Thursday, 12 August 2010 10:12

Deadly Nightshade

Written by forestelf
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More popularly known by the darkly evocative name Deadly Nightshade, Atropa belladonna has also been called Devil's Herb, Sorcerer's Berry and  Witch's Berry. These various name  detail the plant's long association with pagan magic.

In folklore, Deadly Nighshade is seen as being one of the Devil's own plants and it is said that anyone attempting to pick the plant would encounter him. The only time it was considered safe to pick the plant  was on Walpurgis Night, when the Devil would leave his care of his plants to attend the Sabbat. Deadly Nightshade was an ingredient in various Witch's spells and salves during the Middle Ages - flying ointment perhaps being its most well-known use. Here, the ointment containing Belladonna would be rubbed into the skin on intimate parts of the body. This would raise a condition of sexual arousal and hallucinations which would allow the participant to travel to a witch's Sabbat where they would copulate with the Devil and his various demons. This flying ointment was also sometimes spread on besom handles, which would then be used as a masturbatory aid, increasing the witch's frenzied passion.

Deadly Nightshade, as it name more than suggests, is a highly poisonous plant.  Hyoscine (Scopolamine) is its main alkaloid poison although numerous other toxic compounds are also present in the plant.  Symptoms of consuming Belladonna include a dry mouth, a swollen throat, blurred vision, a racing heartbeat,  drowsiness, hallucinations and delirium, coma and death. All parts of the plant are poisonous although it is it's attractive-looking berries which have caused the greatest number of recorded poisonings, as they seem particularly inviting to small children. 

Despite the dangers present in Deadly Nightshade, Belladona was once commonly used as a cosmetic by women.  Belladona drops applied to the eyes dilated the pupils to an attractive degree and so popular did this practice become that the name belladonna itself originates from this us - Belladona meaning 'Beautiful Lady'. Atropos, the first part of Deadly Nightshade's Latin title, was one of the 3 Fates, who held the shears which could cut the thread of life.

Deadly Nightshade has a long history of medicinal use. In early times, it was used to treat corns, reduce inflammation, correct arrythmia and protect against Scarlet Fever. It was also used  as pain relief and was later used as anesthetic for surgical procedures. Today, Atropine  is used as an antispasmodic in the treatment of asthma,  a muscle relaxant for gastrointestinal contractions,  a decongestant for the treatment of hay fever and is now being used to ease the tremors of Parkinson's Disease sufferers.

Read 6410 times Last modified on Sunday, 22 September 2013 13:14
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