Devil's Herb


Four species of tall perennials make up this genus, occurring from W Europe to N Africa and the Himalayas. Atropa comes from the Greek Atropos, one of the Three Fates who snips the thread of life, and refers to the poisonous nature of these plants. The common name "dwale" is from a Nordic word for something that causes stupor. Legends tell of the use of deadly nightshade to subdue invaders, notably the Danish army by Macbeth (Buchanan, History of Scotland, 1582). Atropa bella-donna is of major importance in modern medicine and is widely cultivated for the pharmaceutical industry, mainly in E. Europe. Like other Atropa species, it contains various alkaloids that have valuable medicinal applications and a macabre history of use by poisoners. The genus gives its name to one of these alkaloids, atropine, which dilates the pupil of the eye. Before the advent of modern anesthetics, A. bella-donna was applied to the skin as "sorcerer's pomade" to make the patient unconscious before surgery.

Legend has it that belladonna, which means "beautiful woman" sometimes takes the form of a stunningly gorgeous enchantress who is dangerous to behold. Or belladonna may be so-named because Italian ladies once used the juice to dilate their pupils, making their eyes more brilliant. Belladonna is a source of atropine, which is used to treat eye diseases and spasms.

Tall perennial with erect, branched stems, and pointed, ovate leaves, up to 20cm (8in) long. Purple-brown, bell-shaped flowers, about 2.5cm (1in) across, appear during summer, followed by shiny, black berries, 1-2cm (½-¾in) across, with a persistent calyx.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Deadly Nightshade, Devil's Herb, Dwale, Great Morel, Naughty Man's Cherries.
Botanical Name:
Atropa bella-donna
Native Location:
W, C, and S Europe, W Asia, and N Africa
Well-drained, moisture-retentive, alkaline soil in sun or partial shade. The alkaloid content of the plant is higher in a sunny position and in warm, dry summers.
By seed sown in spring; by division in spring.
Whole plants are cut when flowering and dried for processing into dry and liquid extracts, tinctures, liniments, bandages, and glycerin preparations. Roots of two- to three-year-old plants are lifted in autumn and processed similarly
1-1.5m (3-5ft)
60-90cm (24-36in)
Has yellow-green flowers.
Parts Used:
Whole plants, leaf, roots
A narcotic herb that relieves spasms and reduces secretions of the mouth, bronchi, and stomach.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for asthma, kidney stones and gallstones, Parkinson's disease, myocardial infarction, hypotension, hyperacidity, gastric ulcers, colic, motion sickness, and as a premedication before surgery. Excess causes dry mouth, loss of voice, enlarged pupils, aversion to light, confusion, respiratory failure, and death. Externally, in liniments and bandages, for rheumatic and muscular pain, and in eye drops for opthalmic diagnosis and surgery. For use by qualified practioners only. Important in homeopathy for sunstroke, painful menstruation, and infections or inflammations characterized by sudden onset, redness, and violent pain.
To treat spasms and pain in the gastrointestinal tract; to treat gout, meningitis, and tonsilitis, and inflammation of the skin, joints, or gastrointestinal tract. Belladonna root is used to treat irregular heartbeat, pain in the gastrointestinal tract and bile duct, asthma, and bronchitis. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of belladonna leaf and root to treat gallbladder and liver complaints.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of belladonna leaf may range from 50 to 100mg in powder form, with a maximum daily dose of 600mg. A typical dose of belladonna root is 50mg in powder form, with a maximum dose of 300mg.
Possible Side Effects:
Belladonna's side effects include dry mouth, dilated pupils, blurred vision, dry skin, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), and difficulty urinating.
Drug Interactions:
Taking belladonna with these drugs may enhance the drug's therapeutic and adverse effects:
Acetominophen, Chlorpheniramine, and Pseudoephedrine, (Children's Tylenol Plus Cold; Sinutab Sinus Allergy Maximum Strength)
Acetominophen, Dextromethorphan, and Pseudoephedrine, (Alka-Seltzer Plus Flu Liqui-Gels, Sudafed Severe Cold)
Acrivastine and Pseudoephedrine, (Semprex-D)
