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Homeopathy: Belladonna

The assignment: write up a homeopathic remedy from a non-homeopathic perspective, ie: don't give indications according to repertory, instead, find out more about the source of the medicine, and the history. I choose belladonna.


NAMES
--belladonna, deadly nightshade
--bella donna is derived from Italian and means "beautiful woman"
--another species is known as deadly nightshade: Solanum nigrum.
--devil's cherries, naughty man's cherries, black cherry
--devil's herb
--great morel
--dwayberry, divale, dwale
--banewort
--generic name: atropa, derived from the Greek Atropos, one of the Fates who held the shears to cut the thread of human life - a reference to its deadly, poisonous nature



GENERAL
--first botanical description by Linnaeus in Species Plantarum in 1753
--one of the most toxic plants in the western hemisphere
--other nightshades include: potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, jimsonweed, tobacco, wolfberry, chili peppers
--family: solanaceae
--often confused in the public mind with dulcamara (Bittersweet), possibly because it bears the popular name of woody nightshade
--causes narcosis and paralysis in animals, except cattle, horses, rabbits


HABIT
--naturalized in parts of North America
--widely distributed in Central and Southern Europe, South-west Asia and Algeria
--cultivated in England, France and North America
--grows well in shady, moist areas with a limestone-rich (calcareous) soil
--uncommon in England, more rare in modern times
--sw aspect of a hill, likes sunny and dry seasons
--between 50 degrees and 55 degrees N. Lat. and an altitude of 300 to 600 feet, though it may descend to sea level where the soil is calcareous, especially where the drainage is good and the necessary amount of shade is found
--sparingly found in twenty-eight British counties, mostly in waste places, quarries and near old ruins, rare in Scotland
--colonizes disturbed soils and is considered a weed in some parts of the world
--specimens growing in sun are apt to be dwarfed
--when cultivated in the open it is more vulnerable to insects than when growing wild
--best soil: light, permeable and chalky soil

--branching upright herbaceous subshrub perennial with fleshy rootstock
--height 1.5 m (5 ft) tall with 18 cm (7 in) long ovate leaves
--flowers: bell-shaped, dull purple with green tinges, faintly scented, singly in the axils of the leaves (June and July-early Sept), about an inch long, pendant, bell-shaped, furrowed, the corolla with five large teeth or lobes, slightly reflexed
--berries: ~1 cm in diameter, green turning to black and shiny when ripe, pretty and sweet, containing several seeds, smooth, ripens in sept, five-cleft calyx around base, dangerous esp to children because they are pretty and sweet: 10-20 berries or one leaf can be lethal to an adult, fewer to kids

--one variant (lutea) has pale yellow flowers and fruit
--seeds: dispersed by animal droppings, contain toxic alkaloids
--root: perennial, thick, fleshy and whitish, about 6 inches long, or more, and branching
--stem: purplish, annual, herbaceous, stout, usu 2-4 feet high, undivided at the base, but dividing a little above the ground usu into three branches, each of which again branches
--leaves: bitter tasting, dull, darkish green, unequal size, 3 to 10 inches long, the lower leaves solitary, the upper ones in pairs alternately from opposite sides of the stem, one leaf of each pair much larger than the other, oval in shape, acute at the apex, entire and attenuated into short petioles
--first-year plants: grow only about 1 1/2 feet in height, leaves often larger than in full-grown plants and grow on the stem immediately above the ground
--mature plants: 3 to 6 feet high, leaves growing about 1 to 2 feet from the ground
--whole plant: is glabrous, or nearly so, though soft, downy hairs may occur on the young stems and the leaves when quite young
--leaf veins: prominent on the under surface, especially the midrib
--fresh plant crushed exhales disagreeable odor which nearly disappears when dried

--gather from june until fall
--plants die in wet winters if soil doesn't drain well
--dig roots after 2-3 years
--germination: takes 4-6 weeks, speed up with gibberellic acid

