Health Effects of Belladonna

Victorian Botanical Illustration of Deadly Nightshade
Health effects of belladonna. Craig McCausland / Getty Images

Belladonna is a medicinal plant. Said to offer sedative effects, belladonna is touted as a natural remedy for asthma, colds, allergies, motion sickness, sciatica, hemorrhoids, and pain. Despite these claims, however, there is little scientific support for the health effects of belladonna. What's more, belladonna contains chemicals that are known to be toxic to human health.

Research on the Health Benefits of Belladonna

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is not enough scientific evidence to rate the effectiveness of belladonna for any health condition.

Due to the toxicity of the herb, the available research on belladonna involves studies on highly diluted homeopathic preparations of belladonna. For example, a 2001 study from the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, which included 118 healthy volunteers. For the study, participants took both placebo and homeopathic belladonna in random sequence for eight weeks. Among the 87 people who completed the study, researchers found no difference in the health effects of the two treatments.

Preliminary research from laboratory experiments indicates that belladonna may offer some health benefits. In a 2004 study from the journal Homeopathy, for instance, scientists discovered that belladonna may help reduce ​inflammation associated with peritonitis (a condition marked by irritation of the tissue lining the inner wall of the abdomen). A 2009 study from the journal Wound Repair and Regeneration, meanwhile, found that belladonna promoted wound healing in rats.

Is Belladonna Safe?

Taking belladonna orally is unsafe, according to the NIH. Possible side effects include dry mouth, blurred vision, fever, fast heartbeat, inability to urinate or sweat, hallucinations, spasms, mental problems, convulsions, and coma. In addition, belladonna may produce serious complications when taken by pregnant women and people with certain health conditions (including congestive heart failure, constipation, glaucoma, and ulcerative colitis).

Belladonna is a toxic herb, but it is available in highly diluted homeopathic doses in health food stores and online.

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here.

Using Belladonna for Health Purposes

Given the safety concerns and lack of scientific support for its use, herbal preparations of belladonna cannot be recommended for any health condition.

If you're considering the use of herbal supplements, talk with your physician first. It's important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Sources:

Gál P, Toporcer T, Grendel T, Vidová Z, Smetana K Jr, Dvoránková B, Gál T, Mozes S, Lenhardt L, Longauer F, Sabol M, Sabo J, Backor M. "Effect of Atropa belladonna L. on skin wound healing: biomechanical and histological study in rats and in vitro study in keratinocytes, 3T3 fibroblasts, and human umbilical vein endothelial cells." Wound Repair Regen. 2009 May-Jun;17(3):378-86.

National Institutes of Health. "Belladonna: MedlinePlus Supplements". January 2011.

Pedalino CM, Perazzo FF, Carvalho JC, Martinho KS, Massoco Cde O, Bonamin LV. "Effect of Atropa belladonna and Echinacea angustifolia in homeopathic dilution on experimental peritonitis." Homeopathy. 2004 Oct;93(4):193-8.

Walach H, Köster H, Hennig T, Haag G. "The effects of homeopathic belladonna 30CH in healthy volunteers -- a randomized, double-blind experiment." J Psychosom Res. 2001 Mar;50(3):155-60.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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