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Atropa Belladonna and Scopolamine. Michelle Pryce Chemistry 211 13 June 2008. Atropa belladonna. Scopolamine is derived from the Atropa belladonna plant. This plant is commonly known as the “Deadly Nightshade”.

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atropa belladonna and scopolamine

Atropa Belladonnaand Scopolamine

Michelle Pryce

Chemistry 211

13 June 2008

atropa belladonna
Atropa belladonna
  • Scopolamine is derived from the Atropabelladonna plant.
  • This plant is commonly known as the “Deadly Nightshade”.
  • The plant is a perennial herbaceous plant that can grow to over 5m in height.
atropa belladonna1
Atropa Belladonna
  • The leaves are dull, but shiny green. They are similar in texture to poison ivy.
  • It produces purple, bell-shaped flowers.
  • The flowers then produce shiny black, sweet berries.
atropa belladonna2
Atropa belladonna also goes by the following other names: dwale, banewort, devil's cherries, naughty man's cherries, divale, black cherry, devil's herb, great morel, and dwayberry.

The plant is native to Central and Southern Europe, North Africa, and Southwest Asia, it and has been successfully cultivated in North and South America as well as parts of Russia.

It is considered one of the deadliest plant in the Western Hemisphere.

Atropa Belladonna
toxicity of atropa belladonna
Atropa belladonna is one of the most toxic plants found on Earth.

Children have been poisoned by eating as few as three berries.

Ingestion of a leaf of the A.belladonna can be fatal to an adult.

The root of the plant is generally the most toxic part of the plant. Belladonna leaves, if handled carelessly, can cause pus filled blisters on the hands.

Symptoms of A. belladonna poisoning include dilated pupils and blurred vision.

Also included are husky voice, hallucinations, loss of balance, a feeling of flight, staggering, a sense of suffocation, paleness followed by a red rash, flushing, extremely dry throat, constipation, tachycardia, urinary retention, and confusion.

Toxicity of Atropa Belladonna
historic uses of a belladonna
Historic Uses of A. belladonna
  • Belladonna is Italian for ‘beautiful lady’ and was used cosmetically for hundreds of years.
  • Belladonna was used by women in order to dilate the pupils.
  • This produced a dreamy, intoxicated state that was considered the epitome of beauty at one time.
  • However, repeated use caused fuzzy vision and eventually blindness.
medicinal uses of a belladonna

Used in ACLS protocol for symptomatic bradycardia.

Used to reverse effects of nerve agent in chemical poisoning.

Used to treat organo-phosphate poisoning.

Used by ophthalmologists for pupil dilation in eye exams.


Used to treat nausea and vomiting.

Used to treat motion sickness and vertigo.

Used to treat IBS, enterocolitis, and duodenal ulcers to stop intestinal spasms.

Used in cold/flu medicines to help dry up excess mucus

Medicinal uses of A. belladonna
folklore and historical references
Folklore and historical references
  • Some of the first anesthetics, dating back to the days of Pliny the Elder (1st century AD), were derived from the Atropa family of plants.
  • “Witches’ Brew”
    • A tea made from the leaves of the plant produce hallucinations in which the drinker thinks he thinks he is flying.
  • Devil’s Cherries
    • According to folklore, the devil has exclusive right to use the plant in any form.
    • Anyone who uses the plant without the devil’s permission will be visited and killed by the devil.
historical references
In Homer’s Odyssey, Circe’s transformation of Odysseus’ fellows into pigs is attributed to hallucinations caused by A. belladonna.

Belladonna is the plant that poisoned the troops of Marcus Antonius during the Parthian wars.

According to the History ofScotland (1582), Macbeth poisoned an entire army with a drink containing an infusion of belladonna and alcohol.

Juliet of Romeo and Juliet took an infusion of belladonna to produce her death-like sleep.

Mentioned in Little Women as a sleeping aid.

Mentioned in the movies The Nightmare Before Christmas, Perfect Stranger, Robocop 2, and Practical Magic as ways to sedate or kill a nemesis and in the TV shows CSI and House as a way to commit criminal activities.

Historical references
The name Scopolamine is derived from Dr. J A Scopoli, a chemist, naturalist, and instructor of chemistry and metallurgy, who isolated some beneficial properties of A. belladonna while working in Slovenia in the 1750’s and 1760’s.

Dr. Scopoli was also a physician who was assigned to treat miners in the mines of Slovenia.

He was trying to isolate a cure for mercury poisoning when he isolated the derivative of scopolamine.

He did not find a cure form mercury poisoning, however, scopolamine is a very useful drug.

Today, it is used medicinally for treatment of motion sickness, gastrointestinal cramping, and recovery from anesthesia and surgery.

other uses of scopolamine
Other uses of scopolamine
  • 1940’-1960’s- used by obstetrics in combination with morphine a to produce a tranquilized ‘twilight sleep’ for mothers in labor.
  • Used in 1950’s by CIA and others in Project MKULTA, as an interrogation drug.
  • Used in 1950’s and 60 in Asthmador, a drug to treat asthma and bronchitis.
  • Used up to 1990 as OTC sleep aid.
  • Used today illegally as date rape drug in Colombia and Thailand.