CHEMICAL COMPONENTS
--tropane alkaloids
--atropine is produced from the foliage, which along with the berries are extremely toxic
--hyoscine (scopolamine)
--hyoscyamine
--many components are anticholinergic: disrupt parasympathetic nervous sys, affecting regulation of sweat, breathing, and heart rate
--medicinal properties of Belladonna depend on the presence of Hyoscyamine and Atropine (isomers)
--also present: belladonnine, occasionally Atropamine,
--atrosine, scopolamine

ACTIONS/USES: HISTORIC AND MODERN
--donnatal, a prescription pharmaceutical FDA approved in the US to "provide peripheral anticholinergic/antispasmodic action and mild sedation", is a phenobarbital formulation containing alkaloids derived from belladonna
--narcotic, diuretic, sedative, antispasmodic, mydriatic, hallucinogenic
--in eye useful to enlarge pupil, acts as antimuscarinic, blocks receptors that cause pupil constriction, has adverse effects(visual problems, increased heart rate) and isn't used currently (once used by women to cosmetically enlarge pupils of eyes (hence the name))
--antidote for poisoning by organophosphate nerve agents (chemical warfare)
--increase a slow heart rate (bradycardia) by 20-40 bpm
--small doses or plaster to cardiac region allay cardiac palpitation
--traditional uses: headache, menstrual symptoms, peptic ulcer disease, histaminic reaction, inflammation, and motion sickness
--homeopathic: Hahnemann "proved" that tincture of Belladonna given in very small doses will protect from the infection of scarlet fever, and at one time thought a poultice of belladonnna leaves would cure cancer
--Sx of a toxic dose: dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, tachycardia, loss of balance, staggering, headache, rash, flushing, dry mouth and throat, slurred speech, urinary retention, constipation, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, convulsions,
complete loss of voice, frequent bending forward of the trunk, continual movements of the hands/fingers
--has no action on the voluntary muscles, but involuntary muscles paralyzed by large doses
--topical lessens irritability and pain, and is used as a lotion, plaster or liniment in cases of neuralgia, gout, rheumatism and sciatica
--antispasmodic for intestinal colic and spasmodic asthma
--leaves have been smoked for asthma
--for whooping cough and false croup
--for its action on the circulation, it is given in the collapse of pneumonia, typhoid fever and other acute diseases
--for acute sore throat, said to relieve local inflammation and congestion
--plasters applied to musculoskeletal sprains/strains
--plaster of belladonna, salicylic acid and lead applied for corns and bunions
--antidote for belladonna or atropine poisoning: physostigmine or pilocarpine
--Preparations and Dosages---Powdered leaves, 1 to 2 grains. Powdered root, 1 to 5 grains. Fluid extract leaves, 1 to 3 drops. Fluid extract root, B.P., 1/4 to 1 drop. Tincture, B.P., 5 to 15 drops. Alkaloid Atropine, Alcoholic extract, B.P., 1/4 to 1 grain. Green extract, B.P., 1/4 to 1 grain. Juice, B.P., 5 to 15 drops. Liniment, B.P. Plaster, B.P. and U.S.P. Ointment, B.P.



