Belladonna (Atropa belladonna) is not a common herb found in your garden. While it has its benefits, it is considered as one of the most toxic plants in the Western hemisphere. All parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids. Consuming only 2-5 berries by children and 10-20 berries by adults can be lethal. The root of the plant is generally the most toxic part, however a single leaf can be fatal to an adult.
Belladonna, nicknamed “deadly nightshade”, is a perennial herb native to Europe and Asia Minor but now is grown often in the United States, Europe, and India. When the plant is in full bloom the plant is harvested and then dried for use.
In the earliest times when Belladonna was first used it was cosmetic purposes. Women felt that if they used it to dilate their pupils that they would look more sexy. That is why the name Belladonna means “beautiful lady” in Italian. It is still used in many eye doctors’ offices across the country to this day.
An important contribution from Belladonna is atropine which is an agent in dilating the pupils of the eye. Some cough syrups are known to contain atropine and are used for bronchitis and whooping cough. Further it is used to soothe the stomach lining prior to an anesthetic being administered and also for peptic ulcers.
Belladonna is used in ointments for joint pain (rheumatism), nerve pain (neuralgia), and leg pain caused by a disc in the backbone pushing on the sciatic nerve (sciatica). Belladonna is also used in plasters (medicine-filled gauze applied to the skin) for treating psychiatric disorders, a behavior disorder called hyperkinesis, excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), and bronchial asthma.
Belladonna also has other great benefits for purposes of what it is used for today as it has the ability to dry up bodily fluids such as breast milk, saliva, perspiration, and mucous. The alkaloids in Belladonna are used for many conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders such as colitis, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, colic, diarrhea, and peptic ulcer. It also works for excessive nighttime urination and incontinence, headaches and migraines, motion sickness, Parkinson’s disease, and biliary colic, and is used in hemorrhoid suppositories.
Quite often Belladonna is used as homeopathic remedies such as the common cold, earaches, fever, menstrual cramps, sunstroke, toothaches, headaches, sore throats, and boils. How the patient ingests and how much they ingest is determined by a few various factors such as their symptoms, mood, and overall temperament. When Belladonna is administered for homeopathic use it is highly diluted because of the toxicity level in it.
No one should ever use Belladonna as a self help measure and it should only be taken under the care of a qualified doctor. The doses given of Belladonna are always in very low doses. When Belladonna is prescribed it is either added to sugar pellets or mixed with other types of drugs and is available by prescription only.
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT BELLADONNA: Acetylcholine is one of the nervous system’s chief chemicals, and Belladonna interferes with its action, affecting the heart muscle and the smooth muscle in the digestive tract. If swallowed it induces fever, sleep, loss of voice, and racing pulse. Touching the berries can cause eruptions on the face and visual impairment, and the sap of the plant can cause dermatitis. It has been reported that people have died after eating rabbits which have fed on the berries. Belladonna is not to be used in home gardens where children or pets have access to the plant, it is an extremely dangerous herb.