What is it?
The name "belladonna" means "beautiful lady," and was chosen because of a risky practice in Italy. The belladonna berry juice was used historically in Italy to enlarge the pupils of women, giving them a striking appearance. This was not a good idea, because belladonna can be poisonous.
Since 2010, the FDA has been cracking down on homeopathic infant teething tablets and gels. These products may contain inaccurate doses of belladonna. Serious side effects including seizures, breathing problems, tiredness, constipation, difficulty urinating, and agitation have been reported in infants taking these products.
Though widely regarded as unsafe, belladonna is taken by mouth as a sedative, to stop bronchial spasms in asthma and whooping cough, and as a cold and hay fever remedy. It is also used for Parkinson's disease, colic, inflammatory bowel disease, motion sickness, and as a painkiller.
Belladonna is used in ointments that are applied to the skin for joint pain, pain along the sciatic nerve, and general nerve pain. Belladonna is also used in plasters (medicine-filled gauze applied to the skin) for mental disorders, a behavior disorder that involves hyperactivity and inability to concentrate, excessive sweating, and asthma.
Belladonna is also used as suppositories for hemorrhoids.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for BELLADONNA are as follows:
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Taking belladonna by mouth along with the drug phenobarbital does not improve symptoms of this condition.
- Arthritis-like pain.
- Hay fever.
- Motion sickness.
- Nerve problems.
- Parkinson's disease.
- Spasms and colic-like pain in the stomach and bile ducts.
- Whooping cough.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
Side effects of belladonna result from its effects on the body's nervous system. Symptoms include dry mouth, enlarged pupils, blurred vision, red dry skin, fever, fast heartbeat, inability to urinate or sweat, hallucinations, spasms, mental problems, convulsions, coma, and others.
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Belladonna is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth during pregnancy. Belladonna contains potentially toxic chemicals and has been linked to reports of serious side effects. Belladonna is also LIKELY UNSAFE during breast-feeding. It can reduce milk production and also passes into breast milk.
Congestive heart failure (CHF): Belladonna might cause rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) and might make CHF worse.
Constipation: Belladonna might make constipation worse.
Down syndrome: People with Down syndrome might be extra-sensitive to the potentially toxic chemicals in belladonna and their harmful effects.
Esophageal reflux: Belladonna might make esophageal reflux worse.
Fever: Belladonna might increase the risk of overheating in people with fever.
Stomach ulcers: Belladonna might make stomach ulcers worse.
Gastrointestinal (GI) tract infections: Belladonna might slow emptying of the intestine, causing retention of bacteria and viruses that can cause infection.
Gastrointestinal (GI) tract blockage: Belladonna might make obstructive GI tract diseases (including atony, paralytic ileus, and stenosis) worse.
Hiatal hernia: Belladonna might make hiatal hernia worse.
High blood pressure: Taking large amounts of belladonna can increase blood pressure. This might make blood pressure become too high in people with high blood pressure.
Narrow-angle glaucoma: Belladonna might make narrow-angle glaucoma worse.
Psychiatric disorders. Taking large amounts of belladonna might worsen psychiatric disorders.
Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia): Belladonna might make rapid heartbeat worse.
Ulcerative colitis: Belladonna might promote complications of ulcerative colitis, including toxic megacolon.
Difficulty urinating (urinary retention): Belladonna might make this urinary retention worse.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Cisapride (Propulsid)
- Belladonna contains hyoscyamine (atropine). Hyoscyamine (atropine) can reduce the effects of cisapride. Taking belladonna with cisapride might reduce the effects of cisapride.
- Drying medications (Anticholinergic drugs)
- Belladonna contains chemicals that cause a drying effect. It also affects the brain and heart. Drying medications called anticholinergic drugs can also cause these effects. Taking belladonna and drying medications together might cause side effects including dry skin, dizziness, low blood pressure, fast heartbeat, and other serious side effects.
Some of these drying medications include atropine, scopolamine, and some medications used for allergies (antihistamines), and for depression (antidepressants).
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
- Abbasi J. Amid Reports of Infant Deaths, FTC Cracks Down on Homeopathy While FDA Investigates. JAMA. 2017;317:793-795. View abstract.