HISTORY AND MYTH
--name Atropa from Greed goddess Atroppos, "one of the three fates or destinies that would determine the course of a man's life by the weaving of threads that symbolized their birth, events in that life and finally their death; with Atropos cutting these threads to mark the latter."
--has been used as a recreational drug for vivid hallucinations and delirium, usually unpleasant halluc and risk of death, memory disruption,
--witches mixed it with opium and other plants (typically poisonous things like monkshood and poison hemlock) in flying ointment they applied to help them fly to gatherings with other witches, or perhaps to encourage hallucinatory dreaming
--known antagonism between tropane alkaloids of belladonna (specifically scopolamine) and opiate alkaloids in Papaver somniferum (specifically morphine), which produces a dream-like waking state
--antagonism between opiates and tropanes is the original basis of the Twilight Sleep that was provided to Queen Victoria to deaden pain as well as consciousness during childbirth, and which was later modified so that isolated alkaloids were used instead of plant materials, the whole belladonna herb especially being notable for its unpredictability of effect and toxicy
--accidental deaths of children documented in London in 1916
--8 pounds of the herb are said to have been eaten by a horse without causing any injury, and an ass swallowed 1 lb. of the ripe berries without any bad results following. Rabbits, sheep, goats and swine eat the leaves with impunity, and birds often eat the seeds without any apparent effect, but cats and dogs are very susceptible to the poison
--may have poisoned the troops of Marcus Antonius during the Parthian wars
--soldiers of Macbeth (Scots) poisoned a whole army of invading Danes by a liquor mixed with an infusion of Dwale supplied to them during a truce
--according to old legends, the plant belongs to the devil who goes about trimming and tending it in his leisure, and can only be diverted from its care on one night in the year, that is on Walpurgis, when he is preparing for the witches' sabbath. The apples of Sodom are held to be related to this plant, and the name Belladonna is said to record an old superstition that at certain times it takes the form of an enchantress of exceeding loveliness, whom it is dangerous to look upon, though a more generally accepted view is that the name was bestowed on it because its juice was used by the Italian ladies to give their eyes greater brilliancy, the smallest quantity having the effect of dilating the pupils of the eye.
--another derivation is founded on the old tradition that the priests used to drink an infusion before they worshipped and invoked the aid of Bellona, the Goddess of War
--sleeping potion of Juliet was a preparation from this plant
--industry was an important one in Croatia and Slavonia in South Hungary, the chief centre for foreign Belladonna, the annual crop in those provinces having been estimated at 60 to 100 tons of dry leaves and 150 to 200 tons of dry root
--in 1908 the largest exporter in Slavonia is said to have sent out 29,880 lb. of dry Belladonna root.
--Balkan War of 1912-13 interrupted the continuity of Belladonna exports from South Hungary
--price increased dramatically during WWI



The following note on the growth and cultivation of Belladonna is from the Chemist and Druggist, of February 26, 1921:
'Belladonna is a perennial, but for horticultural purposes it is treated as a biennial, or triennial plant. The root in 3 years has attained very large dimensions around Edinburgh; in fact, often so large as to make the lifting a very heavy, and therefore costly, matter, and in consequence 2 years' growth is quite sufficient. One-year-old roots are just as active as the three-year-old stocks, and to the grower it is merely a matter of expediency which crop he chooses to dig up. The aerial growth is very heavy, twoyear-old plants making 5 to 6 feet in the season if not cut for first crop, and if cut in July they make a second growth of 2 to 3 feet by September. To obtain a supply of seeds certain plantations must be left uncut, so as to get a crop of seeds for the next season. Moisture is, from a practical point of view, a very important matter. A sample, apparently dry to the touch, but not crisp, may have 15 per cent to 20 per cent of moisture present. Therefore if a pharmacist was to use a sample of such Belladonna leaves, although assayed to contain 0.03 per cent of alkaloids, he would produce a weaker tincture than if he had used leaves with, say, only 5 per cent of water present. The alkaloidal factor of this drug is the index to its value. Both the British and the United States Pharmacopoeias adopt the same standard of alkaloidal value for the leaves, but the British Pharmacopceia does not require a standard for the root, which is one of those subtle conundrums which this quaint book frequently presents! Plants grown in a hard climate, such as Scotland, give a good alkaloidal figure, which compares favourably with any others. For roots, the British Pharmacopoeia as just stated, requires no standard, but United States Pharmacopceia standard is 0.45 per cent, and Scottish roots yielded 0.78 per cent and 0.72 per cent. There is not a great deal of alkaloidal value in the stalks. About 0.08 in the autumn.'

---

SOURCES:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadly_nightshade
http://www.abchomeopathy.com/
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/n/nighde05.html

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
frithman
Sep. 26th, 2008 11:17 am (UTC)
A common remedy for Meningitis.
bloomingmom
Sep. 26th, 2008 12:33 pm (UTC)
hello there!
so, that first photo is a nekked lady or lycoris squagmira......
i love them - but they are not a belladonna.
i didn't know bella donna was atropine - interesting.
m
liveonearth
Sep. 26th, 2008 02:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks for correcting me on the image! There's no shortage of mis-information out here on the WEB.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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