Atropa belladonna has unpredictable effects. The antidote for belladonna poisoning is physostigmine or pilocarpine, the same as for atropine. It has a long history of use as a medicine, cosmetic, and poison. Before the Middle Ages, it was used as an anesthetic for surgery; the ancient Romans used it as a poison (the wife of Emperor Augustus and the wife of Claudius both were rumored to have used it for murder); and, predating this, it was used to make poison-tipped arrows. The genus name Atropa comes from Atropos, one of the three Fates in Greek mythology, and the name “bella donna” is derived from Italian and means “beautiful woman” because the herb was used in eye-drops by women to dilate the pupils of the eyes to make them appear seductive.
Belladonna is one of the most toxic plants found in the Eastern Hemisphere. All parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids.Roots have up to 1.3%, leaves 1.2%, stalks 0.65%, flowers 0.6%, ripe berries 0.7%, and seeds 0.4% tropane alkaloids; leaves reach maximal alkaloid content when the plant is budding and flowering, roots are most poisonous at the end of the plant’s vegetation period.Belladonna nectar is transformed by bees into honey that also contains tropane alkaloids.The berries pose the greatest danger to children because they look attractive and have a somewhat sweet taste.The root of the plant is generally the most toxic part, though this can vary from one specimen to another. Belladonna leaves and berries are gathered when the berries are almost ripe and alkaloid content is greatest which makes them suited for medicinal use.
Click Next Button (>) to see Next