The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Atropa belladonna Linnaeus

 

Belladonna, Deadly Nightshade

 

Family

 

Solanaceae (Nightshade Family); Atropoideae (= Solanoideae), Atropeae (= Solaneae) Tribe

Forms and Subspecies

 

Two varieties are distinguished on the basis of the color of their flowers and ripe fruits (Lindequist 1992, 423):

Atropa belladonna var. belladonna: violet flowers, black fruits

Atropa belladonna var. lutea Döll.[syn. Atropa lutescens Jacq. ex C.B. Clarke, Atropa pallida Bornm., Atropa belladonna L. var. flava, perhaps Atropa acuminata Royle ex Lindl.]: pure yellow flowers, yellow fruits

Synonyms

 

Atropa belladonna L. ssp. gallica Pascher

Atropa belladonna L. ssp. grandiflora Pascher

Atropa belladonna L. ssp. minor Pascher

Atropa lethalis Salisb.

Atropa lutescens Jacq. ex C.B. Clarke

Atropa pallida Bornm.

Belladonna baccifera Lam.

Belladonna trichotoma Scop.

Folk Names

 

Banewort, beilwurz, belladonna, belladonne, belledame, bennedonne, bockwurz, bollwurz, bouton noir, bullkraut, cerabella, chrottebeeri, chrotteblueme “toad flower”), deadly nightshade, deiweilskersche, dol, dollkraut, dolo, dolone, dolwurtz, dulcruyt, dwale, dway berry, English belladonna, great morel, groote nachtschaed, große graswurzel, hexenbeere, hexenkraut, höllenkraut, irrbeere, jijibe laidour (Moroccan), judenkernlein, judenkirsche, lickwetssn, mandragora theophrasti, mörderbeere, morel, morelle furieuse, poison black cherry, pollwurz, rasewurz, rattenbeere, satanskraut, saukraut, schlafapfel, schlafbeere, schlafkirsche, schlafkraut, schwarzber, schwindelbeere, sleeping nightshade, solanum bacca nigra, solanum lethale, solatrum mortale, strignus, teufelsauge, teufelsbeere, teufelsbeeri, teufelsgäggele, teufelsgückle, teufelskirsche, tintenbeere, todeskraut, tollbeere, tolle tüfus-beeri, tollkraut, tollkirsche, tüfus-beeri, waldnachtschaden, waldnachtschatt, waldnachtschatten, uva lupina “wolf’s berry”), uva versa, walkerbaum, walkerbeere, wolfsauge, wolfsbeere, wolfskirsche, wutbeere, wuth-beer, yerva mora

History

 

Since ancient times, belladonna has been feared as a poisonous plant and demonized as a plant of witches. It has even been suggested that the plant was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. These mighty lizards may have poisoned themselves on the plant or caused their own demise through hallucinations.

It is possible that Dioscorides described the deadly nightshade under the name stychnos manikos (Schneider 1974, 1:160*). However, this name has caused great confusion and continues to pose an ethnobotanical puzzle (cf. Datura stramoniumSolanum spp.Strychnos nux-vomica).

Belladonna may be identical to the morion, the “other, growing near caves,” “male” mandrake (Mandragora officinarum). Morion literally means “male member” and refers to the plant’s use as a tollkraut(in Middle High German, toll = mad, as in “crazy,” and kraut = plant). The deadly nightshade has been used as an aphrodisiac since antiquity.

The genus name is derived from that of Atropos (= “the terrible, merciless”), one of the Three Fates or Goddesses of Destiny, who determine life and death. It is Atropos who cuts the thread of life.

In the ancient Orient, belladonna was used as an additive to beer and palm wine. The Sumerians appear to have used it to treat numerous ailments caused by demons.

Little is known about the history of the deadly nightshade during the early Middle Ages. In the eleventh century, the plant was used as a “chemical weapon” in the war between the Scots and the invading Danes. The Scots added juice from the berries to their dark beer and gave this to the thirsty Danes, who were subsequently overpowered as they lay in a delirious stupor (Schleiffer 1979, 143ff.*; Vonarburg 1996, 62).

The demonization and denouncement of the plant, which was utilized in pagan rituals, had already begun by the time of Hildegard von Bingen:

 

The deadly nightshade has coldness in it, and yet holds disgust and paralysis in this coldness, and in the earth, and at the place where it grows, the devilish prompting has a certain part and a role in its arts. And it is dangerous for a man to eat and to drink, for it destroys his spirit, as if he were dead. (Physica 1:52)

 

This demonization continued into later times (teufelsbeere = “devil’s berry,” teufelsgäggele = “little devil’s berry,” teufelskirsche = “Devil’s cherry”), as the plant was linked to the witches’ ointments and regarded as a dangerous and demonic plant. Because belladonna can easily produce toxic states that can prove lethal, its role as a magical plant has never been significant.

