Many have narcotic and/or toxic properties

Datura stramonium
Datura stramonium
Photo: Australian National Botanic Garden

The family’s common name ‘deadly night shade’ reflects a precautionary note about the toxic nature of many of its members. This name is derived from the herb called deadly nightshade, Atropa belladonna, which contains a potent narcotic extract called Atropine. This is used medicinally as an eye dilating drug and sedative.

Another plant with toxic properties is the foetid smelling thorn apple, Datura stramonium, commonly found in India. Even today Indian thieves and assassins are consistently administering high doses to their victims in order to render them insensible. However, it also contains beneficial alkaloids, which alleviate asthma and act as a pre-anaesthetic in childbirth and surgery.

Of the well known family members, tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) is a very hazardous plant. Less known are the allergies encountered by some regular consumers of potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum and/or aubergines. To illustrate their potency, a world-renowned ballet dancer became crippled with muscular and joint pains and was unable to dance. Following a diagnosis of intolerance to these foods she resumed her distinguished career within a month of excluding them from her diet. Other users report that within a short time of eating them they have difficulty in relaxing and/or sleeping. Vivid dreams are symptomatic of this intolerance.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 21st Feb 2010

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