Botanical name: 

Fig. 237. Datura Stramonium. Photo: Datura stramonium 12. Preparations: Stramonium Poultice - Extract of Stramonium Seed - Fluid Extract of Stramonium Seed - Stramonium Ointment - Compound Ointment of Stramonium - Tincture of Stramonium Seed
Related plants: Belladonna.—Belladonna - Duboisia.—Duboisia - Hyoscyamus (U. S. P.)—Hyoscyamus

The seeds and leaves of Datura Stramonium, Linné.
Nat. Ord.—Solanaceae.
COMMON NAMES: Thorn-apple, Jamestown-weed, Jimpson or Jimson-weed, Stinkweed, Apple of Peru, etc.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 192.

Botanical Source.—This plant is a bushy, smooth, fetid, annual plant, 2 or 3 feet in height, and in rich soil even more. The root is rather large, of a whitish color, giving off many fibers. The stem is much branched, forked, spreading, leafy, and of a yellowish-green color. The leaves are from the forks of the stem, large, ovate, smooth, unequal at the base, variously and acutely sinuated and toothed, veiny, dark-green above, and paler beneath. The flowers are large, axillary, erect, white, and about 3 inches long. Corolla funnel-shaped, regular, angular, plaited, with 5 mucronate lobes. Calyx oblong, 5-angled, 5-toothed, dropping off from its base by a circular, horizontal incision, which remains permanently at the base of the ovary. Stamens 5; anthers erect and oblong; style filiform; stigma thick, obtuse, and bilobed. Ovary free, oval, hairy, and 4-celled. The fruit is a large, dry, prickly capsule, ovate, half 4-celled, with 4 valves and numerous black, reniform seeds. attached to a longitudinal receptacle, which occupies the center of each cell (L.).

Datura Tatula, or Purple stramonium, differs from the above, in having its stem purplish, or dark-red, and with minute green punctations, and its flowers of a dull deep-purple at the angles, and purple stripes inside.

Fig. 238. Capsule and seed of Datura Stramonium. History and Description.—Stramonium is a well-known poisonous weed, growing in all parts of the United States, along roadsides, 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 official 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 when bruised, which is lost on drying, and a mawkish, amarous, 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. The seeds, when bruised, emit the peculiar heavy odor of the herb. They should be gathered when ripe. Spirit, water, and fixed oils take up their active properties Stramonium leaves and seeds are thus officially described:

I. STRAMONII FOLIA (U. S. P.), Stramonium leaves.—"About 15 Cm. (6 inches) long, petiolate, dark-green, smooth, ovate, pointed, unequal, especially at the base, coarsely and sinuately toothed; thin, brittle, and nearly inodorous; taste unpleasant, bitter, and nauseous"—(U. S. P.). (See comparison of microscopical structure of stramonium, belladonna, and henbane leaves, by J. O. Schlotterbeck and A. Van Zwaluwenburg, in Proc. Amer. Pharm. Assoc., 1897, p. 202.)

II. STRAMONII SEMEN (U. S. P.), Stramonium seed.—"About 4 Mm. (⅙ inch) long, reniform, flattened, pitted, and wrinkled; testa dull brownish-black, hard, inclosing a cylindrical, curved embryo, imbedded in a whitish, oily perisperm; of an unpleasant odor when bruised, and of an oily and bitter taste"—(U. S. P.).