 

The deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) is one of the most significant medicinal plants in the history of pharmacy. (Woodcut from Tabernaemontanus, Neu Vollkommen Kräuter-Buch, 1731)

 

“When we encounter the deadly nightshade during our excursion through the columned halls of the forest, a strange feeling comes over us, as if a secretive being with fixed, staring eyes were standing behind the mysterious plant. Its sparkling, shiny black fruits reflect back to us in the dark light of the forest. The deadly nightshade has an aura of danger about it, and we can feel as we look at it that caution is advised.”

 

BRUNO VONARBURG

 

DIE TOLLKIRSCHE [THE DEADLY NIGHTSHADE]

 

(1996, 61)

 

The Italian herbalist Matthiolus was the first to mention the name belladonna,“beautiful woman,” explaining that Italian women would drip juice pressed from the plant into their eyes in order to make themselves more beautiful. The juice contains atropine, which effects a temporary dilation of the pupils (mydriasis). At the time, large black pupils were the epitome of beauty. Because of this dilatory effect, belladonna juice also gained great significance in eye medicine. Ophthalmologists still use atropine, named after Atropa, to achieve the same effect. Atropine, the active principle of the plant, was first isolated from the deadly nightshade in 1833 by the German apothecary Mein (Vonarburg 1996, 62).

Distribution

 

Belladonna is indigenous to central and southern Europe and Asia Minor. From there, it spread throughout Western Europe, as far as Iran, and all across North Africa. It is rare in Greece, where it is found only in mountainous regions. In the Alps, it grows at altitudes of up to 1,700 meters (Kruedener et al. 1993, 128*). It prefers shady locations and requires chalky soils (Vonarburg 1996, 61).

Cultivation

 

The simplest and most successful method of cultivating belladonna is to take cuttings from newly formed shoots or layers of the rootstock. This must be done in the spring. Cultivation from seed is rather difficult, as less than 60% of the seeds are viable. This notwithstanding, the use of seeds is important in commercial production (Morton 1977, 284*). Belladonna is cultivated on a large scale in southern and eastern Europe, Pakistan, North America, and Brazil.

Appearance

 

This herbaceous perennial, which can grow as tall as 1.5 meters, develops straight, ramified stalks, oblong leaves, and bell-shaped, brownish violet flowers that are enclosed in a five-cusped green calyx. The fruit, which is initially green but then turns shiny black, is roughly the size of a cherry and sits upon the five-pointed calyx. Belladonna blooms between June and August and often already bears fruits at this time. The variety lutea has yellow flowers, yellow fruits, and a green stem.

The deadly nightshade produces an attractive nectar that bees and bumblebees enthusiastically collect and transform into psychoactive honey (Hazlinsky 1956). The plant is also pollinated by these insects (Vonarburg 1996, 62).

Although belladonna can be mistaken only for other Atropa species (see page 85), the Scopolia species (see Scopolia carniolica) are an occasional source of confusion.

Historical sources often confused the deadly nightshade with the bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) and the black nightshade (Solanum nigrum; cf. Solanum spp.) (Schneider 1974, 1:160*) and occasionally with the sleeping berry (Withania somnifera). The herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia L.; cf. Aconitum spp.) has also been regarded as a form of belladonna (Schwamm 1988, 133).

Psychoactive Material

 

—Leaves (belladonnae folium, belladonnae herba, folia belladonnae, herba belladonnae, solani furiosi, belladonnablätter). The pharmaceutical raw drug is sometimes falsified with leaves of tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima L.), poke-berry (Phytolacca americana L., Phytolacca acinosa), Hyoscyamus muticusPhysalis alkekengi L. (cf. Physalis spp.), and Scopolia carniolica.

—Roots (belladonnae radix, radix belladonnae, belladonnawurzel). The pharmaceutical raw drug is sometimes falsified with the roots of pokeberry (Phytolacca americana L., Phytolacca acinosa) or Scopolia carniolica.

—Fresh or dried fruits (belladonnae fructus, fructus belladonnae).

 

The typical violet-tinged flower of the deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna).

 

 

The rare yellow-blooming variety of the deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna var. lutea).

 

 

The shiny black fruit of the deadly nightshade has a seductively sweet taste.

