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Botanical Name : Atropa acuminata Royle
Family : Solanaceae
Species: Atropa acuminata
Atropa lutescens Jacq. ex C.B. Clarke in Hook.f., , Fl. Brit. India vol. 4, 241. 1885.
Atropa belladonna var. flava Pater in Pharm. Zentralh. vol. 63, 77. 1922.
Atropa bella-donna var. lutea Döll , Flora Grossh. Baden vol. 2, 770. 1859.
Atropa pallida Bornm. in Beih. Bot. Centralbl. vol. 33, 305. 1915.
Common Names :Belladona, Jharka, Jalgi, Deadly night shade
Habitat :The species is native to Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia, and has become naturalized in parts of North America. In areas where it has become naturalized it can often be found in shady, moist areas with a limestone-rich soil. The name bella donna is derived from Italian and means “beautiful woman”; E. Iran, E. Afghanistan, eastwards to Kashmir, Mongolia.
It is a perennial herbaceous plant grows up to 1.6 m tall, branched. Stem and branches fistular, young shoots puberulous. Leaves 8-17 x 4.5-8.0 cm, elliptic-lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, acuminate, cuneate. Petiole up to 20 mm long. Calyx 9-15 mm long, up to 20 mm in fruit, ± cupular, puberulous; lobes 6-10 mm long, ovate-acute, unequal, persistent. Corolla 20-23 mm long, yellow; lobes obtuse. Stamens included. Anthers c. 3 mm long, oblong filaments 10-11 mm long. Berry globose, 10 mm broad black when ripe. Seeds subreniform, 2 mm long, reticulate, foveolate, brown.
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All parts of the plant contain the alkaloids atropine, hyoscyamine and bellodonnine, which are used as a sedative, antispasmodic, in convulsive disorders and as an antidote for poisoning. The black berries are very poisonous and cause delirium and dilation of the pupils.
The drug atropine is produced from the foliage, which along with the berries are extremely toxic, with hallucinogenic properties.
There is currently insufficient scientific evidence to recommend the use of belladonna for any condition, although some of its components have accepted medical uses. The alkaloid l-atropine was purified from belladona in the 1830s, enabling studies of the autonomic nervous system leading to the recognition of the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Atropine reverses the effects of poisoning by organophosphate nerve agents used for chemical warfare. Atropine is also widely used as a cardiac medication to increase the heart rate of patients suffering from bradycardia.
Donnatal, a prescription pharmaceutical approved in the United States by the FDA to “provide peripheral anticholinergic/antispasmodic action and mild sedation”, is a phenobarbital formulation also containing alkaloids derived from belladonna. It is also labeled as not being tested for effectiveness in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and acute enterocolitis and as an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of duodenal ulcers.
“A. belladonna” has been used in traditional treatments for centuries for an assortment of conditions including headache, menstrual symptoms, peptic ulcer disease, histaminic reaction, inflammation, and motion sickness. Homeopathic preparations with the name “belladonna” have been sold as treatments for various conditions.
“Atropa belladonna”, along with related plants such as jimson weed, has occasionally been used as a recreational drug because of the vivid hallucinations and delirium that it produces. These hallucinations are most commonly described as very unpleasant, however, and recreational use is considered extremely dangerous because of the high risk of unintentional fatal overdose.
In the past, it was believed that witches used a mixture of belladonna, opium poppy, and other plants, typically poisonous (such as monkshood and poison hemlock) in flying ointment they applied to help them fly to gatherings with other witches. Carlo Ginzburg and others have argued that flying ointments were preparations meant to encourage hallucinatory dreaming; a possible explanation for the inclusion of belladonna and opium poppy in flying ointments concerns the known antagonism between tropane alkaloids of belladonna (specifically scopolamine) and opiate alkaloids in Papaver somniferum (specifically morphine), which produces a dream-like waking state. This antagonism was known in folk medicine, discussed in eclectic (botanical) medicine formularies and posited as the explanation of how flying ointments might have actually worked in contemporary writing on witchcraft.The antagonism between opiates and tropanes is the original basis of the Twilight Sleep that was provided to Queen Victoria to deaden pain as well as consciousness during childbirth, and which was later modified so that isolated alkaloids were used instead of plant materials, the whole belladonna herb especially being notable for its unpredictability of effect and toxicity.
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*Improvement of sexual destination in Atropa acuminata Royle (Solanaceae)–a critically endangered medicinal plant of Northwestern Himalaya.
*Pakistan Journal of Biological Science
Cosmetics : The common name “belladonna” originates from its historic use by women – “Bella Donna” is Italian for “beautiful lady.” Drops prepared from the belladonna plant were used to dilate women’s pupils, an effect considered attractive.
Today it is known that the atropine in belladonna acts as an antimuscarinic, blocking receptors in the muscles of the eye that constrict pupil size.
] Belladonna is currently rarely used cosmetically, as it carries the adverse effects of causing minor visual distortions, inability to focus on near objects, and increased heart rate. Prolonged usage was reputed to cause blindness.
Belladonna is one of the most toxic plants found in the Western hemisphere. All parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids. The berries pose the greatest danger to children because they look attractive and have a somewhat sweet taste. The consumption of two to five berries by children and ten to twenty berries by adults can be lethal. The root of the plant is generally the most toxic part, though this can vary from one specimen to another. Ingestion of a single leaf of the plant can be fatal to an adult.
The active agents in Belladonna, atropine, hyoscine (scopolamine), and hyoscyamine, have anticholinergic properties. The symptoms of belladonna poisoning include dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, tachycardia, loss of balance, staggering, headache, rash, flushing, dry mouth and throat, slurred speech, urinary retention, constipation, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions,
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.