No. 31. Datura.
English Name—COMMON THORN APPLE.
French Name—Stramoine vulgaire.
German Name—Gemeine Stechapfel.
Vulgar Names—Jamestownweed, Jimson, Stink-weed, &c.
Authorities—Linn. and all botanical writers, Schoepf, Stoerck, B. Barton, Marcet, Hufeland, Woodville, Fisher, Cullen, Murray, Chapman, Archer, Thatcher, Coxe, A. Ives, Bigelow, fig. 1. & Seq.
Genus DATURA—Calix tubular, angular, deciduous, five toothed, Corolla funnel-shaped, plaited, five toothed: stamina five equal. Pistil one, style filiform, stigma bilobe. Capsule four celled, four valved. many seeded.
Species D. STRAMONIUM—Stem dichotome; leaves alterne oval, sinuate-angular, acute, smooth: flowers solitary, cdpsuhi erect, ovate, thorny.
Description—Root annual, white, crooked. Stem erect, from one to eight feet high, branched by forks or dichotome, cylindrical, often hollow, smooth or pubescent. Leaves alternate at the forks, petiolate, oval or oval-oblong, base decurrent, end acute, margin almost angular by large unequal acute teeth, sinuses rounded, and irregular.—Flowers axillary solitary, on short peduncles, erect, or sometimes nodding, large, white or blueish. Calix monophylle, tubular, with five angles and teeth, deciduous, but leaving a rim at the base. Corolla twice as long, monopetalous, base tubular, subangular, limb with five angles, plaits and teeth, these last are acuminate. Stamina five, filaments coherent with the tube, filiform, equal, anthers oblong erect. Germen central, free, but the base concrete with the persistent rim of the calix, oval, hairy; one style filiform, as long as the stamina, one stigma bilobe at the base or subreniform. Fruit a large fleshy capsule, ovate, thorny, with four valves opening at the top, inside with four cells. Many black seeds filling each cell, and attached to a central receptacle in each cell, shape reniform.
History—The Genus Datura belongs to the LURIDES of Linnaeus or SOLANEA of Jussieu; but ought to be the type of a peculiar family DATURINES, hardly different from the CONVOLVULIDES, except by having equal stamina. It is one of the numerous genera of the linnean Pentandria monogynia.
Some obscurity appear to exist on this species and several others, owing to mistakes of the best botanists. Linnaeus blended the Datura tatula of Africa, with a variety of D. Stramonium, and the D. metel hardly differs from both. Individual varieties answering to these three species, are found in the United States; but they have all the same properties, as well as the D. fastuosa and D. ferox of the East Indies. The following varieties are common with us, and are linked by imperceptible changes.
1. Var. Tatuloides. Stem purple dotted with green, leaves subtruncate at the base, flowers purplish. This is the D. tatula of some botanists, but not the real one of South Africa and Asia.
2. Var. Cordata. Leaves cordate at the base, stem green, flowers pale bluish.
3. Var. Angustifolia. Leaves oblong-lanceolate, sinuate, flowers pale bluish.
4. Var. Physaloides. Leaves oblique at the base, viscid, flowers white.
5. Var. Meteloides. Stem viscid, tall, leaves subcordate pubescent viscid, flowers white, nodding.—This is the D. metel of some Botanists, but not the true kind of Africa, which has globose capsuls, and leaves nearly entire.
6. Var. Alba. Stem green without dots, flowers pure white.
This plant has handsome flowers, sometimes four inches long, with leaves from three to seven inches long, of a lurid aspect. It has been formerly cultivated for its beautiful blossoms, although they have a lurid smell. Children use them as yet for garlands, by forming strings of the flowers within each other. Notwithstanding its noxious qualities, I have seen Cows, Sheep and Goats browze on the leaves.
It blossoms from May to September, in the Southern States, and in the Northern from July to October, bearing yet blossoms when the seeds of the first flowers are ripe. It is killed by the frost with us; but in warmer climates becomes a half biennial plant.
The whole plant is a narcotic poison, producing many strange effects on the human system, according to the doses and constitutions. The leaves eaten boiled, have occasioned delirium and intoxication for many days, without producing death, or else madness or tetanus and death. The Antidotes of this poison are emetics, vegetable acids, and strong coffee. The vulgar name of Jimson is a corruption from Jamestown; as it is said to have spread from the town of that name in Virginia.
