belladonna

belladonna

[bel-uh-don-uh]
belladonna or deadly nightshade, poisonous perennial plant, Atropa belladona, of the nightshade family. Native to Europe and now grown in the United States, the plant has reddish, bell-shaped flowers and shiny black berries. Extracts of its leaves and fleshy roots act to dilate the pupils of the eye and were once used cosmetically by women to achieve this effect. (The name belladonna is from the Italian meaning "beautiful lady.") The plant extract contains the alkaloids atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine. Belladonna has also been used since ancient times as a poison and as a sedative; in medieval Europe large doses were used by witchcraft and devil-worship cults to produce hallucinogenic effects. Other species of the potato family such as henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), mandrake (Mandragora officinarum), and Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) also contain one or more of the alkaloids present in belladona. The active substances act physiologically to depress the parasympathetic nervous system. Belladonna is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Solanales, family Solanaceae.

Tall, bushy, herbaceous plant, the deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), of the nightshade family; also, the crude drug consisting of its dried leaves or roots. The plant is a native of wooded or waste areas in central and southern Eurasia. It has dull green leaves, violet or greenish flowers, shiny black berries about the size of cherries, and a large, tapering root. Belladonna is highly poisonous and is cultivated for medicinal substances (alkaloids) that are derived from the crude drug and used in sedatives, stimulants, and antispasmodics. Because of toxicity and undesirable side effects, however, these substances are being replaced by synthetic drugs.

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Belladonna may refer to:

In plants:

  • Atropa belladonna or belladonna or deadly nightshade, a perennial herbaceous plant
  • Amaryllis belladonna or Belladonna Lily or naked ladies, a monotypic genus of plant

In music:

In other uses:

People with the name

Fictional

  • Belladonna Took, mother of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit
  • Bella Donna, a name or alias of two characters in the Marvel Comics universe

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