BELLADONNA – It’s More Than A Beautiful Woman

Often some of the most deadly substances were once used for cosmetic purposes—that is,bald-head before their lethal qualities became obvious. An example of such commercial carelessness was thallium being marketed as a depilatory agent. It effectively removed unwanted hair, but it had a rather severe side effect of killing the person in the process.

Belladonna, known as Atropa belladonna and more commonly called deadly nightshade, is another interesting lethal substance that has been used as a cosmetic throughout history.

imagesIn Roman times, diluted eye drops of belladonna dilated the pupils, which was thought to make women more seductive. And if gently rubbed on the cheeks of the face, belladonna produced an interesting reddish blush. Although these practices have fallen out of favor because they cause dangerous increases in heart rates and possible blindness, there are still commercial products available that contain belladonna.

Deadly nightshade (belladonna) is considered one of the most toxic of plants in the Eastern Hemisphere. All parts of this botanical contain toxic alkaloids. While the roots are the most deadly part, poisonous alkaloids are present throughout the plant.

Scopolamine and hyoscyamine are the main toxins in the plant and these produce extreme delirium and hallucinations. I’ve written about these alkaloids in other blogs (here and here) since they are present in some modern pharmaceuticals used for motion sickness. They have the potential for a serious interaction with alcohol to produce temporary amnesia.

The berries of the belladonna plant create the greatest danger to children sincetumblr_mh2xpaXPZf1qjwd8go1_1280 they look as attractive as fruit and have a somewhat sweet taste. Two consumed berries can kill a child, and it takes about 10 to 20 berries to kill an adult (depending on a person’s body mass).

Adding the berries to food during preparation would make for an interesting method of murder for the mystery writer searching for a simple murder weapon. A more efficient use of this plant, however, would be to use the root or a leaf to murder. It’s been documented that a single leaf of the belladonna plant can be fatal to an adult.

Atropa_bella-donna1It’s interesting to note, however, that many animals (cattle, horses, rabbits, goats and sheep) can eat the plant without ill effects, but many domestic pets are vulnerable to its toxicity.

Belladonna has been used for centuries in herbal remedies as ail_fullxfull.365492870_gexq pain reliever, a muscle relaxant, for motion sickness and as an anti-inflammatory agent. The US Pharmacopeia still lists the methodology to prepare tincture of belladonna. In medical literature, its indications for use include being an antidote for certain poisonings (such as opium and chloroform) and the deadly insecticide parathion.

So, while belladonna might be considered “old school” for deadly poisons, this toxic botanical continues to be in the top 10 list of efficient murder weapons because of its effectiveness, its relative ease of availability and because it discreetly hides in food or drink.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About James J. Murray, About Murder, Belladonna and Hyoscyamine Toxins, Belladonna and Scopolamine Toxins, Belladonna As A Murder Weapon, Belladonna Drugs, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Botanical Murder Weapons, Botanicals That Kill, Chemicals Used For Murder, Deadly Cosmetics, Deadly Plant Poisons, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Drug Poisoning, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Made From Deadly Nightshade, Drugs Used For Murder, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, Killing With Poisonous Plants, Lethal Agents and Murder, Lethal Botanicals, Murder Weapons, Murder With Poisonous Plants, Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, Plant Poisons, Plants Used For Murder, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Poisonous Plants, Poisons and Murder, Scopolamine Adverse Effects, Scopolamine and Amnesia, The Science of Murder, The Toxicity of Deadly Nightshade, The Toxicity of the Belladonna Plant, Tools for Murder, Uses of Tincture of Belladonna, Using Deadly Nightshade as a Murder Weapon, Ways To Kill and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to BELLADONNA – It’s More Than A Beautiful Woman

  1. Arlee Bird says:

    Now when I think of belladonna I think of Stevie Nicks because of the song and album Bella Donna. One has to wonder about the trial and error process that led people to discover the useful versus deadly effects of the plant. I can picture some researcher in the past saying to a slave or prisoner, “Here eat this” and then watching what happened.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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