Belladonna (Atropa belladonna) is also known as Deadly Nightshade. It has unequal-sized dull, darkish green leaves with an unpleasant odor when crushed and a bitter taste.
As a narcotic and sedative
Belladonna has been used as a narcotic and sedative to relieve pain, alter mood and behavior, and induce sleep. During the Middle Ages, witches used belladonna in a salve to rub on the body to experience hallucinations and erotic sensations.
As a diuretic
It has been used in veterinary science as a diuretic for horses and dogs. It is also used in conventional medicine as a diuretic for humans.
As an antispasmodic
The drug Atropine is obtained from Atropa belladonna and used in cough and whooping cough medications, to relieve peptic ulcers and to smooth and calm the intestinal tract before using general anesthesia.
As a mydriatic
Mydriatics dilate the pupils of the eyes. The extract was used by sixteenth century Italian women to dilate the pupils, giving them a more pleasing, dreamy-eyed appearance. This is where the name “belladonna” is derived from, meaning “beautiful lady.” It’s also used in ophthalmology to dilate the eye for examinations.
Side effects and interactions
Toxic levels of belladonna may cause dry mouth, drowsiness and dizziness, diarrhea or constipation. It may also cause blurred vision, fever due to the inability to urinate or perspire, and arrhythmia.
Alcohol will increase the sedative effect of belladonna. Blood thinners become less effective when used with belladonna. Some anti-diarrheal medications containing kaolin and attapulgite may decrease the effect of belladonna. Individuals considering the use of homeopathic remedies with belladonna should consult their practitioner to review interactions with other medications and foods they may be taking.