Deadly nightshade, devil's cherries, black cherry, naughty man's cherries, devil's herb.

All parts of the belladonna plant are gathered for use in the homeopathic remedy. The plant is crushed and pressed, and the extracted juice is mixed with alcohol in an extremely dilute preparation.

The Plant and The History
This is an extremely poisonous plant, hence it's common name 'deadly nightshade'. Its shiny black berries may look appetising, but many a poor soul has met their maker due to an ill-fated chomp on the 'devil's cherries'. Belladonna also had a place in the witches' potions of medieval Europe. The plant contains atropine, an alkaloid substance that causes nerve paralysis. It is used in western medicine to stop painful spasms. Its botanical name derives from one of the three Fates, Atropos, who in Greek mythology cuts the thread of life. One of the plant's popular names is deadly nightshade, and certainly to use it as a home remedy would be deadly folly. Yet despite such a deservedly grim reputation, this plant is universally known as belladonna, or "fair lady" in Italian. According to one story, the name comes from the plant's use long ago by Italian women, who dropped the juice in their eyes to enlarge the pupils and make their eyes more beautiful.

The chemical substance atropine in belladonna does affect the eye, and eye doctors today use it to dilate the pupils so that they can examine the retina. Belladonna contains two other valuable substances, scopolamine and hyoscyamine, which, like atropine, are sedatives and act to relax smooth muscle. Individually or in combination, the constituents of belladonna (obtained from the leaves and root) are the basic ingredients in a variety of antispasmodics commonly prescribed today to treat intestinal disorders such as diarrhoea, irritable colon, and peptic ulcer. Excessive dosage can result in respiratory paralysis, coma, and death.

A perennial, belladonna stands between two and six feet in height, with two or three branches and a purplish stem. Leaves are dark green and three to ten inches long. Bell-shaped flowers are dark purple. When crushed, the belladonna gives off a strong odour. All parts of belladonna are poisonous in the extreme. Belladonna is native to Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa, and is now cultivated worldwide. It thrives in chalky soils, in woods, and on waste ground. The leaves are harvested in summer, and the root is collected from the first year onward in autumn. Parts used: Pulped leaves and flowers.

During an outbreak of scarlet fever, three children of four in a family under Hahnemann care became ill. The fourth, who was usually the first to become ill, remained free from disease. Hahnemann reasoned that since the child had been taking Belladonna for an affection of the finger joints, she was in some way protected from the infection. Soon afterward, in a family of eight children with three already infected with scarlet fever, Hahnemann seized the opportunity to test the prophylactic powers of Belladonna. As he had hypothesized, all five escaped the disease despite ongoing exposure to their siblings. Hahnemann continued to make frequent use of Belladonna during this epidemic with great success. So great was his success that many old-school physicians adopted his treatment protocol and began singing the praises of homeopathic Belladonna. Dudgeon reports on ten allopaths of this time who used prophylactic Belladonna on 1646 children with only 123 cases developed. Pretty strong results when the attack rates were ranging as high as 90% at the time.

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