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Botanical Name :Atropa belladonna or Atropa bella-donna,
Species: A. belladonna
Other name:–Nightshade, Deadly
Parts Used—Root, leaves, tops.
Habitat: —Widely distributed over Central and Southern Europe, South-west Asia and Algeria; cultivated in England, France and North America.
It is not nearly as common in the wild as many field guides would suggest. This is because it is readily attacked by mint flea beetles Longitarsus waterhousei and has a low tolerance for direct sunlight. In areas where it has become naturalized it can often be found in shady, moist areas with a limestone-rich soil.
The Belladonna has dull green leaves and bell-shaped flowers that are an unremarkable shade of purple, which yield black, shiny berries measuring approximately 1 cm in diameter. The berries are sweet, but most of their alkaloids are in the seed.
It is an herbaceous shrub, and can grow to be approximately one metre tall. The leaves have an oily, “poison ivy”-like feel and can cause vesicular pustular eruptions if handled carelessly. Many animals, such as rabbits, birds and deer, seem to eat the plant without suffering harmful effects, though dogs and cats are affected. Many reports suggest that people have been poisoned by eating animals which have previously eaten Belladonna, though this has not been verified.
Germination is often difficult due to the presence of germination inhibitors in the seeds. Belladonna is not common as a garden plant, and is considered a weed in some areas. It is not a very hardy perennial and is sensitive to being transplanted. Germination requires several weeks in warm, moist, absolutely sterile soil, usually far from normal garden conditions.
The root is thick, fleshy and whitish, about 6 inches long, or more, and branching. It is perennial. The purplishcoloured stem is annual and herbaceous. It is stout, 2 to 4 feet high, undivided at the base, but dividing a little above the ground into three – more rarely two or four branches, each of which again branches freely.
First-year plants grow only about 1 1/2 feet in height. Their leaves are often larger than in full-grown plants and grow on the stem immediately above the ground. Older plants attain a height of 3 to 5 feet, occasionally even 6 feet, the leaves growing about 1 to 2 feet from the ground.
The flowers, which appear in June and July, singly, in the axils of the leaves, and continue blooming until early September, are of a dark and dingy purplish colour, tinged with green, large (about an inch long), pendent, bell-shaped, furrowed, the corolla with five large teeth or lobes, slightly reflexed. The five-cleft calyx spreads round the base of the smooth berry, which ripens in September, when it acquires a shining black colour and is in size like a small cherry. It contains several seeds. The berries are full of a dark, inky juice, and are intensely sweet, and their attraction to children on that account, has from their poisonous properties, been attended with fatal results.
-Belladonna herb and root are sold by analysis, the value depending upon the percentage of alkaloid contained. A wide variation occurs in the amount of alkaloid present. It is important, therefore, to grow the crop under such conditions of soil and temperature as are likely to develop the highest percentage of the active principle.
Constituents: atropine,belladonnine ,choline,esculetin,hyoscyamine,nicotine ,scopolamine,tropine ,umbelliferone
Medicinal Action and Uses:
Narcotic, diuretic, sedative, antispasmodic, mydriatic. Belladonna is a most valuable plant in the treatment of eye diseases, Atropine, obtained during extraction, being its most important constituent on account of its power of dilating the pupil.
Atropine will have this effect in whatever way used, whether internally, or injected under the skin, but when dropped into the eye, a much smaller quantity suffices, the tiny discs oculists using for this purpose, before testing their patient’s sight for glasses, being made of gelatine with 1/50000 grain of Atropine in each, the entire disk only weighing 1/50 grain.
Scarcely any operation on the eye can safely be performed without the aid of this valuable drug. It is a strong poison, the amount given internally being very minute, 1/200 to 1/100 grain. As an antidote to Opium, Atropine may be injected subcutaneously, and it has also been used in poisoning by Calabar bean and in Chloroform poisoning. It has no action on the voluntary muscles, but the nerve endings in involuntary muscles are paralysed by large doses, the paralysis finally affecting the central nervous system, causing excitement and delirium.
The name belladonna originates from the historic use by women (Bella Donna is Italian for beautiful lady) to dilate their pupils; an extract of belladonna was used as eye drops as part of their makeup preparations. The Belladonna toxin’s atropine content had the effect of dilating the pupil, thus making their eyes supposedly more attractive. It is now known that atropine has anticholinergic activity – by blocking the ability of the iris to constrict, mydriasis results. Dilated pupils are considered more attractive (especially with females) because pupils normally dilate when a person is aroused, thus making eye contact much more intense than it already is. It had the adverse effect of making their vision a little blurry and making their heart rates increase. Prolonged usage was reputed to cause blindness.
Occasionally, the plant is used for recreational purposes: it is consumed in the form of either a tea or simply raw, which can produce vivid hallucinations, described by many as a ‘living dream’. Upon consumption of this plant, the user will experience all the severe, adverse anticholinergic effects before hallucinating and continue to do so while hallucinating. Use for recreational purposes is considered dangerous because of the risk of accidental overdose.
The plant is an important source of atropine, which is an effective antidote to the effects of poisoning by cholinesterase inhibitors such as Parathion and Malathion. Atropine will also reverse the effects of poisoning by nerve agents designed for chemical warfare. In Europe, the plant is specifically cultivated for this purpose.
Optometrists and ophthalmologists use atropine for pupil dilation in eye examinations, though the dose used is small. Atropine degrades slowly, typically wearing off in 2 to 3 days, so tropicamide and phenylephrine is generally preferred as a mydriatic. Atropine is contraindicated in patients predisposed to narrow angle glaucoma.
Belladonna (as Atropa Belladonna Extract) can also be found in some over-the-counter cold and flu medicines (in small amounts) due to its pseudoephedrine-like qualities of clearing up nasal and other passages where mucus forms.
Homeopathy claims Belladonna can cure or treat a variety of afflictions, including conjunctivitis, so long as the ingested preparation is so dilute as to have very few, if any, molecules of Belladonna left therein.
Eye disorders: Belladonna extracts are employed to dilate the pupil of eye for age tests and eye surgery. Extracts of it’s root and leaf are used to treat spasms and colic like pain in the gastrointestinal trac and bile duct.
Brain & nervous system: Belladonna affects the brain and the central nervous system.It disrupts the effect of acetylcholine which is chemical messenger in the nervous system.
Antispasmodic : Belladonna is an antispasmodic and can be used as a local anesthetic.
Thyroid disorders : Minute dose of belladonna can be used to treat scarlet fever and thyroid disorders as a Homeopathic medicine. Pharmacologists have also found sedative effect and narcotic qualities in belladonna. It is an ingredient in prescription drugs such as Donnatal and Laugin.
Belladonna should not be used by persons with narrow -angle glaucoma.It is also contraindicated for men with prostate problems.Over dose of belladonna can cause red and dry skin, dry mouth, prolonged dilation of the pupils, rapid heart beat,restlessness,hallucinations and problematic urinating.It can magnify the effects of prescription drugs such as Amatadine and Quinidine.
Powdered and extracts of belladonna are available in drug stores. It can be used as ingredients in prescription drugs.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Help taken from:http://en.wikipedia.org, www.botanical.com and Miracles of Herbs and http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail209.php