 

 

The ripe fruit of the yellow-blooming Atropa belladonna var. lutea is also yellow and is easily mistaken for the fruits of the mandrake (Mandragora).

 

Preparation and Dosage

 

The leaves of the wild form should be harvested in May or June, as their alkaloid content is greatest at this time. They are dried in the shade and must then be stored away from light in an airtight container. It is best to harvest the fruits when they are almost ripe. These must be dried in a dry, ventilated location. Both the leaves and the fruits are suitable for use in smoking blends and can be combined with dried fly agaric mushrooms (Amanita muscaria) and hemp (Cannabis indica). Pharmaceutical cigarettes made of belladonna leaves soaked in a tincture of opium (cf. Papaver somniferum) were still being prescribed as recently as 1930 (Schneider 1974, 1:162*).

Ingestion of one or two fresh berries produces mild perceptual changes approximately one to two hours after consumption. Three or four fresh berries is regarded as a psychoactive aphrodisiac; three to a maximum of ten berries represents a hallucinogenic dosage. Ten to twenty berries is said to be lethal; among children, as few as two or three berries can cause death (Vonarburg 1996, 62). Extreme care should be exercised with Atropa belladonna! With some individuals, even the smallest amounts can have devastating results (delirious states). Using the plant as a fumigant or as an ingredient in smoking blends is the least dangerous method of consumption.

When used (internally) for medicinal purposes, 0.05 to 0.1 g of dried and powdered leaves is regarded as an average individual dosage (Lindequist 1992, 429). The therapeutic dosage of atropine is listed as 0.5 to 2 mg. A pleasant psycho-active dosage is 30 to 200 mg of dried leaves or 30 to 120 mg of dried roots, either smoked or ingested internally (Gottlieb 1973, 5*).

Belladonna is reputed to have been an ingredient in witches’ ointments and was used as a magical fumigant. One traditional “oracular incense” had the deadly nightshade as its chief component and active ingredient (cf. incense). It contained:

 

leaves of fool’s parsley [Aethusa spp., Apium spp., or Sium spp.], harvested during the new moon,

acorns [Quercus spp.], plucked during the full moon while naked,

leaves and flowers of the deadly nightshade, harvested at midday,

leaves of vervain [Verbena officinalis], plucked by hand in the afternoon,

leaves of wild peppermint [Mentha spp.], picked in the morning,

leaves of the thistle [Viscum album], from the previous year, cut at midnight.

(Magister Botanicus 1995, 185*)

 

Unfortunately, no precise details about the amounts to use have come down to us.

Belladonna berries can also be mashed, fermented, and distilled into alcohol and were formerly used as a psychoactive additive to beermeadpalm wine, and wine. They are also an ingredient in the Moroccan spice mixture known as ras el hanout (Norman 1993, 96f.*).

Ritual Use

 

Since ancient times, deadly nightshade has probably been used in the same or a very similar manner as mandrake (see Mandragora officinarum). It is possible that its root was also used as a substitute or an alternative to that of the mandrake. Folktales have preserved the remnants of a belladonna cult that suggest that this may have been the case. In Hungary, for example, the root “is dug up on the night of St. George while naked, and a bread offering is made as if to an elfish monster” (Höfler 1990, 90*). In Romania, the deadly nightshade is also known as the wolf cherry, the flower of the forest, the lady of the forest, and the empress of herbs.

Belladonna is common in some regions of southern Germany. It is uncertain whether the plant is part of the indigenous flora or was introduced during the early Middle Ages. The German names for the plant are suggestive of its psychoactive effects (schlafbeere = “sleeping berry,” rasewurz = “mad root,” tollkirsche = “crazy cherry”) and contain pagan references (wolfsauge = “wolf’s eye,” wutbeere = “rage berry”); the wolf is the animal of Wotan and wut(= fury, ecstasy) is his characteristic (wuotan, “the furious”). The deadly nightshade is also associated with the daughters of Wotan: “On the Lower Rhine, its fruits are known as Walkerbeeren [“Valkyrie berries”], and the plant itself is known as the Walkerbaum [“Valkyrie tree”], and anyone who ate of the berries would fall victim to the Valkyries” (Perger 1864, 182 f.*). The Valkyries are the daughters of Heaven and Earth (Wotan and Erda) who accompany the souls of heroes who have fallen in battle to Valhalla, where they are entertained with inebriating meadwhile they await the Götterdämmerung, the Twilight of the Gods (i.e., the rebirth of the world). Since Wotan is the lord of the Wild Chase as well as of the hunt and the forest, he was also closely associated with hunters. Consequently, as late as the nineteenth century, southern German hunters would still often consume three or four belladonna berries before going out hunting, a practice that was said to sharpen their perception and make them better hunters.49

