Atropa belladonna, popularly known as deadly nightshade, is a magnificent and beautiful poisonous plant, which, if it is used in strict quantities and under the guidance of doctors, is very useful in internal medicine and surgery. The plant is very beautiful and appears to have emerged from Paradise. It has green leaves and gorgeous red flowers, with extraordinarily beautiful shapes, while its fruits look like waxy-looking blackberries. Here is what you can find out in this article:
* The origins of the nightshade
* The history of the nightshade
* The current uses of the nightshade
* The toxic doses of the nightshade
Surprisingly or not, Atropa belladonna, or the deadly nightshade, shares its family, the nightshade family, with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, wolfberry, tobacco, and chili peppers. This beautiful flower grows in temperate climates, typically in Eastern and Central Europe, Turkey, North Africa, and the Caucasus. Atropa belladonna is not easily found in gardens, but when it is, the reason is its impressive height and the showy berries.
What is more, this flower has a difficult germination process because of the hard coat of the seed that usually leads to seed dormancy. When there is an alternating temperature condition, the germination of its seed can last for a few weeks. The seedlings require sterile soil.
A Few Words About the Dark History of Deadly Nightshade
The flower was used during the Middle Ages in beauty tonics that pigmented their skin, offering them a beautiful blush. The plant also diluted the pupils, which was a fashion trend at the time. This is how the plant obtained its name, Atropa Belladonna, which means ‘beautiful lady’ in Italian.
Despite its innocent early uses, the deadly nightshade started soon to be used for far darker uses. Many assassins around the world started to use it for its deadly compounds, the Scopolamine and Atropine. These toxic elements were added to drinks, sending adults into paralysis and causing delirium, hallucinations, convulsions, and death.
Throughout history, this beautiful flower killed emperors, kings, and many warriors. For instance, Roman armies used this plant to make a deadly paste in which they dipped their arrows to make them extra deadly.
For many centuries, the flower was known as an ingredient for poisons and beauty tonics. However, it also reinvented itself as a medicinal plant used to treat various ailments and illnesses. The medical applications of the deadly nightshade include muscle and pain relief, fighting inflammation, but also used as a treatment for hay fever and whooping cough.
The Use of Atropa Belladonna in Medicine
This poisonous plant has two substances that cause all the problems: alkaloids called Atropine (or Hyoscyamine) and Scopolamine or Solanine. These ingredients are so powerful that a tiny amount introduced into a drink or food leads to paralysis, severe hallucinations, confusion, convulsions, and death.
Surgeons use atropine to regulate heartbeat during surgery because this substance causes paralysis of the muscles, needed during surgery, and this substance also prevents excessive salivation.
Uses of Atropa Belladona as a Dietary Supplement
The nightshade is considered a dietary supplement in the United States, known as an atropine ingredient found in over-the-counter cold medicine. Despite their safety for oral use as they contain less than 0.2-milligram atropine dosage, the effectiveness of such cold medicine is still disputed. Another factor that contributes to this is that there are no FDA regulation standards regarding the cold medicine that contains atropine.
The Use of Atropa Belladonna in Cosmetics
Although initially, this plant was used by women in the Middle Ages to offer them a blush-like appearance and to contract the pupils, these practices are no longer considered seductive or attractive. Because of this, the plant is no longer used in the cosmetics industry. This is because the plant has many adverse effects that lead to visual distortion, render people’s ability to focus on nearby objects, and can increase the heart rate. What is more, the prolonged use of this plant caused blindness.
The Use of Atropa Belladonna as a Recreational Drug
Atropa belladonna can create vivid hallucinations and even delirium, so it has been used as a recreational drug, although the effects experienced by people are most often described as unpleasant. The administration of Atropa belladonna as a recreational drug is extremely dangerous because there is a high risk of unintentional fatal overdose that can lead to death.
The effects of the atropine regarding the central nervous system are related to memory disruption, which can, in turn, lead to severe confusion. Its effects can last approximately four hours to a severe extent, but hallucinations can occur even up to four days after its consumption. Other minor effects can more days.
Toxicity of Nightshade
The two killing substances of the nightshade are extremely powerful. Ten to twenty fruits of the plant can kill an adult, while children cannot resist more than two to a maximum of four fruits. Children are more exposed to undesirable effects as a result of accidentally consuming the fruits of this flower of unspeakable beauty.
The first signs of mild belladonna intoxication are delirium and hallucinations. In this case, you have to go to the hospital as soon as possible.
This plant is very dangerous for pets, so it is good to keep your furry friends away from these beautiful flowers. Both leaves and flowers can be deadly for dogs, cats, and other animals. However, cattle such as cows, ruminant animals, with stomachs and very high ruminating capacity, consume them with great pleasure. They savor them without any discomfort due to their metabolism.
Although deadly nightshade had a very dark history, there is no need to be worried about accidental poisoning with this plant. It is very difficult to grow it in your personal garden, and nowadays, it is rarely used for any cosmetic or medicinal uses, apart from its use for cold medicine in the US. However, the dosage is extremely low, and it does not trigger any side effects. Despite this, Atropa belladonna remains an extremely beautiful plant with a dark history.