- Berdai MA, Labib S, Chetouani K, Harandou M. Atropa belladonna intoxication: a case report. Pan Afr Med J 2012;11:72. View abstract.
- Lee MR. Solanaceae IV: Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade. J R Coll Physicians Edinb 2007;37:77-84. View abstract.
- Certain Homeopathic Teething Products: FDA Warning- Confirmed Elevated Levels of Belladonna. FDA Safety Alerts for Human Medical Products, January 27, 2017. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm538687.htm. [Accessed March 22, 2016]
- Golwalla A. Multiple extrasystoles: an unusual manifestation of belladonna poisoning. Dis Chest 1965;48:83-84.
- Hamilton M and Sclare AB. Belladonna poisoning. Br Med J 1947;611-612.
- Cummins BM, Obetz SW, Wilson MR, and et al. Belladonna poisoning as a facet of psychodelia. Jama 1968;204:153.
- Sims SR. Poisoning due to belladonna plasters. Br Med J 1954;1531.
- Firth D and Bentley JR. Belladonna poisoning from eating rabbit. Lancet 1921;2:901.
- Bergmans M, Merkus J, Corbey R, and et al. Effect of Bellergal Retard on climacteric complaints: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Maturitas 1987;9:227-234.
- Lichstein, J. and Mayer, J. D. Drug therapy in the unstable bowel (irritable colon). A 15-month double-blind clinical study in 75 cases of response to a prolonged-acting belladonna alkaloid-phenobarbital mixture or placebo. J.Chron.Dis. 1959;9:394-404.
- Steele CH. The use of Bellergal in the prophylactic treatment of some types of headaches. Ann Allergy 1954;42-46.
- Myers, J. H., Moro-Sutherland, D., and Shook, J. E. Anticholinergic poisoning in colicky infants treated with hyoscyamine sulfate. Am J Emerg.Med 1997;15:532-535. View abstract.
- Whitmarsh, T. E., Coleston-Shields, D. M., and Steiner, T. J. Double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study of homoeopathic prophylaxis of migraine. Cephalalgia 1997;17:600-604. View abstract.
- Friese KH, Kruse S, Ludtke R, and et al. The homoeopathic treatment of otitis media in children--comparisons with conventional therapy. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther 1997;35:296-301. View abstract.
- Ceha LJ, Presperin C, Young E, and et al. Anticholinergic toxicity from nightshade berry poisoning responsive to physostigmine. The Journal of Emergency Medicine 1997;15:65-69. View abstract.
- Schneider, F., Lutun, P., Kintz, P., Astruc, D., Flesch, F., and Tempe, J. D. Plasma and urine concentrations of atropine after the ingestion of cooked deadly nightshade berries. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 1996;34:113-117. View abstract.
- Trabattoni G, Visintini D, Terzano GM, and et al. Accidental poisoning with deadly nightshade berries: a case report. Human Toxicol. 1984;3:513-516. View abstract.
- Eichner ER, Gunsolus JM, and Powers JF. "Belladonna" poisoning confused with botulism. Jama 8-28-1967;201:695-696. View abstract.
- Goldsmith SR, Frank I, and Ungerleider JT. Poisoning from ingestion of a stramonium-belladonna mixture: flower power gone sour. J.A.M.A 4-8-1968;204:169-170. View abstract.
- Gabel MC. Purposeful ingestion of belladonna for hallucinatory effects. J.Pediatr. 1968;72:864-866. View abstract.
- Lance, J. W., Curran, D. A., and Anthony, M. Investigations into the mechanism and treatment of chronic headache. Med.J.Aust. 11-27-1965;2:909-914. View abstract.
- Dobrescu DI. Propranolol in the treatment of disturbances of the autonomic nervous system. Curr.Ther.Res Clin Exp 1971;13:69-73. View abstract.
- King, J. C. Anisotropine methylbromide for relief of gastrointestinal spasm: double- blind crossover comparison study with belladonna alkaloids and phenobarbital. Curr.Ther Res Clin.Exp 1966;8:535-541. View abstract.
- Shader RI and Greenblatt DJ. Uses and toxicity of belladonna alkaloids and synthetic anticholinergics. Seminars in Psychiatry 1971;3:449-476. View abstract.