 

Belladonna, the goddess of the deadly nightshade, is depicted with a wreath made from the leaves and fruits of Atropa belladonna. She appears to be deep in a nightshade dream. (Belladonna; engraving after a painting by Gabriel Max, printed in the Jugendstil journal Gartenlaube, 1902)

 

 

Atropos, the goddess of destiny who severs the thread of life, provided the inspiration for the botanical name of the deadly nightshade. (Floor mosaic, Roman period, Cyprus)

 

Although the deadly nightshade is regarded as a classic witches’ plant, only a very few details have come down to us concerning its magical use in witches’ rituals. In his work Magiae naturalis [Natural Magic], Giovanni Battista della Porta (ca. 1535–1615) wrote that a person could use an arcanum (secret means) to transform himself into a bird, fish, or goose—the sacred animal that was sacrificed to Wotan/Odin at the time of the winter solstice—and thereby have much amusement. He listed belladonna first among the agents that could be used for these purposes (Schleiffer 1979, 139f.*).

In Celtic rituals and in the neo-pagan rituals of certain modern “witches cults” (Wicca) that are based upon these, following a fasting period of fourteen days50 (one fortnight), the oracular fumigation noted above was and is still carried out during the night of the full moon preceding the festival of Samhain (November 1). A tea made of Amanita muscaria was also consumed on that day:

 

The members of a band of people knowledgeable about herbs would then gather in the “sacred” night and select one of their own, who would then sit before the incense vessel as the oracular priest/ess and inhale the toxic fumes.

The resulting toxic effects of the smoke would place the priest/ess into a trance state in which he or she would then serve as oracle and answer the questions of the others or establish contact to the spirits or gods. It is also interesting that a priest or priestess was never allowed to function as the oracle on two consecutive occasions. (Magister Botanicus 1995, 185f.*)

 

Artifacts

 

In the nineteenth century and in the 1920s, both the berry of the deadly nightshade and belladonna in its anthropomorphic form were frequently portrayed in printed material (e.g., by Erich Brukal, Paul Wending; cf. Rätsch 1995, 138*). It is not known whether these pictures were the result of the artists’ personal experiences with bella-donna preparations. It is possible that the legends concerning the witches’ plant and the spirit that lives within it provided all the inspiration they needed.

The short film Belladonna, by herman de vries and others, depicts a magical ritual in which witches use the deadly nightshade. It shows a young woman walking through the forest in search of the plant; when she finds it, she disrobes and rubs its fruits all over her body. The film then attempts to portray the resulting psychoactive effects. An experimental film entitled Atropa belladonna—Die Farbe der Zeit[Atropa bella-donna—The Color of Time] was also inspired by the myth of the beautiful woman and the spirit of the plant (Friel and Bohn 1995).

Belladonna has also left its marks on both psychedelic and heavy metal music (e.g., Ian Carr, Belladonna, as well as the band Belladonna) and in the music of Andreas Vollenweider.

The book Right Where You Are Sitting Now: Further Tales of the Illuminati, by Robert Anton Wilson, provides a turbulent literary version of belladonna inebriation (1982, 13–26).

Medicinal Use

 

The deadly nightshade has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times, e.g., as an analgesic (cf. soporific sponge). It was often administered to “dispel demons” (in other words, it was likely used in therapies to treat depressions, psychoses, and other mental illnesses). Rudiments of such psychiatric usage have been preserved in northern Africa.

In Morocco, the dried berries, together with a small amount of water and some sugar, are made into a tea that can “help produce a good mental condition.” This tea is also an aphrodisiac for men. It is also said “that a small dose of belladonna clears the mind and enables one to do intellectual tasks” (Venzlaff 1977, 82*). A couple of fresh berries are also said to increase the ability to remember.

In the nineteenth century, extracts of the root and herbage were used to treat jaundice, dropsy, whooping cough, convulsive cough, nervous ailments, scarlet fever, epilepsy, neuroses, renal colic, various skin diseases, eye inflammations, and diseases of the urinary and respiratory tracts, the throat, and the esophagus (Schneider 1974, 1:161*).

A mother tincture obtained from the fresh plant together with the rootstock at the end of the flowering season (Atropa belladonna hom. PFX and RhHAB1, Belladonna hom. HAB1) as well as various dilutions (normally D4 and above) are used in homeopathy for numerous purposes, depending upon the medical description (Vonarburg 1996, 63).