Chemical Composition.—The seeds of Datura Stramonium contain the alkaloid daturine, said to be combined with malic acid (Brandes, 1821). It was first obtained pure and crystallized by Geiger and Hesse, in 1833, who also found it to occur in the leaves and the herb. It is now known to be a mixture of several alkaloids. Von Planta (1850) pronounced daturine to be identical with atropine, the principal belladonna alkaloid. Ladenburg (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1880, p. 368) differentiated daturine into atropine and hyoscyamine, the latter alkaloid predominating. E. Schmidt, however, contended that atropine predominates (ibid., 1884, p. 440). It is accepted that hyoscyamine is the principal datura alkaloid; other alkaloidal constituents being atropine and hyoscine. (For the chemistry of these alkaloids, see Atropina, Hyoscyamus, and Belladonna.) The seeds of Datura Stramonium contain fatty oil (25 per cent), from which a new fatty acid, daturic acid (C17H34O2), was isolated by Gérard (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1890, p. 493). It stands intermediate between palmitic and stearic acids. Stramonin is an indifferent, crystallizable, tasteless body, obtained from the seeds by Trommsdorff. As to the quantity of total alkaloids in various parts of the plant, Dr. A. R. L. Dohme (ibid., 1893, p. 482) concludes that the stems contain more alkaloid (0.3 to 0.4 per cent, volumetrically) than even the seeds (0.25 to 0.29 per cent), and the latter more alkaloid than the leaves (0.21 to 0.23 per cent, and 0.27 per cent for green leaves), etc. Herb gathered. in July and August contained more alkaloid than that collected in June (ibid., 1894, p. 503, from Proc. Amer. Pharm. Assoc.). J. B. Nagelvoort (1897) finds the flowers of Datura alba, Linné, to contain a notable quantity of total alkaloids.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—In large doses, stramonium is an energetic, narcotic poison, producing dryness of the throat, thirst, nausea, giddiness, nervous agitation, dilatation of the pupil, obscurity of vision, headache, disturbance of the cerebral functions, perspiration, occasional relaxation of the bowels, and, in some cases diuresis (R). When about to prove fatal, maniacal delirium, loss of voice, dryness of throat, etc., are usually present. In fact, the physiological action of stramonium is practically the same as that of belladonna, though it is thought to influence the sympathetic more strongly, to occasion irregular heart-action, and induce greater delirium. Full doses of it are said to increase the sexual appetite and power. Daturine, though chemically similar to atropine, produces a more profound effect, both as a mydriatic and in other ways, and is more liable to produce depression, heart failure, and unconsciousness. (For further consideration of the effects of stramonium and daturine, see Belladonnaand Atropinae Sulphas.)

Daturine is seldom employed in medicine. It is a very energetic poison, ⅛ grain having killed a sparrow in 3 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 and its alkaloid, the best mode of obtaining relief is to evacuate the stomach by emetics or the stomach-pump, after which vinegar and water may be used, with mucilaginous drinks, at a later period, and strong coffee, tea, and other stimulating drinks, if there is much prostration. The physiological antidote is opium (or morphine) its employment being guided by the degree of pupillary contraction produced. Electricity and pilocarpine may also be useful. According to Garrod, caustic alkalies, but not their carbonates, destroy the active principle of stramonium.

Datura fatuosa is employed in India by a brotherhood of thieves and murderers—the Daturiahs, successors of the Thugs, or Phansigars, who formerly waylaid and strangled their victims. The powdered seeds are mixed with flour and given with food.

In medicinal doses, stramonium acts as an anodyne antispasmodic, without causing constipation, and will prove serviceable in cases where opium can not be given. It does not readily produce sleep, but if sleep follows, it is generally due to the alleviation of pain or nervous irritability produced by the drug. Belladonna has proved serviceable in gastritis and enteritis, and may likewise be used to allay neuralgic pains. It is very remarkable that a plant so closely allied to belladonna in physiological action, should be so different in some of its therapeutical effects, and particularly in regard to pain. For deep-seated pain, as of neuralgia, etc., it is far less effective than belladonna, but for superficial neuralgia, when locally applied, it is more effective than that drug. It well illustrates the fallacy of prescribing remedies for certain effects, because of known physiological action of a drug—the therapeutical effects often being widely at variance. Again, it is more effective in mental disorders than is belladonna. Besides, while daturine, in some respects, exceeds atropine in power, in many respects it does not in the least accomplish the therapeutical results of the latter. Stramonium, in combination with quinine, forms an invaluable preparation which has been found beneficial in intermittent fever, periodic pains, headache, dysmenorrhoea, delirium tremens, etc. It is said that the seeds exert an influence to prevent abortion.

While less effective than belladonna for the relief of pain, it may be employed in neuralgic dysmenorrhoea, with nervous irritation, tic-douloureux, spasmodic intestinal pain, sciatica, rheumatism, and syphilitic pain. It is a minor remedy for some forms of epilepsy. It has been lauded for vertigo and headache, from disordered conditions of the stomach produced by hyperacidity, and is also endorsed for muscular tremblings of the hands of functional or reflex origin, and associated with great restlessness. When gastric headache is accompanied with marked nervous erethism and unsteadiness, its action is specific.

