The deadly nightshade is a perennial plant, about 50–140 cm high. It grows in forests and clearings of mountainous and hilly areas in Central and Southern Europe, parts of Asia and in North Africa. Belladonna played an important role during medieval times. Besides henbane and thorn apple it was well known as a “witch plant”. Among the three mentioned species, belladonna is the relatively most toxic one, as the effects of atropine are the most pronounced.
Use: 20–180 mg of the ground dried leaves are swallowed or smoked. Several persons prefer the berries rather than smoking. In cases of adults, eating 1 to 2 ripe belladonna berries leads to a mild stimulation. Because of the very uncertain dosage and the strong toxicity the use of all parts of the belladonna is strictly not advised. The substances are only slowly metabolized, so that it is possible, that one can lethally poison himself with two moderate doses that were taken during two consecutive days. The pure substances have, in contrast to the extracts of the whole plant, lesser hallucinogenic effects.
Active constituents: Belladonna contains essentially the following: Atropine, hyoscyamine, scopolamine. The total content of alkaloids of the leaves amounts to 0.4 percent and of the roots around 0.6 percent, but concentrations up to 1.5 percent can occur. The very toxic apoatropine is contained within the roots. Because of this they mustn’t be used under any circumstances, as it is sometimes advised in some underground publications.
Effects: Atropa slightly lessens the sensitivity for pain and the occurring paralysis of the parasympathetic nervous system leads to enlargement of the pupils, dryness of the mouth, faster heart beat. Hallucinations have often dark, satanic and/or erotic content and are often described as being very colorful. After some time the intoxicated falls asleep, while sleeping dreams with a sexual content often occur. Disturbances of the memory and of the ability to concentrate can still remain many days after the state of intoxication. During the hallucination it is nearly impossible to distinguish the hallucinated world from reality, which can lead to fatal consequences!
Side effects, contraindications: The nightshade is to be classified as very toxic, there are proven cases of death. In case of children 3–4 berries are considered a lethal dose, for adults 10 to 12, but these values also fall under strong individual variations. A dose, that one man can tolerate well, can already kill another. Because of this it is strictly dissuaded to use belladonna as a intoxicant. During the initial excitement phase a very high frequency of heartbeat can occur. People with a damaged heart (Angina pectoris, narrowing of the blood vessels, heart attack) shouldn’t use belladonna under any circumstances. Those who grow belladonna as an ornamental plant must take precautions, so that children cannot reach the good-tasting berries. Compare also the effects and side effects of Datura stramonium and Hyoscymus niger. Who thinks that he really must experiment with drugs of the nightshade family in a hallucinogenic dosage, should prefer the comparatively less poisonous (but still not untoxic and not harmless) brugmansias or the mandrake root. Especially it needs to be mentioned, that the consumption of nightshade drugs more often causes a psychosis than other hallucinogenic drugs, which makes then a stationary psychiatric treatment absolutely necessary.
Suppliers: Belladonna is not rare in shady hillsides of temperate forests. In seeds stores seeds can be bought, however growing out of seeds is not easy. Cuttings from the forest are easier to grow and propagate.