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Atropa belladonna (Solanaceae)

BELLADONNA, DEADLY NIGHTSHADE, DEVIL'S CHERRIES

 

This poisonous herb is used in pharmaceutical, homeopathic and herbal preparations for many conditions from arthritis to cramps. However, the plant is dangerous if misused.

 

Legend has it that the devil tends the growing plant, which contains one of the most medicinally used poisons. Duncan I of Scotland had Macbeth's soldiers drug an entire Danish army with a gift of belladonna-laced liqueur, so they could be murdered in their comatose sleep. The name belladonna derives from the historic habit of Italian women using the plant to dilate their pupils, so making them more alluring. A native of southern Europe but also found in Asia, north Africa and North America, it is perennial with egg-shaped leaves. Purple bell-shaped flowers are produced in summer, followed by highly poisonous black berries.

 

PARTS USED

Whole herb, dried root.

 

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS

Alkaloids, including hyoscyamine, hyoscine, and atropine; flavonoids.

 

ACTIONS

Narcotic; sedative; dilates the pupils; reduces muscle tension and spasm.

 

MEDICINAL USE

Given for severe intestinal, renal or gallbladder colic, for excessive salivation or sweating, and for bronchial conditions such as asthma. It has also been used externally for rheumatic pain. Side effects include palpitations, raised blood pressure, and intense thirst. Used in homeopathy (Belladonna) for hot fevers, headache, teething, colds, sore throats, dry cough, abdominal pain, fever, and convulsions. In orthodox medicine, belladonna preparations are still prescribed for intestinal cramps, indigestion, migraine, and arthritis.

 

PREPARATIONS

Infusion, tincture, cream, plasters, homeopathic remedies, pharmaceutical preparations.

 

CAUTION

An overdose is dangerous and can even be lethal.

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