Synonyms: Belladonna. Devil's Cherries. Naughty Man's Cherries. Divale. Black Cherry. Devil's Herb. Great Morel. Dwayberry
Scientific Name: Atropa belladonna L.
Family: Solanaceae (Nachtschattengewächse)
Central and Southern Europe, Southwest Asia
atropine, hyoscyamine, scopolamine, various secondary alkaloids
Almost everyone knows this indigenous poisonous plant with its cherry-sized shiny black berries that are so dangerously attractive. But eating the berries or any other part of the Deadly Nightshade can be fatal. The bushy plant, with several reddish stems that are branched at the top, can reach a height of 1½ meters (5 feet). From June to August, hidden beneath the leaves, it bears thimble-shaped flowers which are brownish violet on the outside and dingy yellow with purple veins on the inside. In the autumn all the above-ground parts die. New stems then grow again from the rootstock in the spring. Deadly Nightshade thrives best on chalk or limestone in lightly wooded areas.
All parts of Deadly Nightshade are poisonous. It should therefore never be used for self-medication without medical advice. Children must be warned about it.
In the hands of a doctor the highly poisonous Deadly Nightshade becomes an important and potent medicinal herb which is used to treat diseases of the stomach and intestine that are associated with crampy pain. It is also used for bronchial asthma and various neuralgias. And it plays an important role in ophthalmology.
It is important to repeat that Deadly Nightshade should never be used for self-medication without the advice of a doctor. It is highly toxic and can be fatal. Only in the hands of a doctor is it a highly potent and useful drug.
In Greek mythology Atropa, from the Greek atropos (unchangeable, irrevocable), is the name of the goddess of death, the oldest of the three Fates who severs the thread of life. The name Belladonna comes from the Italian bella donna = beautiful woman and is probably derived from the fact that Italian women used to use atropine to dilate the pupils to conform with the fashion ideal of the time. The berries are said to have been used as make-up.
Some of the German names such as Tollkirsche (toll = mad, Kirsche = cherry) and Wutbeere (Wut = anger, Beere = berry) are derived from the symptoms of poisoning: first the face becomes flushed and the pupils dilated; after ingestion of large doses, this is followed by marked restlessness, incessant talking, crying fits, clouding of consciousness and delirium.
At the time of the witch hunts Deadly Nightshade played an ignominious role: it was used to make an ointment which was applied to women accused of being witches. The hallucinogenic effect led them to confess under torture everything their tormentors wanted to hear. The highly toxic plant also used to be used to make poisonous concoctions and love potions. A toast to the madness of love!
The plant from another perspective
A tree that dissolves or disintegrates completely in the autumn appears to be the pure expression of liquefaction. This tendency is underlined by its constant variability of growth, its fluid play with form. And it is precisely this that makes Deadly Nightshade so valuable for medicinal use. It is used wherever there is a need for dissolution, liquefaction, release of cramps.
For example, in WALA Apis/Belladonna Globuli velati* and Apis/Belladonna cum Mercurio, Globuli velati* the fruits of the Deadly Nightshade are combined with the bee (Apis) to give a highly potent remedy for inflammatory disorders in the region of the mouth, nose and throat. The inflammatory focus is dissolved, the tissue can regenerate.