Amantadine, (Endantadine, Symmetrel)
Amitriptyline, (Elavil, Levate)
Amitriptyline and Chlordiazepoxide, (Limbitrol)
Amitriptyline and Perphenazine, (Etrafon, Triavil)
Amoxapine, (Asendin)
Azatadine, (Optimine)
Azatadine and Pseudoephedrine, (Rynatan Tablet, Trinalin)
Azelastine, (Astelin, Optivar)
Brompheniramine and Pseudoephedrine, (Children's Dimetapp Elixir Cold & Allergy, Lodrane)
Carbinoxamine, (Histex CT, Histex PD)
Carbinoxamine and Pseudoephedrine, (Rondec Drops, Sildec)
Carbinoxamine, Pseudoephedrine, and Dextromethorphan, (Rondex-DM Drops, Tussafed)
Cetirizine, (Reactine, Zyrtec)
Chlorpheniramine and Acetominophen, (Coricidin HBP Cold and Flu)
Chlorpheniramine and Phenylephrine, (Histatab Plus, Rynatan)
Chlorpheniramine, Ephedrine, Phenylephrine and Carbetapentane, (Rynatuss, Tynatuss Pediatric)
Chlorpheniramine, Phenylephrine, and Dextromethorphan, (Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold and Cough)
Chlorpheniramine, Phenylephrine, and Methscopolamine, (AH-Chew, Extendryl)
Chlorpheniramine, Phenylephrine, and Phenyltoloxamine, (Comhist, Nalex-A)
Chlorpheniramine, Phenylephrine, Codeine, and Potassium Iodide, (Pediacof)
Chlorpheniramine, Pseudoephedrine, and Codeine, (Dihistine DH, Ryna-C)
Chlorpheniramine, Pseudoephedrine, and Dextromethorphan, (Robitussin Pediatric Night Relief, Vicks Pediatric 44M)
Chlorpromazine, (Thorazine, Largactil)
Cimetidine, (Nu-Cimet, Tagamet)
Clemastine, (Tavist Allergy)
Clomipramine, (Anafranil, Novo-Clopramine)
Cyproheptadine, (Periactin)
Deptropine, (Deptropine FNA)
Desipramine, (Alti-Desipramine, Norpramin)
Desloratadine, (Aerius, Clarinex)
Dexbrompheniramine and Pseudoephedrine, (Drixomed, Drixoral Cold & Allergy)
Dexchlopheniranine, (Polaramine)
Dimethidine, (Fenistil)
Diphenhydramine, (Benadryl Allergy, Nytol)
Diphenhydramine and Pseudoephedrine, (Benadryl Allergy/Decongestant, Benadryl Children's Allergy and Sinus)
Doxepin, (Sinequan, Zonalon)
Doxylamine and pyridoxine, (Diclectin)
Epinastine, (Elestat)
Famotidine, (Apo-Famotidine, Pepcid)
Fexofenadine, (Allegra)
Fexofenadine and Pseudoephedrine, (Allegra-D)
Fluphenazine, (Modecate, Prolixin)
Hydrocodone and Chlorpheniramine, (Tussionex)
Hydrocodone, Carbinoxamine, and Pseudoephedrine, (Histex HC, Tri-Vent HC)
Hydroxyzine, (Atarax, Vistaril)
Imipramine, (Apo-Imipramine, Tofranil)
Ketotifen, (Novo-Ketotifen Zaditor)
Levocabastine, (Livostin)
Lofepramine, (Feprapax, Gamanil)
Loratadine, (Alavert, Claritin)
Loratadine and Pseudoephedrine, (Claritin-D 12 Hour, Claritin-D 24 Hour)
Mebhydrolin, (Bexidal, Incidal)
Melitracen, (Dixeran)
Mesoridazine, (Serentil)
Mizolastine, (Elina, Mizollen)
Nizatidine, (Axid, PMS-Nizatidine)
Nortriptyline, (Aventyl HCl, Pamelor)
Olopatadine, (Patanol)
Oxatomide, (Cenacert, Tinset)
Perphenazine, (Apo-Perphenazine, Trilafon)
Procainamide, (Procanbid, Pronestyl-SR)
Prochlorperazine, (Compazine, Compro)
Promethazine, (Phenergan)
Promethazine and Codeine, (Pherergan with Codiene)
Promethazine and Dextromethorphan, (Promatussin DM)
Promethazine and Phenylephrine, (Promethazine and Phenylephrine)
Promethazine, Phenylephrine, and Codeine, (Promethazine, Phenylephrine, and Codeine)
Protriptyline, (Vivactil)
Quinidine, (Novo-Quinidine, Quinaglute Dura-Tabs)
Ranitidine, (Alti-Ranitidine, Zantac)
Thiethylperazine, (Torecan)
Thioridazine, (Mellaril)
Thiothixene, (Navane)
Trifluoperazine, (Novo-Trifluzine, Stelazine)
Trimipramine, (Apo-Trimip, Surmontil)
Tipelennamine, (PBZ, PBZ-SR)
Triprolidine and Pseudoephedrine, (Actifed Cold and Allergy, Silafed)
Triprolidine, Pseudoephedrine, and Codeine, (CoActifed, Covan)
Toxic if eaten. Skin irritant and possible allergen.
This herb and its alkaloids are subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
Disease Affects:
  • May cause tachycardia and exacerbate congestive heart failure.
  • May cause constipation.
  • May exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux, gastric ulcers, obstructive gastrointestinal tract diseases, and toxic megacolon.
  • Increased risk of hypothermia in patients with fever.
  • May suppress gastrointestinal mobility.
  • May increase ocular tension in those with narrow-angle glaucoma.
  • May increase urinary retention.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pp 138
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD. Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. pp.60-62