Datura stramonium. Stramonium.

Botanical name: 

Nat. Ord. — Solanaceae. Sex. Syst. — Pentandria Monogynia.

The Leaves and Seeds.

Description. — This plant, also known by the names of Thorn Apple, Jamestown weed, Stinkweed, Apple-pent, etc., is a bushy, smooth, fetid, annual plant, two or three feet in hight, and in rich soil even more ; the root is large, whitish, and furnished with numerous fibers. The stem. is erect, round, smooth, somewhat shining, simple below, dichotomous above, with numerous spreading branches, of a yellowish-green color, cylindrical, often hollow. The leaves stand on short, round petioles in the forks of the stem, alternate, five or six inches long, ovate-triangular, or oval-oblong, irregularly sinuated, with large acute teeth and round sinuses, end acute, unequal at the base, decurrent, of a darkgreen color on the upper surface, and paler beneath. The flowers are large, erect or nodding, axillary, solitary, on short peduncles,' white. Calyx monosepalous, tubular, pentangular, five-toothed, deciduous, but leaving a persistent rim at the base which becomes reflexed. Corolla, funnel-shaped, with a long tube, monopetalous ; its limb subangular, waved and folded, and terminating in five acuminate teeth. Stamens five ; filaments adhering to the tube, and supporting oblong, erect anthers. Ovary free, but coherent at base with the persistent rim of the calyx, oval, hairy ; style filiform, as long as the stamina, and bearing an obtuse, bi-lamellar stigma. Fruit, a large fleshy, roundish-ovate, fourvalved, four-celled capsule, thickly covered on the outside with sharp spines or thorns, opening inside at the top, with numerous, reniform, black seeds filling the cells, and attached to a longitudinal receptacle occupying the center of each cell.

Datura Tatula, or Purple Stramonium, differs from the above, in having a dark-reddish stem, minutely dotted with green, and flowers of a purplish color, with deep purple stripes on the inside.

History. — Stramonium is a well-known, poisonous weed, growing in all parts of the United States, along road-sides, waste grounds, etc., and flowering from July to September. Its native country is unknown. It is found growing in Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and Peru. The whole plant has an unpleasant, fetid, narcotic odor, which diminishes upon drying. Almost every part of the plant is possessed of medicinal properties, but the officinal parts are the leaves and seeds. The leaves should be gathered when the flowers are full blown, and carefully dried in the shade. They have a rank odor when fresh, especially if bruised, which is lost on drying, and a mawkish, bitter, nauseous taste. They impart their properties to water, alcohol, and the fixed oils. Water distilled from them slightly possesses their odor, but does not contain their active properties. They consist of gum, extractive, green starch, albumen, resin, saline matters, lignin, and water. The seeds are small, kidney-shaped, flat, of a dark-brown, almost black color when ripe, pale grayish-brown when unripe, inodorous, similar in taste with the leaves, with some acrimony When bruised they emit the peculiar heavy odor of the herb. They should be gathered when ripe. They contain a glutinous matter, gum, albumen, a butyraceous substance, green wax, resin insoluble in ether, fixed oil, bassorin, sugar, gummy extractive, orange-colored extractive, various saline and earthy substances, and a peculiar alkaline principle called Daturia. Water, spirit, and fixed oils take up their active properties.

Daturia may be obtained by evaporating the alcoholic tincture of the seeds with a very gentle heat, decolorizing by repeated additions of lime and sulphuric acid alternately, with filtration after each addition, and then still further concentrating by evaporation ; an excess of powdered carbonate of soda is now to be added to decompose the product, and the precipitate which follows is to be separated, as speedily as possible, from the alkaline liquor by expressing, exhausting the residue with absolute alcohol, and treating the alkaline or mother waters, with sulphuric ether. The alcoholic and ethereal liquors are now to be united, and treated with lime, filtered, and then decolorized with animal charcoal. Distil off the etherized alcohol, add a little water, and evaporate by a very gentle heat. If the daturia now deposited should still be colored, it must be combined anew with an acid, and the whole process repeated from the addition of carbonate of soda onward, in order to obtain it quite pure. It crystallizes in colorless, inodorous, shining needles, at first bitterish when applied to the tongue, but ultimately conveying a flavor similar to that of tobacco. It dissolves in 280 parts of cold, and 72 of boiling water, is very soluble in alcohol, and less so in ether. It forms salts with acids. It is obtained from the seeds in very small proportions, yielding under the most favorable circumstances only one-fiftieth of one per cent. It is fusible, volatile, and very poisonous. Dr. Von Planta considers daturia identical with atropia, the formula of each being C38 H23 NO6. By the destructive distillation of stramonium, Morries obtained a highly poisonous empyreumatized oil.

