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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.