Thorn apple properties

Datura stramonium

What is a thorn apple plant?

Scientific noun: Datura stramonium L.

Family: Nightshade family – Solanaceae.

Habitat: In waste land with garbage.

Alkaloids: Atropine (C17 H 23O3 N), hyoscyamine and hyoscine

Active parts: The whole plant, specially, the young parts.

drawing 1drawin 2

Drawings of the plant

Description of thorn apple

Datura stramonium is an annual herbaceous plant of the Nightshade family – Solanaceae up to 1m..

Stalked leaves, till 20 cm long, ovate, grossly toothed and sharp pointed.

Tubular pentalobulated flowers, white or slightly pink.

Very voluminous fruit, till 5 cm long, with capsule covered with spines

Photo of thorn apple (Datura stramonium)

Photo of thorn apple (Datura stramonium)


Medicinal uses of Datura stramonium

Home remedies with thorn apple: Applied externally, it is used to anesthetize locally.

In internal use, it is used to treat spasms of the smooth muscles and sedate the central nervous system. Among the many applications related with its sedative properties we can point out the following:

– Stomach cramps

– Epilepsy

– Asthma (making antiasthmatic cigarettes, besides relaxing the respiratory muscles, decreases mucous secretions ).

Medical properties of thorn apple:

It is a good source, together with with metel (Datura metel), for the extraction by the pharmaceutical industry of hyoscyamine, an alkaloid similar to atropine, used for the treatment of pain.

Ophthalmological uses of thorn apple – the mydriatic properties of thorn apple are used for the dilation of the eye pupil in ophthalmological tests.

capsules of thorn apple

Photo of capsules of thorn apple

Magical properties of thorn apple

The first references to the magical use of this plant are found in the Roman culture, where devotees of the cult of Bacchus were entranced using this plant.

Thorn apple, like mandrake, has been part of the magical concoctions of witchcrafts ceremonies during the Middle Ages.

It produces hallucinations. Many are considered to be sexual in nature, but sometimes dreams predominate, violent or self-destructive actions. To this stage of agitation another one of deep sleep precedes. The awakening sensation is that of a hangover, in which, in most cases, the individual does not seem to remember anything while he was under the drug.

Very famous are the ointments that witches used to fly themselves, made mainly with some animal fat and plants from the Solanaceae family, among which thorn apple and other well known plants such as mandrake (Mandragora officinarum), belladonna (Atropa belladonna) henbane (Hyoscyamus niger). The hallucinatory principles of these plants were absorbed through the skin or were injected directly into the vagina with hollow broom sticks.

There are many descriptions in which the inquisitors described how they had to apply punishment to those witches that confessed to have experienced magical flights in the sky, dancing with the devil or participating in rituals or orgies. Surely these had to be hallucinatory experiences fostered by this plant or any of the same gender. Also during this period the use of this plant to make “love potions” was commonplace and there are many references of their power to excite sexual desire, as it was considered one of the best aphrodisiacs.

In North Africa an infusion of thorn apple is consumed as a hallucinogen or smoked mixed with Kif. The Indians of eastern North America used it for ceremonies and rituals to treat snakebites.

The same reasons justifying the “inner journey” of ancient witches or a desire to experience new sensations is what moves some people to take these products today. Such behavior often has disastrous consequences, given the toxicity of these alkaloids and the narrow margin of tolerance which these drugs have, specially when the results often depend on the individual’s own body.

Photo of thorn apple seeds

Photo of thorn apple seeds inside the capsule

Toxicity of Datura stramonium

Thorn apple toxicity is very high, being the plant that holds the record of poisoning among poisonous plants worldwide,. The first symptoms appear in an adult when an infusion of 2 to 3 g. of leaves is ingested. This amount is non-lethal dose, but the effects last for several days. An infusion of 30 to 60 g. is fatal for an adult. In the case of children, less than half a gram can produce hallucinations and 5 or 6 g. fresh leaves or seeds can be fatal. Even honey made from the pollen of this plant can be toxic.

In the United States, among other names, it is known as Jamestown weed because in 1666 a company of soldiers in the town of Jamestown (Virginia) suffered a massive poisoning when, starved, decided to eat it. The descriptions indicate the effects of this poisoning that forced the authorities to sent them to prison in order their wild reactions not to lead them to kill each other.

Poisonings occur by ingestion of fruits, especially by children, given that they have a sweet taste. Leaves may be confused with some wild edible plant species. There are cases of intoxicated people when they ate wild fruit in which Jimson weed seeds were stuck. Sometimes poisoning occurs, when trying to use as hallucinatory, as a result of exceeding the permitted dose. Even in medical use overdose can lead to the same symptoms

Detalle de las semillas de estramonio

Detail of thorn apple seeds

Thorn apple poisoning symptoms

The main symptoms of poisoning with Jimson weed are:

– Pupil dilation

– Dry mouth and skin

– Dizziness

– Weak pulse

– Hypertension

– Seizures

– Hallucinations

– Tremors

– Paralysis and coma.

Medical treatment. What to do in case of poisoning with Datura stramonium?

The treatment consists on sedatives against convulsions, gastric lavage, emetics and heart stimulants.

Known episodes of toxicity

Among the latest episodes of this plant toxicity, it should be mentioned that one produced on the morning of June 19, 2004, when six young men were intoxicated in the city of Valencia (Spain)

They drank a potion prepared by a Danish citizen who offered it in the street saying that is was “a formula for witches” Two of them went into a coma, although they managed to overcome it.

Is thorn apple poisonous to animals?

Cases of cattle that has been intoxicated by eating fodder contaminated with dry leaves or seeds of thorn apple are known. Cows are animals that react worse to the ingestion of this poison.

Another episode of toxicity

On Sunday August 21, 2011 two young men died in the small village of Perales del Rio (Getafe) (Madrid, Spain) and another one severely intoxicated entered the hospital. Young people were participating in a rave party.

On this fact. Ana Ferrer, chief of the Clinical Toxicology Unit of the Clinical Hospital of Zaragoza told the newspaper “El Mundo”: “It has an important action on the cardiovascular system and can even cause a heart attack,” Some of the active ingredients contained in Jimson weed is commonly used in medicine, but “without dose control”, its effects can be highly damaging, continues Ferrer, who notes that the toxicity of the plant is high when it is consumed orally-through infusiones- or smoked ”

“On the other hand, the mixture of this substance with other drugs or with alcohol may cause an explosive cocktail.” We have to know the dose consumed, but certainly, the association of different substances that act on the nervous and cardiovascular system increases the danger ”

According to the same newspaper, friends of one of the victims admitted that it consumed “Speed” a synthetic drug related to amphetamines.

According to the television channel Telecinco: “Toxicology tests revealed that he had ingested drugs like cocaine and speed, alcohol and thorn apple”

War on estramonio: An ecologically inadequate decision

It seems that a persecution to erradicate Datura stramonium plants on roads and vacant places is going on in many parts of Spain.

These actions are carried out in order people not to not make use of a potentially dangerous plant.

Jimson weed grows in vacant, derelict, near garbage dumps and other areas rich in organic waste because it has adapted to this type of terrain. Therefore, it is normal that this plant grows near populated areas where, unfortunately, it seems that it’s now seen as a “killer” plant that should be eliminated completely.

However, we must bear in mind that Jimson weed is a botanical specimen. From an ecological point of view, any plant, or animal is needed to maintain the balance of species. A chase of this type, carried out everywhere, could jeopardize the conservation of a plant that is as necessary as all other plants.

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Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

30 September, 2023

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