The Life of an Urban Herbalist
A collection of musings and some articles with a more scientific approach.
Atropa Belladonna. Deadly nightshade. In the middle ages, when cosmetics were a potentially life threatening business, ladies of note and some of very little note at all used drops of belladonna extract in their eyes to make their pupils dilate. This is a well known symbol of attraction and is, consequently, regarded as attractive.
Deadly nightshade contains tropane alkaloids which have the effect of reducing secretions and slowing the activity of the gut. For this reason it is used as a "sedative" or calming medicine for those with IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) and what used to be known as spastic colon, a strong painful cramping of the intestines.
It is also used as a plaster (that is to say it is applied with a bandage directly to an area) to reduce menstrual cramps and arthritic and rheumatic pain in joints.
Unwanted effects of Deadly Nightshade are photophobia caused by the dilation of the pupils, confusion, delirium and a potentially fatal slowing of the activity of the heart. Ultimately the unwanted effect of deadly nightshade is death. Though you should remember that death is also an unwanted effect of paracetemol a drug that many people take every day without problems. Two of the berries are sufficient to kill a small child so it is sensible to be aware of where this plant lives.
A very effective herb in the right amounts, Atropa belladonna is definitely one that should only be taken under the supervision of a suitably qualified herbalist!