Belladonnæ Radix, commonly known as Belladonna Root, it is the root of the plant Atropa Belladonna. It belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceæ and is collected in the autumn and dried. The leaves (folia) are also used medicinally. The name Belladonna is an Italian word meaning 'beautiful woman'. Historically belladonna was used in eye drops by Italian women to make their pupils appear bigger, which was considered more attractive. The parts of belladonna that are used are the roots, leaves and tops.
Belladonna is extremely poisonous. The name Atropa derives from the Greek word Atropos refering to one of the Fates who held the shears to cut the thread of human life.
Synonyms - Deadly Nightshade, Atropa Belladonna, Devil's Herb
Habitat – Southwest Asia, Central and Southern Europe; in the past it was largely imported from Germany and Austria. Cultivated in England, France and North America.
Uses – A powerful mydriatic (eye-pupil dilating) making it particularly effective in the treatment of eye diseases. It is used as a sedative, diuretic (increases the flow of urine), antihydrotic (prevents sweating) and anti-inflammatory. Belladonna specifically affects the brain and the bladder. Belladonna is a widely known for its fatal character. This is due to the active chemicals atropine and scopolamine. Atropine is an alkaloid which when ingested creates symptoms of poisoning.
Characteristics – Pieces of the root are nearly cylindrical. They are usually ten to twenty millimetres in diameter and fifteen to thirty centimetres in length. Externally the root is pale greyish-brown and finely wrinkled. Internally, the root is whitish and starchy with a slightly bitter taste.