Constituents

 

The entire plant contains between 0.272 and 0.511% tropane alkaloids; the variety lutea contains only 0.295% (Lindequist 1992, 424). The stalk can contain up to 0.9% alkaloids, the unripe fruits up to 0.8%, the ripe fruits from 0.1 to 9.6%, and the seeds approximately 0.4%. In the living plant, (–)-hyoscyamine predominates; following harvest, during the drying and storage process, this is converted to atropine. The dried leaves contain 0.2 to 2% alkaloids, the dried root 0.3 to 1.2%. Hyoscyamine is the primary component (68.7%), apoatropine is the secondary alkaloid (17.9%), and many other tropane alkaloids are also present (433).

 

The psychedelic wave of the late 1960s also swept over many jazz musicians in the early 1970s. In 1972, the trumpeter Ian Carr dedicated an entire album (Belladonna) to the hallucinogenic deadly nightshade. In this cover photograph, however, the musician is actually shown standing among field poppies (Papaver rhoeas). (CD cover 1990, Linam Records.)

 

The alkaloids in the plant apparently pass into the tissues of animals that have eaten the foliage, the fruits, or the roots. In one eighteenth-century case, an entire family experienced hallucinations after eating a rabbit. Rabbits appear to be fond of the plant and do not display any toxic reactions (Ruspini 1995).

Effects

 

The clinical picture of the effects of belladonna is rather homogeneous (and reminiscent of the effects of Datura and Brugmansia):

 

Within a quarter of an hour, the following toxic symptoms appear: psychomotor disquiet and general arousal, not infrequently of an erotic nature, urge to speak, great euphoria (cheerfulness, urge to laugh), but also fits of crying, strong desire for movement, which may be manifested as an urge to dance, disturbances of intention, manneristic and stereotypic movements, choreatic states, ataxia, disturbances of thought, sensations of befuddlement, confused speech, screaming, hallucinations of a diverse nature; increasing states of excitation culminating in frenzy, rage, madness, with complete lack of ability to recognize the surroundings. (Roth et al. 1994, 158*)

 

Death can result from respiratory paralysis. The (main) effects last for three to four hours; the effects on vision may continue for three to four days.

Belladonna-induced hallucinations are typically described as threatening, dark, demonic, devilish, hellish, very frightening, and profoundly terrifying. Many users have compared the effects to those of a “Hieronymus Bosch trip” and have indicated that they have no intention of repeating the experiment (Gabel 1968; Illmaier 1996; Pestolozzi and Caduff 1986).

The alkaloids also cause the mucous membranes to become very dry and the face to turn red, while the pulse rate accelerates and the pupils dilate.

Commercial Forms and Regulations

 

In Germany, belladonna leaves and roots are available in pharmacies and require a physician’s prescription (Lindequist 1992, 431).

Literature

 

See also the entry for atropine.

 

Dräger, B., and A. Schaal. 1991. Isolation of pseudotropine-forming tropinone reductase from Atropa belladonna root cultures. Planta Medica 57 suppl. (2): A99–100.

 

Friel, Gunnar, and Ralf Bohn. 1995. Atropa belladonna—Arbeiten am Film. Vienna: Passagen Verlag.

 

Gabel, M. C. 1968. Purposeful ingestion of belladonna for hallucinatory effects. Journal of Pediatrics 76:864–66.

 

Hazlinsky, B. 1956. Poisonous honey from deadly nightshade. Zeitschrift für Bienenforschung 3:93–96.

 

Heltmann, H. 1979. Morphological and phytochemical studies in Atropa species. Planta Medica 36:230–31.

 

Illmaier, Thomas. 1996. Die unerbittlich schöne Frau. Grow! 5/96:20–23.

 

Kessel, Joseph. 1929. Belladonna. Munich: Piper. (A novel.)

 

Lindequist, Ulrike. 1992. Atropa. In Hagers Handbuch der pharmazeutischen Praxis, 5th ed., 4:423–37. Berlin: Springer.

 

Münch, Burchard Friedrich. 1785. Practische Abhandlung von der Belladonna und ihrer Anwendung. Göttingen, Germany: Diederich.

 

Pestolozzi, B. C., and F. Caduff. 1986. Gruppenvergiftung mit Tollkirschentee. Schweizerische medizinische Wochenschrift 116:924–26.

 

Rowson, J. M. 1950. The pharmacognosy of Atropa belladonna L. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 2:201–16.

