BELLADONNA – It’s More Than a Pretty Woman

Some of history’s most lethal substances were once used for cosmetic purposes—well, at least before their deadly qualities became obvious. Unfortunately, the evolution from cosmetic to murder weapon developed somewhat from an “on the job training” thing!

An example of such commercial carelessness included thallium, which was marketed as a depilatory agent. It effectively removed unwanted hair, but it had a rather severe side effect of killing the person in the process.

Belladonna, known as Atropa belladonna and more commonly called deadly nightshade, is another interesting lethal substance that was popular as a cosmetic throughout history.

In Roman times, diluted eye drops of belladonna dilated the pupils, which was thought to make women more seductive. And if gently rubbed on the cheeks of the face, belladonna produced an intriguing reddish blush. Although these practices have fallen out of favor because they cause dangerous increases in heart rates and possible blindness, there are still commercial products available that contain belladonna.

Deadly nightshade (belladonna) is considered one of the most toxic of plants in the Eastern Hemisphere. All parts of this botanical contain toxic alkaloids. While the roots are the most deadly part, poisonous alkaloids are present throughout the plant.

Scopolamine and hyoscyamine are the main toxins in the plant and these produce extreme delirium and hallucinations. I’ve written about these alkaloids in other blogs (here and here) since they are present in some modern pharmaceuticals used for motion sickness. They have the potential for a serious interaction with alcohol to produce temporary amnesia.

The berries of the belladonna plant create the greatest danger to children since they look as attractive as fruit and have a somewhat sweet taste. Two berries consumed by a child could kill, and it takes about 10 to 20 berries to kill an adult (depending on a person’s body mass).

Adding the berries to food during preparation would make for an interesting method of murder for the mystery writer searching for a simple murder weapon. A more efficient use of this plant, however, would be to use the root or a leaf to murder. It’s been documented that a single leaf of the belladonna plant can be fatal to an adult.

It’s interesting to note, however, that many animals (cattle, horses, rabbits, goats and sheep) can eat the plant without ill effects, but many domestic pets are vulnerable to its toxicity.

Belladonna has been used for centuries in herbal remedies as a pain reliever, a muscle relaxant, for motion sickness and as an anti-inflammatory agent. The US Pharmacopeia still lists the methodology to prepare tincture of belladonna. In medical literature, its indications include use as an antidote for certain poisonings (such as opium and chloroform) and the deadly insecticide parathion.

So, while belladonna might be considered “old school” for deadly poisons, this toxic botanical continues to be in the top 10 list of efficient murder weapons because of its effectiveness, its relative ease of availability and because it discreetly hides in food or drink.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, All About Murder, Belladonna and Hyoscyamine Toxins, Belladonna and Scopolamine Toxins, Belladonna As A Murder Weapon, Belladonna Drugs, Beneficial Venoms, Blog About Poisons in Fiction Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Botanical Murder Weapons, Botanicals That Kill, Chemical Poisons, Chemicals Used For Murder, Deadly Cosmetics, Deadly Plant Poisons, Deadly Poisons Discussed, Designer Poisons Used For Murder, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Drug Misadventures, Drug Poisoning, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Made From Deadly Nightshade, Drugs Used For Murder, How to Choose a Murder Weapon for a Plot Idea, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Hyoscine, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray Blog, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Killing With Poisonous Plants, Lethal Agents and Murder, Lethal Botanicals, Lethal Chemicals in Murder Mysteries, Lethal Poisons, Methods of Murder, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Weapons Discussed, Murder With Drugs, Murder With Poisonous Plants, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, Plant Poisons, Plants That Kill, Plants Used For Murder, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Poisonous Plants, Poisons and Murder, Prescription For Murder Blog, Scopolamine Adverse Effects, Scopolamine and Amnesia, Thallium Poisoning, Thallium Used to Murder, The Science of Murder, The Toxicity of Deadly Nightshade, The Toxicity of the Belladonna Plant, Tools for Murder, Top 10 Most Poisonous Plants, Top Ten Most Famous Poisons, Unique Murder Plots, Unique Murder Weapons, Uses of Tincture of Belladonna, Using Deadly Nightshade as a Murder Weapon, Ways To Kill and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to BELLADONNA – It’s More Than a Pretty Woman

  1. Do you guys have the same barber? 🙂

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