Atropa spp.



Deadly Nightshade. An extremely toxic plant, containing fatal levels of atropine. Known as `belladonna` because ladies in ancient Greece would use drops in their eyes to dilate their pupils.
Atropine is an essential medicinal compound. In small doses to dry mucous membranes or in high doses in emergency medicine to boost heat rate. (HIGHLY TOXIC!)

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Atropa spp.

(HIGHLY TOXIC!)

Important legal information for Australian customers: The sale of Belladonna herb is prohibited under the Standard for the uniform scheduling of drugs and poisons (Australia) Schedule 2 & 4. The plants are offered as botanical study material only! We sometimes offer the foliage of the almost identical and legal alternative Atropa acuminata.


Botanical information

A perenniel plant, it grow to a height of 1.5m with a spread of 1.5m. The rootstock is thick, fleshy, whitish and creeping; the stems are green or purplish, erect, stout and glabrous; the leaves are oval acuminate, entire, petioled and 20cm long; the flowers are greyish yellow with red veins, internally brownish purple, solitary, pendant, 3cm across and bell shaped; the fruit are glossy purplish-black berries containing kidney-shaped seeds.

Indigenous to central and Southern Europe, it prefers calcareous, well-drained soils in a protected, shaded position, and is drought and frost resistant.

Propagation is by seed sown in punnets or directly into the ground. Sprinkle tiny seeds onto the surface and rake in lightly. Supply water by misting regularly or by watering from the bottom. Surface must not dry out at any time until the seedlings have developed a deep root system, but must also never be wet as this will encourage fungal rot. High humidity is advantageous for initial germination, but will encourage fungal problems soon after. Seedlings may be transplanted when 10cm tall. Germination should be expected within two weeks.

Traditional uses

Belladonna is the best known of the witches herbs and also the one with the most fearful reputation. Its main constituent atropine causes overpowering hallucination, usually of demonic and dark character, even in the smallest quantities. Symptoms of poisoning start with excitation and euphoria, progress through psychosis, cramps and spasms, and can finally end in death by hypoxia as the lung and diaphraghm are paralysed.

Pharmacology

The whole plant contains tropane alkaloids and is farmed as a commercial source for these and especially for atropine. The leaves, twigs and unripe berries contain up to 1% alkaloids, but the ripe berries up to 10%. The main alkaloid in the living plant is (-)hyoscyamine, which converts to atropine upon drying.

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