Herbal Use of Belladonna
Atropa belladonna, commonly known as belladonna or deadly nightshade, is a poisonous perennial herbaceous plant in the nightshade family Solanaceae, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant (aubergine). It is native to Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. Its distribution extends from Great Britain in the west to western Ukraine and the Iranian province of Gilan in the east. It is also naturalised or introduced in some parts of Canada and the United States.
The foliage and berries are extremely toxic when ingested, containing tropane alkaloids. These toxins include atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine, which cause delirium and hallucinations, and are also used as pharmaceutical anticholinergics.
These tropane alkaloids appear to be common in the family Solanaceae, as they are also present in plants of the genera Brugmansia, Datura and Hyoscyamus, of the same family but in different subfamilies and tribes than the nightshade. Atropa belladonna has unpredictable effects. The antidote for belladonna poisoning is physostigmine or pilocarpine, the same as for atropine.
Early research suggests that taking belladonna along with the drug phenobarbital by mouth for one month does not improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), asthma, whooping cough, Colds, Hay fever, Parkinson's disease, Motion sickness, Arthritis-like pain, Nerve problems, Hemorrhoids, Spasms and colic-like pain in the stomach and bile ducts and Other conditions. More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of belladonna for these uses.
Belladonna is so toxic that eating a small quantity of its leaves or berries can be fatal to humans, particularly children, and some animals. Simply touching the leaves can irritate your skin. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it is not safe when taken orally.
Belladonna is likely unsafe when taken by mouth. It contains chemicals that can be toxic. Side effects can include dry mouth, enlarged pupils, blurred vision, red dry skin, fever, fast heartbeat, inability to urinate or sweat, hallucinations, spasms, mental problems, convulsions, and coma.
You should not use belladonna if you are allergic to it, or if you have: narrow-angle glaucoma, a bladder obstruction, enlarged prostate, or other urination problems, a stomach or bowel obstruction (including paralytic ileus), severe ulcerative colitis or toxic mega colon, chronic constipation or lack of bowel function (especially in older adults and those who are ill or debilitated), glaucoma, myasthenia gravis, heart problems, especially when caused by a thyroid disorder or active bleeding with fast heartbeats, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, and cold hands or feet.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not test homeopathic and herbal supplements for safety or effectiveness. According to the NIH, there isn’t enough evidence to prove that belladonna is effective for the uses we see on product labels.
Belladonna contains chemicals that cause a drying effect. It also affects the brain and heart. Drying medications called anticholinergic drugs can also cause these effects. Taking belladonna and drying medications together might cause side effects including dry skin, dizziness, low blood pressure, fast heartbeat, and other serious side effects. Some of these drying medications include atropine, scopolamine, and some medications used for allergies (antihistamines), and for depression (antidepressants).
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