Belladonna Plant is an important medicinal herb used in allopathic practices. In addition it is a regular part of alternative system of medicine like homeopathic, ayurveda, Unani- tibbi and Chinese system. Botanical name of this medicinal plant is Atropa belladonna. The popular names of this plant are Devil’s Herb/Devil’s cherries, poison black cherries,
deadly nightshade, and naughty man’s cherries.
Belladonna is actually a member of family Solanaceae belonging to genus Atropa. The family Solanaceae also contains other medicinal plants including Datura, tobacco and globally popular vegetables such as potato, tomato etc. Most of the medicinal properties lies in the roots and leaves although other parts are also used for drug extraction. The Belladonna Plant is native to Asia, Europe and Northern Africa.
It is now widely cultivated in other continents as well. Belladonna has been used as an effective sedative (sleep inducing) and analgesic (pain-reliever) preparations since a long time. It may be part of topical applications in ointment form or intravenous injections or different pharmacological preparations. Belladonna Plant is also one of the plant source used for production of FDA approved drug Donnatal (Belladonna+Phenobarbital) used for the treatment of Irritable bowel syndrome /enterocolitis.
It was the main constituent of the preparation women were using in Italy to enlarge their eye-pupil and look attractive. This is the reason it was named Bella-Beautiful and Donna-Lady. The cases of Belladonna Plant poisoning is more frequent due to attractive black and small berries, eye catching purple flowers on the short herb which is easily accessible by small children and animal as well and the sweet flavour of the fruit.
Belladonna Plant toxicity is mediated through its blocking action on parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). PNS is responsible for all the involuntary activities inside a vertebrate animal like breathing, systolic-diastolic rhythm of heart, secretion of glands etc. The toxicity causes relaxation of smooth muscles, inhibition of all glandular secretions etc. The symptoms of poisoning appeared in the form of delirium, convulsions, slurred voice, sweat inhibition, difficulty in breathing, enlargement of pupil of the eye (mydriasis) et cetera.
The main ingredient from Belladonna Plant that is exploited in pharmacological preparations is secondary metabolite that is categorized as alkaloid in nature. Atropine and scopolamine are two major active components derived from this plant. Nevertheless a potent poison itself the Belladonna Plant is used as antidote for Sarin, a highly potent nerve gas. Furthermore the active ingredient atropine through its inhibiting action on muscarinic acetylcholine receptors reverses the sarin poisoning effect.