Locality—One of the erratic or wandering plants, common to all the parts of the world, and spreading with the utmost facility. It is probably a native of Persia and India; but has spread to Europe, Africa and America. It was once thought to be a native of North America; but it has spread in it only since its colonization: the Indians call it the White people's plant. Its migrations and colonies might be traced from Virginia, and New England. In the Western States it has sprung only since their late settlement, and from seeds carried there as a pretty garden plant. It is now become a noxious weed, infesting the fields, &c; but as it is annual, it might easily be destroyed by pulling it before seed time. It is commonly met with near houses, along the roads, in commons, old fields, &c. never in woods nor mountains, and is found in all the States; also in Canada, and beyond Louisiana to Mexico, and even to Peru in South America.
Qualities—The whole plant has a fetid, lurid and narcotic smell, causing head ache and stupor; it has a bitter and nauseous taste. It contains gum, resin, carbonate of ammonia, nitrate of potash, malic acid, and a peculiar alkaline principle called Daturin, to which most of its activity is ascribed. Daturin cristalizes in quadrangular prisms, and is only soluble in boiling alcohol: yet the plant yields its properties to Water and Alcohol, because the Daturin is combined with the acid and forms a soluble mallate of Daturin.
Properties—This loathsome weed is one of those bounties of nature scattered almost every where, and possessing energetic medical powers. It is narcotic, phantastic, antispasmodic, anti-epileptic, anodyne, sedative, &c. and externally refrigerant, detergent, resolvent, &c. It has been recommended by Physicians in Asia, Europe and America, in Epilepsy, rheumatic pains, tic douleureux, Gout and all kinds of pains, Mania, Convulsions, Asthma, Chorea, Sciatica, &.C, and externally for burnings, scaldings, tumors, ulcers, cancer and piles. It is now a common article of Materia Medica every where; but it fails sometimes and requires care in the exhibition, owing to its noxious qualities when taken internally in too great quantity. It produces then Vertigo, confusion of mind, dilatation of the pupil, loss of sight, head ache, tremors of the limbs, loss of motion, dry throat, nausea, anxiety, faintness, delirium, convulsions, lethargy and death. Vinegar neutralizes the Daturin, as well as all vegetable acids; but an emetic is always serviceable when poisoned by narcotics. The effects of this narcotic when administered internally for medical purposes, and in proper doses, is to lessen sensibility and pain, to cause a kind of nervous shock attended with some nausea, a feeling of intoxication and suffocation, to have little influence on the pulse, to relax the bowels, to dilate the eyes, &c., followed by a sensation of ease and quiet, which induces sleep.
It has been too much extolled by some writers; but the results of the numerous cases in which it has been given, are as follows:—In asthma, it is only a palliative, useful in the paroxysms, but useless in plethoric cases, it is commonly smoked like Tobacco, a practice likely to be attended with some danger, and suitable only for smokers. In Mania it is of little use except in some cases difficult to be ascertained; but in Epilepsy and Convulsions it cures the periodical fits, while it avails not in the sudden fits. It is highly serviceable in Chronic acute diseases, such as Sciatica, Syphilitic pains, disease of the spine, paraplegia, Cancer of the breast, uterine pains, rheumatism, &c. also in chorea and dysmenorhea, strangury and Calculus, acting in all those cases as an antispasmodic. In tic douleureux it has only afforded relief in some cases, and has required repeated doses, but it has failed in others.
Externally it is a safer and certain remedy for burns, tumors, gout, ulcers, inflammations and some cutaneous eruptions. The leaves or their ointment are applied to the parts, they promote the granulations or cicatrization of the worse ulcers, and afford speedy relief in piles and painful hemorrhoidal tumors. Surgeons use them topically to enlarge the pupil of the eye previous to the operation of Cataract. It is said that the leaves applied to the head, produce sleep and dreams. The plant may be gathered for use at any time; but it is best when in blossom. All the parts of the plant are efficient even the root; but the seeds contain more Daturin, and are preferable in some instances.
Many preparations are made for internal use; but the distilled water is nearly inert. The powdered leaves, juice, extract, decoction, tincture, &c. are all available; for external use an ointment is made by simmering one pound of fresh leaves in three pounds of lard. The doses for internal use are to be very small. Dr. Bigelow recommends the following: one grain of dry powdered leaves or extract, half a grain of powdered seeds, one quarter of a grain of extract from the seeds, and from 15 to 20 drops of the tincture. Marcet and others say that even one-eighth of a grain is a sufficient dose to begin with. One pound of seeds afford two ounces of extract, and one pound of leaves three ounces.
Substitutes—Hyosciamus niger—Conium maculatum—Lactuca elongata—Solanum Virginicum and S. dulcamara—Cypripedium Sp—Opium and other active narcotics or sedatives.
Additions and corrections
31. DATURA STRAMONIUM—Found also in the West Indies. The leaves applied to the head cure the head ache, and applied to the joints they relieve the gout. A tincture of the seeds is said to be preferable to Laudanum for convulsions, &c. and the extract by far superior to that of Conium.