- Rhodes, J. B., Abrams, J. H., and Manning, R. T. Controlled clinical trial of sedative-anticholinergic drugs in patients with the irritable bowel syndrome. J.Clin.Pharmacol. 1978;18:340-345. View abstract.
- Robinson, K., Huntington, K. M., and Wallace, M. G. Treatment of the premenstrual syndrome. Br.J.Obstet.Gynaecol. 1977;84:784-788. View abstract.
- Stieg, R. L. Double-blind study of belladonna-ergotamine-phenobarbital for interval treatment of recurrent throbbing headache. Headache 1977;17:120-124. View abstract.
- Ritchie, J. A. and Truelove, S. C. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with lorazepam, hyoscine butylbromide, and ispaghula husk. Br Med J 2-10-1979;1:376-378. View abstract.
- Williams HC and du Vivier A. Belladonna plaster--not as bella as it seems. Contact Dermatitis 1990;23:119-120. View abstract.
- Kahn A., Rebuffat E, Sottiaux M, and et al. Prevention of airway obstructions during sleep in infants with breath- holding spells by means of oral belladonna: a prospective double-blind crossover evaluation. Sleep 1991;14:432-438. View abstract.
- Davidov, M. I. [Factors predisposing to acute urine retention in patients with prostatic adenoma]. Urologiia. 2007;:25-31. View abstract.
- Tsiskarishvili, N. V. and Tsiskarishvili, TsI. [Colorimetric determination of eccrine sudoriferous glands functional condition in case of hyperhidrosis and their correction by belladonna]. Georgian.Med News 2006;:47-50. View abstract.
- Pan, S. Y. and Han, Y. F. Comparison of the inhibitory efficacy of four belladonna drugs on gastrointestinal movement and cognitive function in food-deprived mice. Pharmacology 2004;72:177-183. View abstract.
- Bettermann, H., Cysarz, D., Portsteffen, A., and Kummell, H. C. Bimodal dose-dependent effect on autonomic, cardiac control after oral administration of Atropa belladonna. Auton.Neurosci. 7-20-2001;90(1-2):132-137. View abstract.
- Walach, H., Koster, H., Hennig, T., and Haag, G. The effects of homeopathic belladonna 30CH in healthy volunteers -- a randomized, double-blind experiment. J.Psychosom.Res. 2001;50:155-160. View abstract.
- Heindl, S., Binder, C., Desel, H., Matthies, U., Lojewski, I., Bandelow, B., Kahl, G. F., and Chemnitius, J. M. [Etiology of initially unexplained confusion of excitability in deadly nightshade poisoning with suicidal intent. Symptoms, differential diagnosis, toxicology and physostigmine therapy of anticholinergic syndrome]. Dtsch Med Wochenschr 11-10-2000;125:1361-1365. View abstract.
- Southgate, H. J., Egerton, M., and Dauncey, E. A. Lessons to be learned: a case study approach. Unseasonal severe poisoning of two adults by deadly nightside (Atropa belladonna). Journal of the Royal Society of Health 2000;120:127-130. View abstract.
- Balzarini, A., Felisi, E., Martini, A., and De Conno, F. Efficacy of homeopathic treatment of skin reactions during radiotherapy for breast cancer: a randomised, double-blind clinical trial. Br Homeopath J 2000;89:8-12. View abstract.
- Corazziari, E., Bontempo, I., and Anzini, F. Effects of cisapride on distal esophageal motility in humans. Dig Dis Sci 1989;34:1600-1605. View abstract.
- Hyland's Teething Tablets: Recall - Risk of Harm to Children. FDA News Release, October 23, 2010. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm230764.htm (Accessed 26 October 2010).
- Alster TS, West TB. Effect of topical vitamin C on postoperative carbon dioxide laser resurfacing erythema. Dermatol Surg 1998;24:331-4. View abstract.
- Jaspersen-Schib R, Theus L, Guirguis-Oeschger M, et al. [Serious plant poisonings in Switzerland 1966-1994. Case analysis from the Swiss Toxicology Information Center]. Schweiz Med Wochenschr 1996;126:1085-98. View abstract.
- McEvoy GK, ed. AHFS Drug Information. Bethesda, MD: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 1998.
- McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A, eds. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, LLC 1997.
- Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
- Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Trans. S. Klein. Boston, MA: American Botanical Council, 1998.