- Family Solanaceae
- Atropa belladonna
- Deadly Nightshade, Devil’s Cherries, Devil’s Herb, Divale, Dwale, Dwayberry, Great Morel, Naughty Man’s Cherries, Poison Black Cherry, Black Cherry Root
- The therapeutic dose is very close to the lethal amount and should only be used under the strict supervision of a very knowledgeable professional. It can be fatal, especially in children.
It is a perennial with a strong narcotic smell, a sharp bitter taste, and extremely poisonous. It can be found throughout western, central, and southern Europe, in the Balkans, southeast Asia, Iran, India, Pakistan, northern Africa, Denmark, Sweden, and Ireland. It is cultivated in many other countries, including England, France, and the US, thriving in chalky soil, in woods, and on wastelands. The plant produces unmistakable cherry-sized, glossy, black berries in autumn. The leaves are collected from May to July, and the roots are unearthed from two to four-year-old plants, shortly before the start of the flowering season.
Belladonna is one of the more notorious poisonous plants; and, although the plant can be a deadly poison, if used correctly, it can be a beneficial medicine. Some of its components are used in conventional medicine, especially as eye drops to dilate the pupils for examinations or as an anesthetic.
The first recorded use of the herb was more for cosmetic reasons than therapeutic. The name "belladonna" means beautiful woman, and may have resulted from the practice of Italian, Egyptian, and Babylonian women who used it to dilate their eyes in order to appear more appealing to prospective suitors (not that they could see who was looking at them!)
It was also believed to help witches fly.
- smooth muscle antispasmodic
- reduces sweating
- contains tropane alkaloids (up to 0.6% mainly hyoscyamine which transforms during drying into atropine), apoatropine, scopolamine, and tropine.
- volatile bases (nicotine)
- Leaves, roots.
- The tropane alkaloid, hysoscyamine, inhibits the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls involuntary body activities. This reduces saliva, gastric, intestinal, and bronchial secretions, as well as the activity of the urinary tubules, bladder, and intestines.
- The alkaloids also increase the heart rate and dilate the pupils.
Homeopathic uses include meningitis, tonsillitis, respiratory organs, urogenital tract, skin, joints, and gastrointestinal tract, where the inflammations are accompanied by fever.
The root is used to treat liver and gall bladder complaints, as well as arrhythmia, cardiac insufficiency, nervous heart complaints, and colic-like pains in the gastrointestinal tracts and bile ducts.
In herbal medicine, tinctures are used as a strong relaxant, and prescribed mainly to relieve intestinal colic and peptic ulcer pain.
The herb can be used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's disease by reducing the tremors and rigidity and improving speech and mobility.
Plasters are used to treat gout, ulcers, and other neuro-vegetative condition,s as well as asthma.