Annual herb with bell-shaped flowers and spiky seedpods, that grows mostly on wastelands and other dry places.
Use: The leaves are smoked to lessen asthma and induce intoxication. Seeds and roots of tropical species (Datura inoxia mill., Datura meteloides) are used by natives for cultic purposes. In the late medieval ages, but also occasionally in modern times, so called witch or flying ointments were prepared out of Datura by mixing its parts with other ingredients and boiling them in pork lard.
Active constituents: Scopolamine, atropine, hyoscyamine. Datura meteloides contains additionally meteloidine.
Effects: Hallucinogenic but more deliriant and hypnotic. After the intake of Datura it often comes to a narcotic sleep within a short time. In the dreams, which are dreamt in this sleep, there are often transformations into animals, dreams of flight and extravagant sexual visions experienced. Scopolamine paralyzes the will and because of that the inebriated becomes easily pliable. Lewin tells, that not rarely women, who are under the effect of Datura, complied to sexual activities, to which they never would have agreed to without the drug. Scopolamine, moreover, was used as a truth serum for interrogations. In South America scopolamine containing plant extracts (“Burundanga”) are mixed into beverages. The inebriated let themselves be stolen from without resisting, resp. they even help with it.
In the book of Carlos Castaneda “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge” ritual Datura inebriations are described. In Germany Datura leaves were sold without prescription in the form of asthma-cigarettes by pharmacies, until the seventies. The sale only stopped due to lack of demand, no incidents are known. Datura is less poisonous than belladonna, but still much caution is advised for the dosage. It is advised against its use; those who cannot help it, should very carefully, over a long period, with breaks in between, find out the dose, that they can tolerate.
Side Effects: The typical side effects of all nightshades:
Dryness of the mouth, unpleasantly excessive sense of touch, increased heart beat, visual disturbances following the widening of the pupils, strong feeling of being poisoned. Particularly important, it is advised against the use of Datura-tea, which is mentioned in some sources. Indian medicine men claim that the intake or the smoking of the flowers causes imbecility. The same was already claimed by healers of the late medieval age: that the prolonged use of Datura impairs the mental capabilities.
During the early phase of excitement, it can come to a relatively high frequency of heart beat. People with damaged heart (angina pectoris, narrowing of the coronary arteries, heart attack) should therefore use Datura under no circumstances. Compare to the effects and side effects of Atropa belladonna and Hyoscymus niger. Cases of death due to the wrong dosage are not only possible, but have already occurred.
Miscellaneous: Central and South American medicine men often use flowers and leaves of plants that were formerly known as Brugmansia (tree datura, angel’s trumpets), if they will start their trance journeys. These bushes with their very beautiful, up to 35 cm long trumpet shaped flowers contain less hyoscyamine and more scopolamine in the alkaloid fraction and thus are a bit lesser prone to side effects and a little less dangerous than thorns apple. That still does not make them harmless; also here lethal poisonings are absolutely possible.
Suppliers: Seeds of Datura stramonium and tropical species of Datura in garden centers as well as in ethnobotanical shops. Angel’s trumpets are available as plants in garden centers.