Deadly Nightshade? You may have asked? Well, yes, in the sense that if one were to ingest too much of certain members of this plant family, in certain preparations, it would, indeed, prove deadly.
Aside from being good eating, the main thing that the Solanaceae family is known for is the group useful chemicals that the plants yield up when prepared properly. The most famous of them are known as the Belladonna Alkaloids.
Belladonna is another name for the Nightshade plant or Atropa belladonna. I am sure we have all heard the story of ladies and opera divas using Belladonna drops to dilate their pupils so that they would seem more attractive. here is the group of chemicals that are found in belladonna that have been put to use by Medicine...
The Tropane Alkaloids
The tropane alkaloids have been used in conjunction with opiates for anesthesia since antiquity.All are anticholinergic, which is to say that they inhibit the neurotransmitter choline and so inhibit the parasympathetic nervous system. that means that in poisoning doses the smooth muscles can become paralyzed. Not very pleasant when you consider that at those same doses, these alkaloids cause extreme hallucinations; not nice when one is paralyzed.Please realize that all of this information is given in the spirit of learning and insight; partying with belladonna alkaloids is probably one of the single most unpleasant and possibly deadly things that one can engage in.
Interesting quote from WikiPedia:
"A common mnemonic used to describe the physiologic manifestations of atropine overdose is: as per Jon Blinkey "hot as a hare, blind as a bat, dry as a bone, red as a beet, and mad as a hatter".
This is the really hallucinogenic one, and we will return to it in the Witchcraft section. This alkaloid also makes the deadly nightshades very successful in the world, as Hyoscyamine is still widely used in medicine for all sorts of bowel disorders and as an aid to increasing the analgesia achieved by other drugs.
maybe some of you have worn a 'Scop-patch'? Scopalamine is our friend for sure. This is the mtion sickness and anti-nausea drug. It is also hella-hallucinogenic in the wrong doses but we have found a way to befriend this alkoloid and put it to use for us.
Other medical uses:
Scopolamine has been used in the past to treat addiction to drugs such as heroin and coc aine. The patient was given frequent doses of scopolamine until they were delirious. This treatment was maintained for 2 to 3 days after which they were treated with pilocarpine. After recovering from this they were said to have lost the acute craving to the drug to which they were addicted
Scopolamine causes memory impairments to a similar degree as diazepam. In October 2006, researchers at the US National Institute of Mental Health found that scopolamine reduced symptoms of depression within a few days, and the improvement lasted for at least a week after switching to a placebo.
Intravenously administered scopolamine has been found to be effective against major depressive disorder. A phase II clinical trial of its efficacy against both major depressive disorder and depression due to bipolar disorder when administered via transdermal patches is scheduled to finish in September 2011.
Due to its effectiveness against sea-sickness it has become commonly used by scuba divers. Scopolamine has been tested as a topical treatment for Aquagenic pruritus and was shown in several cases to be effective.
So once more we get some more insight in to what it means to be the world's most successful family of plants. By forming a relationship with mankind, Family Solanaceae becomes even more successful, as human beings seek out ways to improve cultivation. It is a win win situation.
When you think about it, it makes these plants and others like them nearly equal partners, in a way, on this trip through the universe on spaceship earth.
And now, the fun part. lets look at the way that this family of plants has insinuated itself in to our culture and society in the form of witchcraft and folklore.