Atropa belladonna. Belladonna.
Nat. Ord. — Solanaceae. Sex. Syst. — Pentandria Monogynia.
Description. — Atropa Belladonna, also known as Deadly Nightshade, Dwale, Black Cherry, etc., is a herbaceous, perennial plant, with a thick, branched, fleshy, creeping root, from which rise several erect, cylindrical, herbaceous, annual, hirsute, purplish stems, to the bight of three or four feet. The branches are dichotomous, with ovate, entire, somewhat soft leaves, acuminate at both ends, of a dull-green color, mostly in pairs of unequal size, and on short petioles. The flowers are imperfectly axillary, solitary, stalked, and drooping. The calyx is green, persistent, and divided into five ovate segments. The corolla is monopetalous, campanulate, with the limb divided into five lobes, dark dull purple in the border, paler downward. Stamens five, shorter than the corolla, bearing cordate, four-lobed anthers. Ovary spheroidal, with a nectariferous gland beneath, and supporting a long, simple style, with, a two-lobed stigma. The fruit is a round, two-celled berry, bearing some resemblance to a cherry, with a transverse furrow on each side, shining, smooth, at first green, then red, and finally of a deep purple color, and containing numerous reniform seeds, imbedded in a soft pulp, with a sweetish, violet-colored juice. When bruised, the whole plant exhales a fetid odor.
History. — This plant is a native of Europe, growing in shady places, flowering in June and July, and ripening its fruit in September ; all parts of it are active. The leaves are the officinal part, and should be collected in June or July ; when dry, they are of a brownish-green, or grayish-green color, scarcely any odor, and a faint, sweetish, slightly nauseous taste, and yield their properties readily to alcohol or water. The root is long, round, varying in thickness from one to several inches, fibrous, branched, reddish-brown externally, whitish internally, scarcely any odor, and a slightly sweetish taste. It should be collected early in the spring, or in the autumn, from plants at least three years old ; water or alcohol is its menstruum. The extract is more commonly used than any other form. Belladonna contains atropia with excess of malic acid, pseudotoxin, phytocolla, chlorophylle, gum, starch, etc.
Properties and Uses. — An energetic narcotic poison. When taken in large doses it exerts an influence over the cerebro-spinal system, as manifested by dilation of the pupils, dimness or loss of vision, vertigo, partial deafness, confusion of ideas, constriction in the throat, difficulty of swallowing and articulating, thirst, nausea, and often the appearance of a red eruption ; if the dose be excessive, all these symptoms will be greatly aggravated, with delirium, excessive laughter, violent gestures, and finally coma; when it causes death, convulsions often precede this result. Medicinally, it is anodyne, antispasmodic, and calmative, with some diaphoretic and diuretic properties. It is exceedingly valuable and useful in convulsions, spasms, epilepsy, puerperal convulsions, neuralgia, hooping-cough, chorea, mania, paralysis, amaurosis, rheumatism, gout, dysmenorrhea, obstinate intermittents, rigidity of os uteri, and all diseases in which the nervous system is involved. It is much in use as a prophylactic in scarlatina. Used externally, for dilating the pupil of the eye in various operations on that organ, to remove spasmodic stricture of urethra, neck of the bladder, and sphincter ani. Recommended, also, in strangulated hernia, asthma, and paraphimosis. The following has been recommended in neuralgia of the uterus: Mix together one grain and a half of alcoholic extract of belladonna, and three-fourths of a grain of opium. Place the two extracts in the center of a little pledget of carded cotton, and fold it up so as to inclose the extract ; tie it up with a very strong thread, and leave a double thread eight inches long attached to it. The plug is to be introduced into the vagina by the physician or patient, and placed upon the neck of the uterus, where it is to be retained from twelve to twenty-four hours. In very painful menstruation accompanied by leucorrhea, from eight to fifteen grains of tannic acid, or geraniin may be added to the tampon. Dose of the powdered leaves, one to two grains, once or twice a day, and gradually increased till the peculiar effects of the medicine are produced ; of the extract one-fourth of a grain to two grains.
The remedies in cases of poisoning by it, are the stomach-pump, emetics and purgatives, cold to the head, and in the comatose stage, ammonia internally, with external stimulants.
Off. Prep. — Atropia; Emplastrum Belladonnae ; Emplastrum Belladonnae Compositum ; Extractum Belladonnae Alcoholicum ; Tinctura Belladonnae ; Unguentum Belladonnae.
The American Eclectic Dispensatory, 1854, was written by John King, M. D.