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Poisonous Plants in GB

10 11 deAdly nightshAde Atropa belladonna Family Solanaceae. Synonyms Dwale, black morel as in morello, great morel, devils cherry, moonshade. Mostly southern, favouring wasteland and scrub on chalk and lime soils. The dark purple bells tinged with green from June to September are followed by appealing shiny black fruits. The cherry like fruits can be unwittingly gathered and eaten, causing serious illness or death. Especially dangerous to children. The task of Atropa, one of the Greek Moirae or three fates, was to sever the thread of life. Belladonna means beautiful woman, and historically the juice was applied to the eyes making them sparkle, though this was hazardous. Having a long association with witchcraft and shamanism during the middle ages, it was an attested ingredient of the salve, or flying ointment that led to the perception of magical flight to a convocation of witches and spirits known as the sabbat. The modern use of belladonna during the witchcraft revival of the 1960s caused the death of noted witch Robert Cochrane 1966. Deadly nightshade contains atropine, hyoscyamine and hyoscine. Historically an external application was used to treat foul ulcers and it is used today to treat the spasmodic pain of peptic ulcers and urinary spasms. Overdose causes disorientation, hallucination, coma and death as with many of the plants in this book the difference between the therapeutic and toxic dosage is small. Atropine sulphate is used in eye examinations to dilate the pupil, and belladonna is widely used in homeopathy where toxicity is of no concern. Opium has been used as an antidote to atropine poisoning, and in turn atropine is an antidote to poisoning from monkshood and foxglove, and muscarine poisoning from certain fungi.
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