 

Ruspini, G. 1995. Belladonna e conigli. Eleusis 3:29–30.

 

Schwamm, Brigitte. 1988. Atropa belladonna, eine antike Heilpflanze im modernen Arzneischatz. Stuttgart: Deutscher Apotheker Verlag. (Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte der Pharmazie, vol. 49.) (Excellent bibliography.)

 

Vonarburg, Bruno. 1996. Die Tollkirsche (1. Teil). Natürlich 10/96:61–64.

 

Wilson, Robert Anton. 1984. Right Where You Are Sitting Now: Further Tales of the Illuminati. Berkeley, Calif.: And/Or Press.

 

“For the Moirai alone in life . . .

Observe what occurs to us.

The Moirai know everything, everything,

and the seeing mind of Zeus,

Their aerial, their gentle,

friendly hearts come by:

Atropos, Lachesis, Clotho;

Come, daughters of the noble father,

Inescapable, invisible

nocturnal, immortal,

givers of all, taking the mortal

The compulsion of necessity . . .”

ORPHIC HYMN TO THE MOIRAI

 

“The world is much more absurd and threatening than most people comprehend. Just ask any of the people that have partaken of the belladonna, and they will attest to this.”

 

ROBERT ANTON WILSON

 

RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE SITTING NOW: FURTHER TALES OF THE ILLUMINATI

 

(1982, 26)

 

 

Other Species of Belladonna

 

The genus Atropa is composed of four to six species, all of which occur only in Eurasia (D’Arcy 1991, 79*; Symon 1991, 147*). The genus is treated inconsistently in the taxonomic literature. The only species that has attained any ethnopharmacological significance as a psycho-active plant is Atropa belladonna. Only the Indian belladonna has acquired a certain ethnomedicinal usage. All species contain tropane alkaloids, primarily hyoscyamine and atropine, along with apoatropine, belladonnine, and cuscohygrine (in the roots). The leaves also contain quercetin and camphor oil derivatives and coumarins (scopoletin) (Lindequist 1992, 423*).

 

Atropa aborescens [nom. nud.?]

This species, collected in Martinique, “contains narcotic poisonous substances” (von Reis and Lipp 1982, 266*).

 

Atropa acaulis L.

Synonym for Mandragora officinarum

 

Atropa acuminata Royle ex Lindl. [syn. Atropa belladonna var. acuminataAtropa belladonna C.B. Clarke non. L.]—Indian belladonna, sagangur

This species occurs only in the Indian districts of Barmula, Kinnaur, Simla, and Nainital. It is very similar to Atropa belladonna, in particular the yellow-flowered subspecies. But this species produces yellow flowers and black fruits (Morgan 1977, 289*). For this reason, it has recently been regarded more as a synonym, although it may represent a local variety or subspecies. Indian belladonna has almost the same alkaloid content as the European species, but it has a higher concentration of scopolamine (approximately 30% of the total alkaloids). It is cultivated in Afghanistan and Kashmir for pharmaceutical purposes. The Indian raw drug is very often falsified with the roots of Phytolacca acinosa (Morton 1977, 290*). Atropa acuminata is also regarded as a synonym for Atropa baetica.

 

Atropa baetica Willk.—Iberian belladonna

This species is found in Spain and possesses a higher alkaloid content (with only a little scopolamine) than Atropa belladonna.

 

Atropa caucasica Kreyer—Caucasian belladonna

The only other Asian species besides Atropa acuminata.

 

Atropa cordata—heart-leaved belladonna

This species is apparently a broad-leaved European form of Atropa belladonna.

 

Atropa digitaloides—finger-leaved belladonna

This species is apparently a small-leaved European form of Atropa belladonna.

 

Atropa komarovii Blin. et Shal—Turkmenic belladonna

Found only in Turkmenistan, this species is being tested for commerical cultivation as a source of alkaloids.

 

Atropa mandragora (L.) Woodville

Synonym for Mandragora officinarum.

 

Atropa x martiana Font Quer

Hybrid from Atropa baetica and Atropa bella-donna.

 

Atropa pallidiflora Schönb.-Tem.

Has an alkaloid concentration that is approximately as high as that of Atropa belladonna, although the mixture contains approximately 30% scopolamine.

 

Atropa rhomboidea Gill. et Hook

Now known as Salpichroa origanifolia (Lam.) Baill., this plant occurs in the southern portion of South America as far as Tierra del Fuego (Zander 1994, 496*).

 

 

The fruit of the deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), whole and in cross section.