Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Nightshade

Here's another poison from Book of Poisons: A Guide for Writers. Miranda Bliss featured this poison in the first novel, Cooking Up Murder, from her Cooking Class Mystery Series. The book provides scientific information, so I won’t attempt to paraphrase, but give you direct quotes.

Disclaimer: Do not attempt the method discussed. The information provided is meant for fiction writing only. Please keep it on the page.


Nightshade or Belladonna (p. 55-56):

Scientific Name: Atropa belladonna

Other: English nightshade, black nightshade, nightshade, banewort, deadly nightshade, dwale, sleeping nightshade, belladonna lily, Barbados lily, cape belladonna, devil’s cherries, naughty man’s cherries, divale, black cherry, devil’s herb, great morel, dwayberry lirio, naked lady lily, azuncena de Mejico.

Toxicity (scale of 1-6; 1=almost non-toxic, 6=super toxic): 6

Deadly Parts: All, especially roots, leaves, and berries.

Form: Reddish purple flowers appear June through July and the plants are sprinkled with dark, inky, sweet berries. The dull, darkish green leaves, unevenly sized, have a bitter taste fresh or dried. The young stems have soft, downy hairs. The thick, fleshy, and whitish root grows about six inches long. When crushed, the fresh plant gives an ungodly odor, but that leaves as the plant dries.

Effects and Symptoms: Dilated pupils; blurred vision; increased heart rate; hot, dry, red skin; dry mouth; disorientation; hallucinations; impaired vision; loud heartbeat, audible at several feet; aggressive behavior; rapid pulse; rapid respiration; anuria; fever; convulsions; coma; and death.

Reaction Time: Several hours to several days.

Antidotes and Treatments: The poisonous effects of belladonna berries may be prevented by swallowing an emetic to encourage vomiting and by gastric lavage. Some home emetics might be a large glass of warm vinegar, or mustard and water. This is followed by a dose of magnesia, stimulants, and strong coffee. Sometimes artificial respiration is needed. Symptoms special to those poisoned by belladonna are complete loss of voice and continual movements of the hands and fingers, as well as dilated eye pupils.  

1. The medical components of atropine, scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and hyoscine are used for sedatives and as antispasmodics, as they work by paralyzing the action at the nerve endings. The poison is eliminated almost entirely by the kidneys, if these are in good working order.

2. Introduced as a drug plant from England and France, it is found in Central and Southern Europe, southwest Asia, Eurasia, and Algeria. Belladonna is occasionally found in the wider and uncultivated areas or as an ornamental plant of the eastern United States.

3. Belladonna means “beautiful woman” in Italian. During the Renaissance, women applied an extract of the plant to their eyes to dilate their pupils and give them a wide and beautiful appearance.

4. Rabbits often eat belladonna and pass the effect onto anyone who might eat them.

5. A powder made form the leaves and roots of belladonna is used to treat asthma, colic, and an overabundance of stomach acid.  


Bob Scotney said...

Belladonna grows in my neighbour's hedge and trails across my garden. My secateurs soon cut it down to size.

magpiewrites said...

Deadly Nightshade, cousin of the tomato, right? Or did it just look like a tomato plant and people were afraid of tomatoes because of that? I am completely making this up?
Anyway, I gave you the prestigious Versatile Blog Award. You can see it here: http://bit.ly/dXjs0w, if you are into awards and such. If not, that's totally cool. Consider it a virtual high five.

Jeanne said...

I enjoyed reading your blog and your bio. Your blog is beautiful, rich and vibrant in color. I love it. Hope to see you again in the A-Z. Good luck in your writing.

Anna said...

Egads. I don't think I would have been brave enough to put it in my eyes, even if it did make me look like an anime character.

Josh Hoyt said...

So interesting and great research. I agree with Anna I would not put it in my eyes.

Susan Kane said...

We had a huge belladonna plant when we first moved to the farm. My grandmother told my father to get rid of it, and knew all about what it could do. She was a pharmacist in 1916, and kept her license for many years.
It was strange how we kids didn't touch it, just at her word. I wonder now if that would happen.

Amie Kaufman said...

In their eyes? Add me to the list of thsoe who wouldn't be game!

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