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Atropa bella-donna - L.

Common Name Deadly Nightshade, Belladonna
Family Solanaceae
USDA hardiness 6-9
Known Hazards The whole plant, and especially the root, is very poisonous[4, 7, 10, 19, 65, 165]. Even handling the plant has been known to cause problems if the person has cuts or grazes on the hand[4]. The plant is particularly dangerous for children since the fruit looks attractive and has a sweet taste[4]. The toxins are concentrated in the ripe fruit[200].
Habitats Woods, thickets and hedges, mainly on calcareous soils[9].
Range Central and southern Europe, including Britain, south ad east to N. Africa and Iran.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Atropa bella-donna Deadly Nightshade, Belladonna


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illustration_Atropa_bella-donna0.jpg
Atropa bella-donna Deadly Nightshade, Belladonna
Kurt Stueber

 

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Summary


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Atropa bella-donna is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.9 m (3ft) by 0.8 m (2ft 7in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7. It is in flower from June to August, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Synonyms

Atropa belladonna

Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Hedgerow;

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal Uses



Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Analgesic;  Antidote;  Antispasmodic;  Diuretic;  Hallucinogenic;  Homeopathy;  Mydriatic;  Narcotic;  
Sedative.

Although it is poisonous, deadly nightshade has a long history of medicinal use and has a wide range of applications, in particular it is used to dilate the pupils in eye operations, to relieve intestinal colic and to treat peptic ulcers[254]. The plant can be used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, reducing tremors and rigidity whilst improving speech and mobility[254]. It has also been used as an antidote in cases of mushroom or toadstool poisoning[7]. This is a very poisonous plant, it should be used with extreme caution and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[238]. See also the notes above on toxicity. All parts of the plant are analgesic, antidote, antispasmodic, diuretic, hallucinogenic, mydriatic, narcotic and sedative[4, 7, 9, 21, 46, 165, 171, 192, 240]. The root is the most active part of the plant, it is harvested in the autumn and can be 1 - 3 years old, though the older roots are very large and difficult to dig up[4, 7]. The leaves are harvested in late spring and dried for later use[7]. All parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids[254]. The leaves contain on average 0.4% active alkaloids, whilst the root contains around 0.6%[240]. The alkaloid content also varies according to the development of the plant, being low when the plant is flowering and very high when bearing green berries[240]. These alkaloids inhibit the parasympathetic nervous system which controls involuntary body activities. This reduces saliva, gastric, intestinal and bronchial secretions, as well as the activity of the urinary tubules, bladder and intestines[254]. An extract of the plant has been used as eyedrops. It has the effect of dilating the pupils thus making it easier to perform eye operations[4, 232]. In the past women used to put the drops in their eyes in order to make them look larger and thus 'more beautiful'[4, 232]. The entire plant, harvested when coming into flower, is used to make a homeopathic remedy[232]. This is used especially in cases where there is localised and painful inflammation that radiates heat[232]. It is also used to treat sunstroke and painful menstruation[238].

Other Uses

Soil reclamation.

This species has been found to be effective in removing PCB's from the soil and detoxifying them[248]. The plant is more effective in doing this if it is infected with the bacterial parasite Agrobacterium tumefaciens[248].

Cultivation details

Succeeds in any well-drained moisture retentive soil[200] in sun or partial shade[238]. Prefers a calcareous soil[1, 4, 9, 13]. When grown as a medicinal plant, the highest levels of the medically active alkaloids are obtained from plants growing on a light, permeable chalky soil, especially when on a south-west facing slope[4]. The highest concentrations are also formed when the plant is growing in a sunny position and in hot summers[238]. The northerly limits of cultivation are about 50 - 55° north and at an altitude between 100 - 200 metres[4]. This species is widely cultivated, especially in eastern Europe, for the medically active compounds it contains. These are used in the drugs industry to produce a range of medicines[238]. Plants tend to be short-lived[200]. Slugs are very fond of this plant and have been known to completely remove the outer bark from the stems[K].

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Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Germination of stored seed is slow and erratic, usually taking 1 - 6 months at 10°c[134, 200]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of softwood terminal shoots in spring[200]. Root cuttings in winter[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants

 

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Expert comment

Author

L.

Botanical References

17200

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

Donna DeFalco   Sat Jun 12 12:43:02 2004

I have a very ill cat. I have heard that using bella donna as an alternative to euthanasia by the vet is very humane. Is this true, and if so, what is the recommended dosage.

Claire Ripple   Thu Sep 16 23:24:33 2004

The berries, when dried out, can be used for beads.

Lindsay Love   Thu Sep 7 2006

how do i get rid of it.. i have a dumb dog who might eat it? should i wear gloves? empresslove13@yahoo.com

eli   Mon May 19 2008

What is the FREAKING antidote?????????????????????????????????????????????

David Nicholls   Tue Oct 14 2008

There does not seem to be any particular antidote to bella-donna poisoning I can find. Emergency medical attention the only wise option, the risk of death is high. If this is impossible the "SAS Survival Guide" recommends for general poisoning: drink a mixture of tea and charcoal- with milk of magnesia if avaiable. This absorbs poison in the system. I've also read drinking as much water as possible dilutes poison, I don't know if the two are compatible. These may be inaffective with Bella-donna.

Jacques   Sun Jan 18 2009

Antidote for belladonna poisoning is physostigmine or pilocarpine - atropine.

domoniquie vida   Mon Feb 9 2009

you need more info. on deadly nightshade and how do you grow it?

ian h   Wed Apr 22 2009

1 do it yourself Cure for atropine poisoning is a fly agaric mushroom

   Thu Jun 18 2009

I seriously doubt that a fly agaric mushroom will cure anything but dry skin.

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