Stramonium is a remedy of value in troubles resulting from cerebral irritation, in abdominal derangements, when due to irritation of the sympathetic. It has long borne a reputation as a remedy for acute delirium, and in acute mania, the patient being violent, boisterous, angry, and possessed of a destructive tendency. Such delirium may occur as a grave symptom in inflammatory and febrile diseases, particularly in zymotic diseases. The dose here ranges from a fraction of a drop to 4 drops of specific stramonium. In regard to its action in maniacal excitement and other nervous disorders, Dr. Scudder (Spec. Med., p. 251) says: "It may be given in acute diseases when the patient is furiously delirious; in delirium tremens, when the patient is enraged and inclined to injure those present, destroy furniture, or harm himself; in violent mania; in epilepsy, associated with or followed by maniacal excitement. In chronic disease, it is enough that the patient feels inclined to violent outbursts of passion, and has difficulty in restraining himself." It is often a remedy of value in hysterical mania, with convulsions, and alternate laughing and weeping, and for globus hystericus. With these conditions, there is usually headache, flushed face, and sexual irritation (Locke). Prof. Locke speaks of it as a good remedy in some forms of paralysis following convulsions, strong injections, or shock, or due to suppressed eruptions. Bloating and redness of the face indicate it. For retrocession of the eruptions in the exanthemata, it is of considerable value, though less efficient than belladonna. As an antidote to the opium habit, stramonium may be given as follows: Rx Specific stramonium, ℥ss; tincture of cardamom, ℥iijss. Mix. Sig. Begin with 10-drop doses and increase as may be necessary (Locke). Stramonium is indicated in cough, with constriction and difficult deglutition and impaired innervation. It gives temporary relief in purely spasmodic asthma, but usually fails when dyspnoea or asthmatic breathing are due to pulmonary or cardiac diseases. As a remedy for asthma it was introduced into England, in 1802, by General Gent, who brought the custom from India, where the smoking of datura, under the name gharbhah ("forgetfulness of home "), was common. It soon became very fashionable for individuals having difficult breathing to smoke gharbbah. For spasmodic asthma, the remedy may be given internally, and the following may be smoked or burned so as to be inhaled: Rx Powdered stramonium leaves, ℥i; powdered anise seeds, powdered potassium nitrate aa ℥ss. Mix without trituration. Sig. Burn a thimbleful of this powder under a conical vessel, as a funnel, and inhale the fumes. Or equal amounts of sage and stramonium leaves may be smoked in a pipe until slight nausea is induced (Locke). It is useful in severe paroxysms of whooping-cough, with hemorrhage from the mouth and nose, and in haemoptysis, brought on by fits of coughing, or by spasm. It is a better cough remedy than opium, as it does not arrest the secretions. Stramonium has been extolled for its effects in milk-sickness. In plethoric habits, and in patients with determination to the head, the larger doses of 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, acute rheumatism, painful bladder affections, pleurisy, etc. "I have in many instances applied the leaves 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 ½ 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 spasmodic urethral stricture" (J. King). It will also be found beneficial as a local medication to all species of painful ulcers, acute ophthalmia, taking care not to produce too great mydriasis, swelled breasts, orchitis, parotitis, and other glandular vulvar inflammation, inflammatory rheumatism, and irritable hemorrhoidal tumors. An ointment of it is very valuable in many of the above diseases, but it should be prepared carefully without too great heat, from fresh leaves and stems, if possible. In cases where the leaves can not 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 forming into a poultice with meal or moistened bread and applied. The ointment is exceedingly efficient in cutaneous hypertrophy around the anus, attended with great itching, and sometimes with sero-purulent secretion. Dose of the powdered leaves or seeds, from 1/10 to 5 grains; of the extract, which is the best form of administration, from 1/20 to 2 grains; of the tincture, for which the seeds, bruised, are preferable, from a fraction of a drop to 30 drops; specific stramonium 1/20 to 10 minims.

Specific Indications and Uses.—Delirium, furious, enraged, and destructive; continuous talking; restless, can not rest in any position, seems to be fearful; pain, especially when superficial and localized; spasm, with pain; cerebral irritation; bloating and redness of face; purely spasmodic asthma; convulsive cough.

King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.