Properties and Uses. — In large doses, a powerfully narcotic poison, producing dryness of the throat, excessive thirst, nausea, vomiting, a sense of strangulation, faintness, anxiety, cardialgia, blindness, dilatation of the pupils, vertigo, delirium either of a furious or whimsical character, tremors of the limbs, palsy, stupor, convulsions, and often death. In less quantity it generally causes more or less cerebral disturbance for several hours, as vertigo, headache, dimness or perversion of vision, confusion of thought, and a species of intoxication or slight delirium. In medicinal doses, it acts as an anodyne-antispasmodic, without causing constipation, and will prove serviceable in cases where opium cannot be given. It has proved serviceable in mania, epilepsy, gastritis, and enteritis, and may likewise be used to allay rheumatic, syphilitic, and neuralgic pains. In combination with quinia, it forms an invaluable preparation which has been found exceedingly beneficial in intermittent fever, all periodic pains, headache, dysmenorrhea, delirium tremens, etc. The leaves, dried and smoked, are said to be useful in spasmodic asthma, but we do not recommend them, having more efficient means to cure this disease. It is said that the seeds exert an influence, to prevent abortion, superior to anything else ; seven seeds to be given at first, after which one every hour, as may be required.

In plethoric habits, and in patients with determination to the head, stramonium must be administered with caution, keeping the excretory organs, as the skin, kidneys, and bowels in an active condition during its employment. Externally, a poultice of the fresh leaves, bruised, or the dried leaves in hot water, will be found an excellent application over the bowels in severe forms of gastritis, enteritis, peritonitis, etc. I have in many instances applied them to the perineum, in cases of retention of urine from enlarged prostate, where it was impossible to introduce a catheter, and after having allowed them to remain for about half an hour, have been enabled to pass the catheter with ease and facility, and thus afford relief to the patient. I have met with similar good results in urethral stricture. It will also be found beneficial as a local medication to all species of painful ulcers, acute ophthalmia, swelled breasts, inflammatory rheumatism, and hemorrhoidal tumors. An ointment of it is very valuable in many of the above diseases. In cases where the leaves cannot be obtained, a plaster of the alcoholic extract or inspissated juice, may be applied over the affected parts ; or the extract may be rendered thin by heating it in diluted alcohol, and then formed into a poultice with meal, or moistened bread, and applied. In the absence of belladonna, the extract of stramonium may be mixed with lard, and rubbed over the eyelid, or a solution of it dropped into the eye, in order to produce dilatation of the pupil, previous to the operation for cataract; it is equally efficacious with this agent. Dose of the powdered leaves or seeds, from one to five grains ; of the extract, which is the best form of administration, from one-eighth of a grain to two grains; of the tincture, for which the seeds bruised, are preferable, from five to thirty drops.

Daturia is seldom employed in medicine ; it is a very energetic poison, one- eighth of a grain having killed a sparrow in three hours, and nearly proved fatal to a cat when applied to the eye. Very minute quantities applied to the eye, occasion protracted and excessive dilatation of the pupil. In cases of poisoning by stramonium, the best mode of obtaining relief, is to evacuate the stomach by emetics or the stomach-pump, after which vinegar and water maybe used, with mucilaginous drinks at a later period, and strong coffee, tea, and other stimulating drinks, if there is much prostration. Magneto-electricity may also be useful.

Off. Prep. — Cataplasma Stramonii ; Extractum Stramonii Alcoholicum ; Tinctura Stramonii ; Tinctura Viburnii Composita ; Unguentum Stramonii ; Unguentum Stramonii Compositum.

The American Eclectic Dispensatory, 1854, was written by John King, M. D.