of epinephrine in doses which do not negate its vasopressor effect.